To fight its consistent failings abroad, India has put together a team of super coaches ahead of a big “away” season. Ravi Shastri comes in as head coach, Zaheer Khan as bowling consultant and Rahul Dravid as batting consultant for overseas tours.
It makes for great reading. Some of the biggest names in Indian cricket have stepped up to help the team in its time of need. But at the same time, one simply can’t shake the feeling that this is going to lead to complications that the team could have well done without.
Firstly, It is not unknown for big teams to have multiple coaches – it is actually the norm these days. But usually that team of coaches is put together by the head coach. The reason for that is simple – you want all the coaches to be on the same page. You want absolute trust between them; trust that extends beyond friendship to training methods, judgement of players and other such critical aspects.
However, when a team is put together randomly and without the assent of the head coach, the possibility of conflict increases. That’s just the way things are and while the Cricket Advisory Committee’s brief was to select the head coach, the rest should have been up to the head coach himself.
Individually, the selections are great but will they work well together as a team?
Secondly, their decision to appoint Zaheer and Dravid also points to a complete lack of confidence in Shastri’s technical abilities as a coach, which in turn already makes us wonder why he is the head coach in the first place.
As things stand, India has a bowling consultant (Zaheer), a fielding coach (R Sridhar), a batting coach (Sanjay Bangar), a batting consultant (Dravid). So what exactly is Shastri supposed to do? Give pep talks? Take the boys out for a party? Keep their spirits high?
If the CAC wanted to tell the world how they rated Shastri’s coaching abilities, the answer is now out in the open. It not only undermines his authority but it also plants doubts in the minds of the players. It might look like Kohli got his way but the reality is a fractured verdict that does more harm than good.
Thirdly, if Dravid – who is also the India U-19 and “A” coach – is going to be stepping in as a batting consultant for every overseas tour (and we have a lot of them coming up over the next two years), where does that leave Bangar?
Bangar has been the batting coach since August 2014. His work has been appreciated by players in public (which in hindsight doesn’t seem to mean much) but the CAC seems to think that he is incapable of doing his job properly.
Imagine the scenario: Bangar has been trying to drill a certain point home. Suddenly, on an overseas tour, Dravid comes in with a different recommendation. Where does that leave a player? It would have been one thing to have a consultant for a solitary tour but to have him for every overseas tour is rather silly and reflects poorly on Bangar.
Fourthly, the grapevine suggested that Ravi Shastri wanted Bharat Arun back as bowling coach but by appointing Zaheer as bowling consultant, the CAC have looked to show Kohli that he wasn’t going to have it all his way. Zaheer is not a bad choice. Rather, he is a great one but did the rest of the team want him? It also means that we will have another legend in the dressing room. More importantly, a legend who the CAC have on the hotline. Is that going to lead to an alternate power centre in the dressing room?
Fifthly, who takes the tough decisions now? Is the onus still on the coaches or is Virat Kohli the one who is going to be pulling the strings? Given what happened with Kumble, it was perhaps even more important to make the coaches feel empowered to take decisions that matter and not merely set up cones. After finishing the round of interviews, Ganguly said that the India captain “needs to understand how coaches work.” More importantly, are the coaches now aware of how Kohli works? Have they arrived at a middle ground? One that will allow them to take India cricket forward without tripping over their egos.
None of these are insurmountable issues but the dynamics that emerge from the dressing room in the coming days will make for interesting times. The new coaching staff’s first assignment will be the upcoming series in Sri Lanka, starting July 26. Given how the Lankans are struggling, India should do well there. The real fun will only begins once India makes its way to South Africa towards the end of the year.
Hopefully, they will have sorted out these issues and can truly put Indian cricket back in the news – this time, for all the right reasons.