There is an inevitability to the way Indian cricket is run. There may be attempts to tug it this way or that but ultimately it goes back to normal: SNAFU (situation normal, all fouled up).
The Ravi Shastri head coach episode must be seen as one such SNAFU in Indian cricket.
To this day there is no convincing explanation as to why he was removed around this time last year. Of course there have been theories aplenty ranging from how a Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) member did not want him, to long-term 2019 World Cup planning, to what not.
However, at the end of the day — or a year on to be precise — the CAC members have ended up with egg on their face. But given that this is Indian cricket, don’t be too surprised if there are more twists and turns from now till the targeted 2019 World Cup.
A parallel to the present imbroglio is the late Raj Singh Dungarpur's process of destroying the team of the 1980s — arguably India’s most successful team after having won the 1983 World Cup in England, 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia, 1984 Asia Cup in Sharjah, Test series in England in 1986 among other things — in an effort to build the “team of the 90s”.
Much water has flown since those dark days, but little has changed by way of transparency or accountability.
In June 2016, Shastri and Company had already had a successful run. Nevertheless, applications for the post of head coach were called for and 57 aspirants responded. The applicants were shortlisted by the erstwhile Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Ajay Shirke’s team and handed over to the CAC, comprising Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
They asked for Anil Kumble’s name to be added to the shortlist. While he had excellent credentials as cricketer, he had no experience as coach and that was thought to be one of the reasons why he was not on the shortlist.
To cut the story short, he was chosen over Shastri for a one-year period
Explaining the rationale of giving him a one-year contract as opposed to a long-term one, BCCI president Anurag Thakur said at a press conference: “Kumble is transforming himself from being a great on the cricketing field to probably becoming a great coach. That transition has to be smooth. This is a professional appointment. Professional appointments are meant to cover all bases. Therefore, that is the reason we want to be able to review our options should there be any need. I am confident that we will not have that need at the end of one year.”
Of course, another BCCI official was quoted as saying: “We have 13 Tests at home. Kumble is in the driver's seat. We have given him the keys and he has to now prove himself.”
However, within a few months things turned sour. Media reports stated that the captain, Virat Kohli, and the coach were not on talking terms since December 2016! By the time the IPL was concluded in May 2017 and the Indian team was to embark on the tour of England to defend their Champions Trophy title, most were aware that things were not hunky-dory in the Indian camp and that a new head coach would have to be ushered in sooner rather than later.
But even when their brief was to choose the head coach, the CAC, just like they were allowed to include Kumble’s name the previous year, tried to impose their choice of batting and bowling coaches on the head coach.
It was not the credentials of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan that was the bone of contention. It was the CAC’s apparent lack of courtesy to the in-coming head coach that was objectionable.
Most right thinking folks questioned the process. A few in the media pointed out that the move seemed to undermine the head coach. Naturally, saner elements in the Committee of Administrators (CoA) saw it as an affront to the process rather than personnel and decided that as per convention the head coach would have his way.
Thus, the return of Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar as Shastri’s support staff.
This was exactly the same team of head coach and support staff that was in place in June 2016 before the turmoil created by the CAC vitiated the atmosphere within Indian cricket. So why did Indian cricket have to go through upheaval, dissension and drama?
Surely the episode was yet another example that great cricketers are not necessarily visionaries or even good administrators.
In the natural order of things, after the fiasco, the CAC must quit or be disbanded. Alternately a more mature set of personnel could be inducted. The last thing Indian cricket needs is a return to the turmoil of the early 1990s.
Published Date: Jul 19, 2017 11:00 am | Updated Date: Jul 19, 2017 11:00 am