To expect Indian cricket administrators to suddenly shed their thick skin and act in a rational way just because a Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) is in place would be asking too much.
Normal Indians are sensitive and generally tactful. But those in charge of Indian cricket would not know what these mean. After all, these were the very people who wanted to recall an administrative manager in the middle of a tour simply because he would not be polite to the demands of diplomats. Never mind that every tiny island comprising West Indies has its share of High Commissioners and neither the manager nor any other non-bureaucrat could be expected to know all of them!
If that was not bad enough, the cricket set-up came up with another monumental piece of insensitive act: Attempting to select a coach in the middle of an away series.
Ultimately, it was lucky that they chose to continue with Ravi Shastri till the ICC World T20 in 2021. Can anyone imagine the plight of the coach and the team if they had chosen someone else and reduced the present incumbent to a lame duck at the start of the campaign for the World Test Championship?
It would have been as stupid as cutting the nose to spite the face. The series against the West Indies, starting next week, is the first of India’s Test series' in the qualification for the inaugural World Test Championship. The total points from three away series and three home series over the next couple of years are vital if India want to make the cut and contest the final.
What a silly move it would have been if the BCCI had chosen this delicate moment to demolish the confidence and morale of the coach and team.
Luckily, better sense prevailed and they went with the tried and tested man in charge. In doing so the team enjoyed its second close shave from being disrupted. Actually it should count as the third as there were folks who wanted even the skipper to be subject to “five minutes” of interview before being reappointed!
The appointment, or should it be described as retention, of Shastri as Indian team coach for the next couple of years was a no-brainer. The parameters laid down for the three-man Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) of ex-cricketers Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy: Coaching Philosophy, Experience of Coaching, Achievements in Coaching, Communication skill and Knowledge of Modern Coaching Tools virtually knocked out the other contestants.
In fact the parameters are so stringent that future aspirants to the post had better get their act together if they want to coach the Indian team. Perhaps in future, the Indian team coach’s post will no longer depend on the whims and fancies of either CAC or BCCI if these parameters are stringently followed. And that should be welcomed by all right thinking cricket followers.
The best aspect of Shastri being continued is that he has struck a tremendous rapport with not only the skipper but also other senior members of the team. This is a great asset as Indian cricket cannot afford the team to be pulled in different directions by various personalities. There is need for plenty of cohesion not just between coach, captain, players and support staff but also with selectors, National Cricket Academy director Rahul Dravid and India juniors coaches and selectors.
This is where Shastri’s experience, communication skills and knowledge of modern coaching methods would come in handy. His ability to talk the talk to juniors and get them to stand toe-to-toe against opponents is an important aspect of the spirit and attitude that Indian cricket has imbibed of late. It must be pointed out that it was not always so and Shastri’s role in developing the mindset cannot be belittled or overlooked, particularly at a time when raw talent is emerging not from big cities but from India’s hinterland.
On the flip side, Shastri’s stint as coach suffers only because of the success the team has enjoyed; for it has kindled more hope, expectation and impatience in cricket fans and left them hungering for even more success.
Of course a World Cup title or two would be fantastic to boast of. But don’t scoff a record that reads 13 victories in 21 Tests, 25 wins out of 36 T20 internationals and 43 ODI wins in 60 matches.
These apart, there was that historic Test series win in Australia — something that no Indian team in the past could achieve. Just as stunning was the 5-1 ODI series win against South Africa in South Africa.
Frankly, Indian cricket is at a stage where it needs continuity and stability. While Shastri seems the right person to provide that at this time, it is important that the powers that be do not come up with any more hare-brained ideas that could upset the team’s applecart at inopportune moments.