Anil Kumble resigned as chief coach of Team India amid high drama and the naming of his successor Ravi Shastri had its own share of drama too. Shastri’s appointment was announced on the night of July 11. But before the formal announcement, there was lot of drama. Since the evening, media reports had it that Shastri was appointed coach of the Indian cricket team till the 2019 World Cup. BCCI Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary had to step in and urged media to observe restrain. Some hours later, he came out with a formal statement, “The BCCI announces the appointment of Mr. Ravi Shastri as the Head Coach, Mr. Zaheer Khan as the Bowling Consultant and Mr. Rahul Dravid who will be the Overseas Batting Consultant (Test cricket) for the Indian Cricket Team.
As part of the process for selecting the Head Coach, the Cricket Advisory Committee comprising of Mr. Sachin Tendulkar, Mr. Sourav Ganguly and Mr. VVS Laxman conducted the interviews and recommended these appointments in the best interest of the Indian Cricket.” The term of the appointments will be till the World Cup 2019. Chaudhary said Shastri had been the team director in the past, and brings with him a wealth of experience, both as player and as coach.
“Mr. Khan is a contemporary cricketer who assumed the mentoring role to a young fast bowling unit even during his playing days with India. His inputs will be of immense value to our young fast bowlers, who have shown tremendous potential in the last couple of years. As the Indian team is to play Test cricket overseas in the next two years, Rahul Dravid’s expertise as batting consultant will be immensely helpful for youngsters,” he said.
Shastri returned at the helm of Indian cricket as the chief coach, exactly a year after an unceremonious exit, pipping strong contenders such as Virender Sehwag to the coveted post. It wasn’t an easy decision for the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAB). There was apparently a tough fight between Shastri and Sehwag but it was skipper Virat Kohli’s strong recommendation about Shastri’s successful earlier tenure that is believed to have swung the deal in favour of BCCI’s ‘Man for all seasons’. It was reported that Ganguly had reservations about Shastri’s appointment but was finally convinced by his illustrious colleague Tendulkar, who wanted the team’s wish to be respected.
Besides Shastri and Sehwag, Tom Moody, Richard Pybus and Lalchand Rajput were also interviewed. The BCCI thanked the CAC for the “selfless pro bono service” in assisting it in the selection process. The three members of the committee have executed the assigned task with total transparency, professionalism and commitment to Indian cricket, it said. “The recommendation for Mr. Ravi Shastri was made on the merit of his presentation and the vision that he projected for taking the team to greater heights.
After taking the decision on his selection, the CAC consulted him and decided on having Batting and Bowling consultants on overseas tourto-tour basis, as per the requirement of the team,” the BCCI said in a statement. Reports also had it that Shastri wanted Bharath Arun as the bowling coach but Ganguly pitched in for Zaheer. The board is also believed to have agreed with Ganguly because of Zaheer’s experience and his good relation with the current players. For Shastri, it will be a sweet homecoming – his third stint with the national team. The 55-year-old former India captain had earlier been a cricket manager during 2007 tour of Bangladesh and then team director from 2014 August to 2016 June. It was a productive stint for the Indian team during which they won Test overseas series versus Sri Lanka, reached the semi-finals of 2015 World Cup and World T20 semi-finals in 2016. They also won overseas ODI series in England and T20 series in Australia.
They won a Test series against South Africa. Shastri was all set to get an extension last year when Kumble threw his hat in the ring and despite a great performance, he was overlooked. His exit was followed by a public spat with CAC member Ganguly, whom he accused of not being present during his interview. Ganguly in turn retorted by saying that had he been serious, Shastri should have not attended an interview while holidaying from Bangkok. However things changed quickly after the Kohli-Kumble relationship turned sour. It was then that the BCCI decided to invite fresh applications knowing that Kumble was living on borrowed time.
During the initial phase, Shastri didn’t apply but when the deadline was extended, he threw his hat into the ring. Known as players’ man and a fantastic manager, Shastri was considered an astute tactician during his playing days, a skipper India never had. His relationship with both former skipper M S Dhoni and current captain Kohli has been great. During his August 2014 to June 2016 stint, Shastri earned the respect of the current players, especially Kohli. He gave players freedom to “express themselves” and was an expert in pepping up the boys when the chips were down. So much so that many asked why he was removed at the first place despite having such overriding support. One of his biggest admirers Kohli had said in 2015, “He is a guy who does not shy away from responsibility. He is someone who takes the blows on the chin. He keeps moving forward. We would love to have him on board even if he is doing the same job right now. Just to have him around the group is a massive boost for us.”
The appointment of Shastri has also been hailed by the Committee of Administrators (COA). “The Cricket Advisory Committee has made its recommendation regarding the coach. It is a comprehensive recommendation covering all aspects of the coaching requirement of any team,” the COA said in a statement. “A coach is a mentor to a team. He is a friend and an elder buddy. He has to actively contribute to building up the morale and harmony in the dressing room. Motivating and guiding the players off the ground is the responsibility of the coach.
The captain is the leader and the gladiator on the ground. Any team is always built around the leadership qualities and professionalism of the captain. He is the face of the team. The coach has to provide backroom support. It is with this objective in mind that the job of selection of a coach was entrusted to three of the most experienced former players/captains of the Indian team. They have been in the thick of it all themselves,” it said.