The ball is really in the Kohli-Shastri court now, and India’s performance in the World Cup will be the ultimate test.
The Indian cricket board’s decision to appoint Ravi Shastri as Team India’s chief coach, with reinforcements in bowling coach Zaheer Khan and batting consultant Rahul Dravid for overseas Tests, with Shastri as the key figure shaping team strategy and man management, is a clear indication that the choice of the captain and players has prevailed. Shastri is seen as the players’ friend, while Anil Kumble was dubbed a hard taskmaster, one with a martinet’s approach in his handling of juniors, who are the cricketers who would need the most mentoring. In cricket, the captain calls all the shots, and it seems a logical extension that he should be given the coach of his choice. In principle, this would amount to making the skipper a soccer-type supremo, who is given a big say in selecting players and support staff.
The entire process of appointing coaches is also in the hands of players, with India’s cricket legends sitting in the head-hunting committee. It is likely they too would like to go with the flow and pick the players’ choice. It must, however, be said in Shastri’s favour that he has a track record in team management. Given that Virat Kohli is the preeminent player in his team, besides being captain, and the 2019 World Cup not that far away, the need to keep him in good humour may have seemed the safest option now, even if it’s a tad conservative. Shastri beat off two other strong contenders — Virendra Sehwag, a batsman with a very unorthodox approach to the game; and Tom Moody, a Western Australian known for his work ethic. The ball is really in the Kohli-Shastri court now, and India’s performance in the World Cup will be the ultimate test.
The BCCI, many of whose functions are already in the hands of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, is in disarray. The chaos seen in the process of choosing the coach may be attributed to the several fractures in the management structure of Indian cricket. The embarrassing denial of the news that Shastri had been picked, and the ensuing corroboration of what the media had learnt earlier through sources was testament to the way the BCCI is operating now. It was on the insistence of the head of the CoA that the names were released the same day. It could be said in Sourav Ganguly’s defence that he was tasked with talking to skipper Kohli, who was holidaying in the United States, before making the committee’s choice known to the BCCI and CoA. It is clear that while the tasks given to cricketers on and off the field are being met with a level of professionalism, a divided BCCI is still busy stalling the reforms that had been recommended by the Justice Lodha panel.