The dust has just about settled on the long running saga of “India’s next head coach”. Barring popular votes from fans, it had all the makings of a successful reality show with stories of betrayal, friendship, conspiracies and eventual confusion over the declaration of the winner. A bit like reality shows, there were suggestions that some “fixing” is happening behind the scenes, the selection procedure isn’t fair, and the most deserving candidate didn’t get his due.
Meritocracy or Favoritism
That most deserving candidate in this list was Tom Moody. In terms of coaching credentials, he was so far ahead of the pack that it wasn’t even a race. Moody was widely recognized as one of the smartest cricketing brains around in his playing days. Players who shared Western Australian dressing room with this veteran of 300 first class matches, like Adam Gilchrist, held him in high esteem for his cricketing acumen, his leadership skills and his overall calming influence on the dressing room. It was no wonder that he captained Western Australia for seven consecutive years.
In his long playing career, Moody rubbed shoulders with the best players across different eras. He has witnessed and been a part of various evolutions the game has gone through. A part of Australia’s World Cup winning sides in 1987 and 1999, Moody’s playing career coincided with an era of utter dominance by Australia and he couldn’t get an extended run at the international level.
Tom Moody’s highest point as a coach was in guiding Sri Lanka to the World Cup final in 2007. But his coaching resume goes far beyond that. Post-retirement, the list of posts he has held includes director of cricket at Worcestershire, head coach at Western Australia, director of cricket at Caribbean Premier League and now the head coach at Sunrisers Hyderabad giving him the experience of coaching and managing teams in five different countries.
It’s not even the first time Moody has missed a chance to coach the Indian side, he applied for the post in 2005 and 2008 as well. If a candidate like Moody misses out not just once, but thrice, it raises questions about the credibility of the so-called processes followed by BCCI where they pretend to hold free and fair interviews after giving everyone (including an engineer from Burdwan this time) a chance to apply.
Broken process of selection
The entire Indian cricket setup was under the scanner ever since BCCI posted an ad to invite applications for next Indian coach. Kumble, Kohli, and Shastri were at the center of speculations with fans questioning their motives. The role of BCCI’s Cricket Administrative Committee or the CAC in the whole debacle wasn’t highlighted enough till recently when Sandeep Patil finally addressed the elephant in the room and questioned their credentials in choosing the next Indian coach.
One must also question the composition of this interview panel. Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Laxman are formidable names and no one can question their commitment to Indian cricket but we can’t help noticing that the interview panel comprises of three batsmen who played together for a decade on the same team. Where will a different point of view come from in this group? In the corporate world, it’s a common practice to create an inclusive interview panel that comprises of technical experts, managers, and HR. There is no reason a similar approach couldn’t have been followed by BCCI.
There is also that all too familiar question of conflict of interest in the CAC. Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Laxman all hold different positions of interest in IPL teams, state boards, and media companies. With all that money lying in BCCI’s coffers, the least they can do is to appoint people who take a full-time interest in a given role, or at least manage to turn up for an important appointment in person, rather than over Skype!
Coach vs Cheerleader
While there was some excitement over the appointment of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan as consultants, given BCCI’s recent clarification on their limited roles, the whole exercise now appears to be a PR stunt.
Consultants who are part of a team only during a tour hardly have enough time to work with players on technical adjustments. Dravid was India’s batting consultant during 2014 England tour as well, where Kohli’s technical limitations were severely exposed against a swinging Duke ball. With a series of tough overseas tours on India’s calendar, Kohli’s team could have really benefited from the services of full-time specialist coaches who can prepare the players for upcoming challenges in advance.
A full-time tactician and expert in the dressing room can ensure that learning new skills becomes part of the team culture. Ravi Shastri recently said in an interview that he feels there isn’t much coaching at the highest level. Hopefully, the Indian players don’t hold a similar view. The best cricketers are the ones who constantly improve and evolve their game. India’s new bowling consultant started as a tearaway bowler and went on to learn every trick in the trade during his lengthy career.
One can even argue that coaching is all the more important at the highest level where you compete against the best athletes in the world and your game is constantly scrutinized. Constant improvement isn’t a choice at this level, it’s how you survive here.