- NL Sena
For all the hoopla surrounding the choices for India’s cricket coach, the decision is ultimately in the hands of golden boy Virat Kohli.
In rain-washed Mumbai, officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have been thrown into a total disarray, like lovers on Marine Drive facing the towering waves of the Arabian Sea.
The Committee of Administrators (COA) that runs the BCCI – a rich body indeed- is faced with the crucial debate that has assumed alarming proportions: Who will be India’s next chief cricket coach?
The COA has no clue, no control over the events which are fast overtaking one another, triggering breaking headlines for pesky reporters and their television cameras. There are too many claimants for the hot seat and at least two of them have already flaunted their backing, a trait common only in subcontinental cricket.
On paper, or without it, it is amply clear that the selection of the chief coach will be either skipper Virat Kohli’s way or the highway. It means there will be a toss between the two best claimants for the slot and the captain, who has the final say on a host of things, will win the day. Till that happens, high voltage gossip mongering will continue across the country.
But first, the BCCI must set its house in order to initiate the process of selection.
BCCI honchos, which include Vinod Rai of the CAG fame, are still reeling under the impact of what many claim was a needless, shameless bust-up between Kohli and Anil Kumble, a genial bowler and a former captain. The BCCI’s summer of discontent played out in full view of those crowding the stands during the recently concluded Champions Trophy, made matters worse. Kumble walked out in pain, saying the captain did not need him. Kohli responded by deleting tweets made back in June 2016, when he had welcomed Kumble on board.
To make matters worse, former BCCI president N Srinivasan hauled the cricket board over coals at a special general meeting in Mumbai, making it clear that the selection of the chief coach was not a priority for the board and that he had the support of as many as 19 state associations all saying reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee should not be implemented forthwith. It means a significant section of the BCCI has already gone back to square one, the post-Lodha days.
The argumentative Srinivasan packed enough punches to silence the Supreme Court-appointed COA. Such was the commotion that the 165-minute long meeting did not take any decisive call as requested by the COA, among them two crucial issues, one regarding 70 as the cut-off age in cricket administration and secondly, no administrator can hold a post for more than nine years.
The issue of the future coach and the selection process could not be discussed, and there was laughter when someone told Rai that among the applicants was Upendra Nath Brahmachari, an engineer from Burdwan in West Bengal, who joined the race because he felt insulted at the way his childhood hero Kumble was shunted out of the team in London. Brahmachari told me over the phone that his lack of cricketing experience was no hindrance. “The captain was a Yes Man; I will be his Yes Man.” Sports cognoscenti in India ridiculed his appeal, with former Indian coach Gary Kirsten called it “maddening” and said he was confident “India will select a good coach”.
But the process still appears a tough one, ostensibly because no one from the BCCI has applied their mind to the job.
And then there are other troubles.
Three former cricketers, including two captains, now responsible for selecting the captain, first said they need to be paid for the job. And then, one of them, Saurav Ganguly, told reporters in Kolkata that the Kumble-Kohli spat “could have been handled well but was not”.
No one – and reporters from India formed the biggest contingent at the Champions Trophy press box – asked why the BCCI and former cricketers, who interact with current players almost every day, did not nip the crisis in the bud. The former cricketers were all present in London to provide commentary but did nothing to douse the crisis. For some strange reason, the issue was not even discussed in the post-match shows.
The coach needs to be appointed before the Sri Lanka series, starting in the last week of July. Besides former team director Ravi Shastri, others in the race include Virendra Sehwag, who has the backing of both Ganguly and Tendulkar, former Australia fast bowler Craig McDermott, Tom Moody and Lalchand Rajput, the last currently helping Afghanistan’s national team.
Shastri, who once said he had no time to coach the Blue Billion Express, has had – of late – a change of mind, probably because he was backed by Kohli. In fact, it is no secret that Kohli wants Shastri back at the helm. Shastri’s only discomfort is with Ganguly, the two don’t see eye to eye after a spat over a selection process when Ganguly was miffed because Shastri, who wanted the job of coach, was vacationing in June 2016, in Bangkok while the selection process was on in India. Shastri, who did a satellite presentation to the selectors, blamed Ganguly for picking Kumble over him. Now this time, when Shastri comes for the interview, Ganguly must know that the former all-rounder has the backing of the most important man in the team, who had told team officials in London if Kumble stays a day longer, he will walk out of the team.
So Kohli, the God, will have the final stamp. In short, the selection process is over even before the panel has met. The world’s richest cricket board could have easily avoided this meaningless crisis.
Who will bell the cat, even the COA looks like a prostrate, disembowelled Gulliver?