Champion of champions to coach champions

Champion of champions to coach champions

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 12, 2017 15:21 hrs
Virat Kohli got what he wanted as Ravi Shastri is back at the helm as India head coach

Anil Kumble's choice as Team India's Head Coach in 2016 threw up more questions than answers.

Has Kumble inherited a crown of thorns?

Indeed Kumble's tenure did end on a really sour note.

However, the BCCI seems to have learnt its lesson and the process to find his replacement has been much quicker and smoother. There is every indication that Ravi Shastri as Head Coach will find it a much easier job to get along with Team India than his predecessor.

Last time when the BCCI advertised for the post, the number of applicants was in the region of 60, which is huge considering the cricket coach's niche and how very few are qualified to apply in the first place.

So for Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to pick up their friend Kumble did really reek a bit of nepotism. In contrast this time, there were only six interviewees for the post and Shastri did stand tall among them.

There was a second factor which went against Kumble. MS Dhoni made his international debut in 2004 and Kumble retired only in 2008.

Though Dhoni never said anything openly, it is not easy to accept your teammate as your coach. (Imagine your classmate in one class becoming your teacher in another!)

No such problems with Shastri who retired way back in 1992 and has emerged as the grand old man of the commentary world. Shastri has been around for donkey's years and has an excellent rapport with both players and officials.

As a player Shastri was an enigma. As a batsman he could play both in first gear and fourth gear with equal ease. As a spinner he was a vital cog in India's one-day machine.

As a captain he was a lucky one. With the mike he has shown his acumen and understanding for the game in the years he has been in the commentator's box. He is not short on passion too even after retiring from cricket more than 20 years ago.

The BCCI has also done much better by hiring stalwarts Rahul Dravid for overseas batting and Zaheer Khan for bowling as his deputies.

While Dravid and Zak are also relatively junior when compared to Shastri and were Kumble's teammates, things will be much smoother as they are part of Team Shastri.

India has been on a dream run in international cricket in the 2010s. The only aberrations have been the 0-8 overseas Test series lost at the beginning of this runs and bowling meltdowns like those witnessed in the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

Let's hope Dravid and Zak can rectify that. In fact Dravid has been coaching for quite some time with the Under-19 team and he is also a possible replacement of Shastri sometime in the future.

Unlike Kumble's one-year contract, Shastri has been kept till the 2019 ICC ODI World Cup, which will lend great stability to Team India. The nucleus of the team for that tournament is ready and we have to build up on that.

While there are already some reports that Dravid and Zak were 'forced' on Shastri, one hopes that all the coaches behave like a team and gel well. By all indications India captain Virat Kohli was kept in the loop to avoid a Kumble type fiasco.

There is no shortage of talent that these four cricketing brains have. Importantly, Shastri has the both the seniority and acumen to guide them well.

Shastri was Team Director in 2014 and received praises for his role then and many (including Shastri himself) were surprised that he wasn't selected as Head Coach last year itself.

As a player Shastri was like a meteor that shone brilliantly from time to time.

1985 was a miracle year for him when he was the Champion of Champions in the mini World Cup, hit six sixes in an over and went on to score the fastest double century in the history of First Class cricket.

In another similar year in 1988, he captained his only tournament (Sharjah) and bagged the trophy; he captained his only Test and won that too. Let's hope his efforts will lead to another miracle year in 2019!

Post 2000, 1980s Team India has been lucky for us. As Chairman of the Selectors Dilip Vengsarkar masterminded the brilliant move to rest seniors and make MS Dhoni captain for the T20 World Cup in 2007. That was pure genius.

The committee that selected the 2011 ODI World Cup winning team was headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth. The committee that selected the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy winning team was headed by Sandeep Patil.

Let's hope Shastri can join that lucky club and help us win the 2019 World Cup!

Related Articles:

Kohli versus Kumble: Yet another conflict cycle returns to Indian cricket

Does Team India really need a cricket coach?

Stellar Kumble goes out on a tragic low

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here

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