The biggest job in cricket. There is no other way to describe the role as India’s coach. The centre of the cricketing universe has shifted from the stuffy atmosphere of St John’s Wood in London and has flowed east. Now the most important city in the cricketing world is Mumbai, even if the ICC’s headquarters are in Dubai.
The competition to be India’s new coach was understandably fierce, with reports suggesting that there were a remarkable 57 candidates that were in the running for the job. That was whittled down to just two; the man who has been doing the job since 2014, Ravi Shastri, and India’s leading Test wicket taker of all time, Anil Kumble.
Shastri is a proud man, and he has every right to feel that way. He has been a successful cricketer, broadcaster and coach. If can’t have been easy for him to be forced to reapply for his own job, and when he began his presentation from Bangkok and discovered that the process was overrunning and Sourav Ganguly has left to chair a meeting of the Cricket Association of Bengal it would have upset him. In fairness, at least Ganguly was in India, Shastri was taking time out of his holiday to interview for the job.
Shastri didn’t hold back about his disappointment in Ganguly’s perceived slight, telling the media that Ganguly was “disrespectful of the candidate who was going to the interviewed and disrespectful to the job he was entrusted to do.”
That was quite the zinger and it is not surprising that Ganguly felt the need to reply in public.
"I just feel that the comments are very personal and if Ravi Shastri feels that I am responsible for him not being the coach of India, he's living in a fool's world," Ganguly said. "It's a committee and there are people in the committee who are of more repute than I am and there are other people involved also who were consulted and spoken about. So that's disappointing.”
There are certainly some impressive names on the advisory committee that appointed Kumble to the role of India coach. Ganguly might not have been there but fellow “fab four” members VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar were present.
The issue for Shastri is how people will perceive this gripe against Ganguly. Arriving to interview for the biggest job in the sport to discover that 25 percent of the committee that will decide if you are given the role have left to go to a meeting of a local cricket association would make the most relaxed individual feel vexed. Shastri has always been a man who will express his views forcefully and passionately, so it is not surprising that he was pissed off.
But perceptions matter, and people will view him going public about Ganguly’s absence as bitterness. He will be understandably disappointed to have been overlooked for a job that he was doing well enough for the 18 months prior to this exhaustive process to find a new coach for India. It doesn’t matter that India were number one in Test cricket while he was in charge or that they made it to the top of the T20 rankings and second in ODIs. People will see this outburst as sour grapes.
That attitude was summed up by Gautam Gambhir when he spoke to APB News about Shastri’s comments.
“I think it was Shastri’s desperation to become the coach that led him to make such statements,” Gambhir said. “Moreover, I feel that Anil Kumble is best man for the job and he has been, deservingly, rewarded with the coveted position.”
Gambhir also said he thought that Shastri’s record is not all that he claimed it was. “I would like to ask him as to what has the team won? You haven’t won an overseas series, you lost to South Africa at home, and lost to Bangladesh in Bangladesh,” Gambhir said.
In some ways Shastri was a victim of how he got the job in the first place as much as how well he did when he got it. He came into the post during the disastrous tour of England in 2014. After India had been battered in the Test series Shastri was brought in as Team Director. He told ESPNCricinfo when he was appointed that his role was to oversee everything. “All of them report to me,” he said.
It did not take long for the then coach Duncan Fletcher and his assistants to be pushed out with Shastri taking full charge. It was an example of the kind of behind the scenes machinations that have represented the way the BCCI have done business for so long. It was all backroom deals and faceless bureaucrats rather than open and honest decision making.
With the Lodha Committee breathing down their necks and insisting that they do things differently the BCCI need to seen to be doing the right thing and this bloated process to appoint a new coach is an example of that.
It was a real shock when Shastri was given the job as supremo of the Indian team and it was a surprise when he did so well considering he had so little coaching experience when he was appointed. Shastri has every right to be disappointed at not getting another shot at the job, but Kumble was very clearly the standout candidate.
Kumble didn’t get the job because Ganguly was in the room when he presented to the advisory committee and absent when Shastri had his turn, he got the gig because he is the best man for the job. We should never criticise someone for being honest, but Shastri did himself few favours by moaning about this.
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Updated Date: Jun 30, 2016 12:01:28 IST