Coach's selection - A captain's call in Indian cricket

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Coach's selection - A captain's call in Indian cricket

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Rohan Chawla


The superstar culture in Indian cricket has been prevalent since ages and has left its imprints on the history of the sport in the country. The issue resurfaced after the CAC announced its decision to delay naming the new coach until their meet with Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) interviewed the shortlisted candidates for the post of the Indian coach but the legendary trio of VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, and Sachin Tendulkar's combined experience wasn't enough to find the perfect prospect for the job. The committee had to hold back their decision in order to discuss the shortlisted candidates with Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

The decision proved that an Indian captain was and always will be the sole leader of the team, influencing even the appointment of the man who is supposed to manage the team. The revelation, however, wasn't new as the same pattern had been repeated multiple times during the course of history. Sourav Ganguly, himself, was one of the captains who had recommended the name of Greg Chappell for the post of the Indian coach, even though the Australian had no experience in the coaching field in 2005 after John Wright chose to discontinue as the Indian coach. Rahul Dravid was another example who indirectly favoured Lalchand Rajput to take over as the Indian coach after India's embarrassing 2007 World Cup exit but Rajput was only appointed to manage the team for a brief period.   

But can you blame the CAC trio of VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly for their decision? The Indian stars have always been the main people who have drawn the crowds to the stadiums and generate revenues for the BCCI, unlike the coach, who is never in the limelight. The BCCI, thus, need to take the views of the players representative, that is the team captain, before going on ahead with their decision. 

However, this pattern of a captain dictating even the administrative proceedings is only prevalent in India whereas everywhere else the coach enjoys full command over the dressing room and has full control over player selection for a tour as well. English coach Trevor Bayliss has enjoyed this privilege over the players during his tenure when he got the selection committee shuffled after the panel ruled out James Anderson for a series against Pakistan in 2016 which has proved beneficial for the English team as they have enjoyed major success in the recent past and are continuing to do so. Such is the situation that the candidates for the interview are being asked to define their role as the coach of the team and what would their strategy be in case they are in disagreement with the captain.

The captain's views on CAC's selection is crucial as another conflict between the captain and the coach before the 2019 World Cup could prove disastrous for the Indian board who would be in no position to replace the coach this time as the selected candidate would sign a 2-year contract with the BCCI.

Indian captains have always been accredited for their leadership skills and on-field calls after a win in any format of the game. However, what goes unnoticed is that the captain makes the decision based on the coach's strategy at the start of the match and he is as much a star as the captain in any win that the team records. The unnoticed fact has led to the role of skipper being given more importance and power over the coach.  

The current Indian captain's power was on full display when Anil Kumble was forced to step down as the Indian coach when Kohli declined to soften his stance against Kumble's policy of man-management. In Kohli's case, Ravi Shastri was the chosen one who received the 28-year old's backing to contest for the post of the Indian coach after his brief stint as the team director after Gary Kirsten's tenure ended. However, Shastri had not applied for the post when BCCI first invited the applications but luckily he got a chance to enter the contest after BCCI invited the applications for the post of the Indian coach once again after Kumble's resignation. Whether it was Ravi Shastri's strong luck or a perfectly orchestrated move according to Kohli's wishes no one knows but the move certainly raised many eyebrows and even the CAC was reportedly not informed of the decision and as a form of protest, an engineer from Kolkata with no cricketing background also applied for the post questioning the moves absurdity. 

However, it is to be noted that Virat Kohli was not consulted after all when the Committee of Administrators chairman Vinod Rai interrupted and asked the CAC to declare the Indian coach without knowing the Indian captain's views to highlight the fact that it was indeed BCCI who took the decision. BCCI showed the much-needed firmness and urgency in declaring the new Indian coach and it was none other than Ravi Shastri, a candidate strongly backed up by Kohli, who will supervise the team until the 2019 World Cup. 

Shastri was picked over experienced names like Lalchand Rajput and Tom Moody. Lalchand Rajput had managed the Indian team briefly after the 2007 World Cup and is currently coaching Afghanistan who have improved leaps and bounds under him. Afghanistan recently showed their mettle against West Indies drawing the ODI series and gaining Test status for the first time in their cricketing history. Tom Moody, on the other hand, is the current coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad and has previously coached Sri Lanka when he led them to the finals of the 2007 World Cup. However, it is to be noted that Shastri was picked as team India's coach and handled the team for a two-year period as the director. The development itself is an evidence of the rewards you receive for ending up in an Indian captain's good books and history was repeated yet again as one of the captain's favourite ended up taking the post.

The time has come for the Indian board to define a captain's jurisdiction and its own with regards to the administrative proceedings of the team. The Indian cricket fraternity is still recovering from the loss of Anil Kumble's experience under whom the team had improved considerably, and to ensure no other person with Kumble's talent and stature suffers the same fate, the board needs to put its authority to use keeping the betterment of Indian cricket in mind.

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