Amidst the recent brouhaha vis-a-vis coach-skipper stand-off, the most astonishing piece of news filtering through the media is that Anil Kumble and skipper Virat Kohli have not been on speaking terms for the past six months!
This national agency report which was picked up by many newspapers has thus far not been denied and hence could be the smoke that BCCI claimed it could not see.
The contents of the report are stunning and calls to attention the role of various parties, especially those that had first-hand information of the goings on within the team. Why, for instance, did the administrative manager not alert the BCCI – if as per the report the BCCI was not aware of the absence of communication between the two people it had entrusted with the responsibility of running the national team? Importantly was the BCCI aware of the situation when they advertised for the coach’s position last month? At that time they had claimed that Kumble need not apply as he would be directly seeded into the final round.
What of the Cricket Advisory Committee. Two of them, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were national captains and had worked with erstwhile national coaches. What did they and VVS Laxman do since December to break the impasse between coach and captain?
Did the COA and CEO, supposedly in charge of the Board do anything at all?
These questions are important because these are the folks entrusted with running of the game within their ambit and the national team is one area where all their responsibilities intersect.
If the report about coach and captain not talking to each other since December is true, then the next question to ask is, whom did Kumble coach post-December? Was he not sitting down with the skipper and planning and strategising each of his team player’s roles in the match? Wasn’t there a day-to-day review of planning, execution and results during the home series? Was he not plotting downfall of opponents and engaging in a regular exchange of ideas and strategies with captain, senior players and other coaches (batting, fielding) on the strengths and weaknesses of each and every opposition player?
If minute detailing of every move was not taking place then, sadly, it would seem that the clock had been rolled back a couple of decades for Indian cricket.
Another twist is BCCI’s renewed call for fresh applications for the position of head coach. A BCCI official is quoted as telling the national agency that there could be more applications now “as the field was wide open.”
Earlier, it was reported that Kumble was part of the process and was the first name on the short list and hence need not apply. But Kumble was not taking any chances and sent in a detailed, fresh application. Others who filed their applications were Virender Sehwag, Dodda Ganesh, Tom Moody, Lalchand Rajput and Richard Pybus.
Kumble’s withdrawal should have shortened the odds for them. But the Board by calling for further applications has bowled yet another googly. Are they not happy with the quality of the remaining aspirants or is there someone else lurking around but had not applied earlier? The Board has now made it possible for him to apply and thereby absolved itself of all controversies that may subsequently erupt if someone from outside the applicants was appointed head coach.
At this juncture the Indian team in West Indies has a make-shift overseer in MV Sridhar, GM cricket operations, BCCI. Batting coach Sanjay Bangar would be chipping in with the head coach’s job for the scheduled 5 ODIs and 1T20 game.
The real challenge would come later, in Sri Lanka. The Lankans have always been a tough nut to crack at home and India would have to put their best foot forward to outstmart them. The Board hopes to have a full-time coach by then. Hopefully the Board would have done due diligence and would also be fair to the new coach, whoever he is.
He should be given a three-year term so that he would have some leeway in establishing a working relationship with the team and the Board. Additionally, his role must be defined.
Indian cricket badly needs a steady, mature solution that would have built-in nous for short-term and long term issues. Hopefully the Board won’t rush with quick-fix solutions and engage the best man for the job. Else it would be more of the same.