Caught on a sticky wicket after the Kumble-Kohli Doosra, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was expected to resolve the crisis with the acceleration that is required to win a T20 match. However, the imperious Board officials played it more like a dull and dreary Test match.
Alas, the drama surrounding the appointment of Ravi Shastri as the new chief coach of the Indian cricket team smacks of some deliberate foul play by power-crazy individuals out to settle scores in the battle for one-upmanship.
There was always this belief that he was the ‘chosen one’ from the moment he sent in his application. What prolonged the announcement was the fact that the Board wanted to show the world that they swore by ‘democratic’ principles.
However, for all the brow-beating and tough talking, zeroing in on Shastri should be seen as a big U-turn by the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC). Lest one forgets, it was the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman that ignored the credentials of Shastri while green-signalling Anil Kumble on to the hot seat precisely a year ago.
Irrespective of how the tenure of Kumble was, there is no denying that Shastri commands respect from the current crop of players, which will make it easy for him to go ahead with his authoritative and no-nonsensical approach. However, Shastri’s heartburn from last year’s rejection is what the authorities should be cautious about.
The incumbent, whose test begins with the tour to Sri Lanka, which is India’s first in eight years, may not go out there with vengeance but at some point in time, it could quite well explode. Today, while the nation sees him as a man for all seasons, a year back Kumble enjoyed a similar distinction given his gentlemanly approach that cloaked a steely resolve to win every battle. In terms of characters, Shastri comes across as one who cannot stand incompetence or failures, as would any tough taskmaster.
A major plus point in Shastri’s favour is that he enjoys the unequivocal support of Kohli, who seems to be calling the shots, a luxury that no other Indian captain has enjoyed to such extraordinary levels. The new man in the post, who is no stranger to courting controversies, ought to remember that going against Kohli cost Kumble his job, which could be unravelled if ever the spinner pens down an explosive ‘tell-all’ autobiography and dedicates some chapters to the unceremonious exit.
No doubt, Shastri is endowed with man-management skills, which came into prominence when India was caught in the post-Greg Chappell crossroads. But, Shastri has never been a full-fledged coach, per se. Kumble is right – the Indian cricket coach has a role that is on par with that of a Chief Strategy Officer (CSO).
The simmering differences between Kumble and Kohli did not have any adverse effect on the team’s performances. In fact, India regained lost glory during that period. A workable chemistry between the captain and the new coach need not necessarily spell success at every step.