BCCI, CAC and the cackle!

While the CAC insists that they took Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli into confidence and that all stakeholders were on board before the new set-up was formalised, it is difficult to believe that such harmonious and spontaneous consensus either exists, or is likely to last.

A big advantage for new Head Coach Ravi Shastri is that captain Virat Kohli is in favour of him.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Indian cricket is fast becoming a breeding ground for irony, off the field, even as it is brimming with talent to take the game forward on it. The Committee of Administrators tasked the Cricket Advisory Committee with selecting an appropriate candidate to replace Anil Kumble as head coach of the Indian team, and what did they do? They came up with a Committee of Coaches to help the team become the best in the world.

Even a clock that has stopped working shows the correct time twice in a day, and the situation in Indian cricket is now akin to that. A completely broken system off the field through a process in which it is unclear who is calling the shots, has picked some excellent men to work behind the scenes in the Indian coaching set up.

While Kumble, it can be argued, did absolutely nothing wrong in his time at the helm of affairs, Virat Kohli clearly had issues in working with Kumble, but wouldn’t say publicly what these were. 

Ravi Shastri became the best man to take up the head coach’s job, once the Karnataka leg spinner had been forced out of contention.

Shastri enjoys the one luxury that was denied Kumble, in that the captain wants him in the dressing-room. Add to this the fact that Shastri is perhaps the one person capable of putting the murky and messy events of the recent past completely behind him and push on regardless, and few will complain about him being given the job, even if the manner in which it happened was less than desirable.

But, while the CAC, and Sourav Ganguly seems to have become some sort of a self-appointed chairman or spokesperson for the committee also involving Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman, was asked to pick the head coach, it went ahead and also bestowed the team with the services of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan. 

Who can argue with the credentials or the obvious positives either of these men bring to the table? More on that in a minute, but even after the BCCI announced, via a media release, the appointments of Dravid and Zaheer, the CoA has questioned the CAC’s right to nominate the names of these two to the coaching team. It has been argued that the CAC went beyond its brief, and that these additional appointments are mere recommendations. While that may be technically accurate, even Shastri’s selection as head coach is only a recommendation of the CAC.

Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid have been recommended as the Bowling and the Batting coach respectively. Now, Dravid has three strings to his bow!   -  Akhilesh Kumar

 

As the man in charge, Shastri is well within his rights to expect to pick the people who will work with him, but the CAC has claimed that it had consulted both captain and coach before nominating Dravid and Zaheer to their respective roles. If that was indeed the case, the manner in which the appointments have been put on hold leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Dravid has been called the Overseas Batting Consultant (Test Cricket) and Zaheer, the Bowling Consultant. Dravid is already in charge of the Under-19 and India A teams, and having accepted that role for two years, is understood to have foregone the opportunity of working with an Indian Premier League team. While that is one hairy conflict of interest resolved, it remains to be seen how Dravid, as tremendous as he is, can be at three places at the same time, as will sometimes be required. When India play Test cricket in Sri Lanka, the A team will be in South Africa and the Under-19s in England. But W. V. Raman has been appointed the coach for the England trip, relieving Dravid of some burden.

It has been cruelly suggested that Dravid can do some of his coaching via Skype or video conference, as that seems to be a preferred mode of operation when interviewing and appointing coaches. But, Dravid is not the kind of person who does things by half measures, so how he will juggle his multiple responsibilities remains to be seen. 

Also, in the cynical times we live in, it is unlikely to be long before someone asks, or worse still goes to the courts asking, if Dravid is not in some way conflicted in doing all three roles. After all, the Under-19 team logically funnels players to the A team, who might then progress to national colours. And, certainly at the first two levels, the coach has a significant input in the playing XI, even if the captain is supreme at the senior level.

Zaheer’s appointment is less contentious but not much clearer in scope. Even when he was the leader of the bowling attack in his final years as a player, Zaheer was the de facto bowling coach, the go-to man for bowlers who needed a guiding hand when it came to setting up batsmen, targeting a weakness or setting a field to bowl to a plan. Zaheer is razor sharp when it comes to bowling and is naturally giving with the pack that hunts with him, although his appointment leaves the door open for a spin consultant to add to the growing tribe of Indian support staff. In keeping with the irony, it would only be apt if India’s most successful spin bowler was considered to pitch in from time to time.

But, while Dravid and Zaheer are no doubt exceptional proponents of difficult arts and men whose word will be gold to youngsters, where does their appointment leave Sanjay Bangar, the batting coach, and Bharat Arun, widely tipped to return to the fold as bowling coach? Will a player struggling with his cover-drive go to Dravid for a long net or to Bangar, whose praises Kohli has sung with great gusto most recently? Will a fast bowler looking to break his habit of bowling no-balls, such as Bumrah, go to Zaheer, who will occasionally be with the team, or Arun, who will be a full-time presence should he get the job?

While the CAC insists that all stakeholders were on board before the new set-up was formalised, it is difficult to believe that such harmonious and spontaneous consensus either exists, or is likely to last. After all, if there was such maturity in the ranks, things would not have come to a pass where India’s most successful coach was left in a situation where it was untenable for him to help take Indian cricket forward.