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India’s coaching saga: Need stable options leading up to the ICC World Cup 2015

Is Ravi Shastri's appointment is the permanent solution for India? © Getty Images
Is Ravi Shastri’s appointment the permanent solution of India’s problems? © Getty Images

In 2007, India appointed cricket managers as they went about searching for a coach. Back then, Ravi Shastri was the first man to take charge after the World Cup debacle and began the rebuilding process. However, seven years down the line, India do not have the luxury of time and may have to choose a stable support staff ahead of the 2015 World Cup, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.

The last time Ravi Shastri took charge of an Indian team, it was a demoralized unit that had faced ignominy at the 2007 World Cup. The famed stars had failed to turn up at the big event resulting in humiliating defeats against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which saw India’s ouster in the first round. Greg Chappell’s stormy regime had run its course with a public war of words between the coach and the players. Amidst all the drama, Shastri was appointed the cricket manager for the tour to Bangladesh; Rahul Dravid was retained as captain and a few youngsters were taken on the tour.

The presence of Shastri was quite significant. Since 2000, India had only foreign coaches dealing with the players — apart from one series in 2003 where Ashok Malhotra filled in for John Wright. In bringing a former India cricket, one who had travelled with the side as a commentator after his playing days, the management relief on Shastri’s experience to commence the rebuilding phase. On what was a good tour, India managed to gain some confidence and Shastri had done a decent job. It was supposed to be the only series with the manager in place as the search for the coach was on.

However, the coach-hunt of 2007 was perhaps the most dramatic in Indian cricket history. Dav Whatmore very nearly became the coach, but was then handed a job at the National Cricket Academy (NCA). John Emburey and Graham Ford flew in for the interviews with the latter winning the race. But, Ford went on to decline the job and stayed on at his county. India were left with no option but to stay on with the cricket-manager. Chandu Borde was summoned for the tour to England and Ireland.

Borde’s presence in the Indian dressing room was praised by some of the players — Sourav Ganguly being one of them. In fact, in an interview with CricketCountry, Borde revealed how he worked with the side. When Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed while playing an iffy shot during a One-Day International (ODI), Borde approached him as a mentor and pointed the error. Tendulkar then requested his presence at the nets to work on the mistake. Thus, Borde was more a mentor who took care of cricketing affairs and passed on his knowledge and advice when needed.

With the first edition of the ICC World T20 2007 approaching, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) opted for the younger Lalchand Rajput. The former Mumbai opener had his experience in dealing with age group sides and had made his plans for the tournament. In partnership with MS Dhoni, Rajput masterminded India’s remarkable victory and then held on with the team until the end of the Australia tour in 2008. Meanwhile , Gary Kirsten entered the foray and took over in March 2008. Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh remained as the batting and fielding coaches respectively.

Though the post of the cricket manager shifted between three men, India did manage to rebuild and regained its lost footing. Within a year of the 2007 World Cup disappointment, they managed to win a Test series in England, clinched the World T20, won a Test in Australia and took the Commonwealth Bank (CB) Down Under. It was quite an interesting phase as India found its seniors getting back into rhythm and MS Dhoni emerged as a future captain.

Most of that consistency came when Rajput was in charge. He held on to his spot longer than the others and that is when the young guard gradually came into shape in one-day cricket. Kirsten then took over from there and built that side in the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup. Thus, having such cricket managers could work for a few sides but there has to be a clear vision. The last time, India had four years to go for the World Cup, a luxury they don’t have now.

With a few months to go for the World Cup, India should be clear about their coaching options. The word is that Shastri’s appointment could be a warning for Duncan Fletcher and BCCI may accept if he resigns. But, a similar cricket-manager scenario may not be ideal with the World Cup to come. India can still find stability ahead of the big event. Though there are a few months left, it still is a lot of time.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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