After a hectic day of consultations, news leaks and denials, Indian cricket team got three coaches — Ravi Shastri as head coach, Zaheer Khan as bowling coach, and Rahul Dravid, the batting consultant for overseas Test matches. Sanjay Bangar will continue as the batting coach of the team, and all the appointments are till the 2019 World Cup.
The wait for India’s coach had threatened to turn into a suspenseful never-ending drama just a day after the interviews of the candidates. Monday had ended with Sourav Ganguly saying the final decision could take a few days as Virat Kohli, holidaying in America, had to be consulted. However, things escalated dramatically on Tuesday, with news reports anointing Shastri as the next coach, before the Indian cricket board stepped in the evening to deny them. But a few hours later, the BCCI authenticated it, confirming that India’s new coach is indeed Shastri, and also announced the names of Zaheer and Dravid.
Tuesday had dawned with the news that the head of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) Vinod Rai had set a deadline to the coach process: he wanted the BCCI to decide and announce the name of the coach by Tuesday evening.
By afternoon, at an event, Ganguly responded to Rai’s statements. “We will speak to him (Rai). I will speak to him. He is a very respected man. He (Rai) has got the right (to ask us). The reason why we wanted to (wait) was because Virat is on a holiday to America, and you don’t want to disturb him in the break. This afternoon I was supposed to go to Delhi, but that has been cancelled,” Ganguly said.
The evening broke with feverish speculation about Shastri’s appointment before the BCCI stepped in to issue a denial, and state that the process was still on. “No decision has been made on the appointment of the new coach, the CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) is still deliberating over it,” BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhury said. “I think the three who will take a call on the subject are very tall figures.”
One of the tall figures, Ganguly, landed in Kolkata around 9 pm, and said, “Nothing is finalised. The announcement will be made in due course. If need be, we will talk to Virat.”
Just an hour later, came the confirmation from BCCI acting president CK Khanna that the process was completed, and Shastri will be India’s new coach, and would be assisted by Dravid and Zaheer.
A role for Dravid
Ever since his international retirement in 2012, and IPL retirement in 2013, Dravid has found a way to be associated with the development of junior cricketers. He is the coach of India A and U-19 sides, and has already found praise from the likes of Hardik Pandya to Mumbai teenager Prithvi Shaw.
“I made my comeback to the Indian team in two-and-a-half months when many said I wouldn’t come back even in two years. I should thank Rahul sir as well, he went out of his way and talked me up. I still remember when I got out a couple of times in the one-dayers, he used to ask me to come and sit next to him and tell me, ‘Hardik, you are the one guy who has the talent to represent India, so you need to express yourself and take charge of situations,” the all-rounder said.
In its press release, the Indian cricket board described Zaheer thus: “Mr. Khan is a contemporary cricketer who assumed the mentoring role to a young fast bowling unit even during his playing days with India. His inputs will be of immense value to our young fast bowlers, who have shown tremendous potential in the last couple of years.” Not many can argue with that assessment.
Zaheer retired from international and first-class cricket in October 2015 but has continued playing, and captaining, in the IPL. Such has been his influence on the Delhi Daredevils that talented Australian fast bowler Pat Cummings, who played in the IPL after harassing the Indians in the Test series, was effusive in his praise for Zaheer.
“I wish I could bring Zaheer back to Australia with me. I have enjoyed working with him,” Cummins had talked about how Zaheer liberated him from worrying too much about field placements or conceding boundaries. “‘You want to bowl a yorker, bowl a yorker, you want to bowl a bouncer, bowl a bouncer’,” Cummins said about what Zaheer told him during an IPL game.
TA Sekhar, part of Delhi team management, said Zaheer has been teaching Cummins how to bowl cutters and slower ones. “If you hear Zaheer taking about the game during the bowlers’ meeting, you will know how tactically and technically well he reads the game . The batsmen will prepare to play for swing but it will be a cutter, which Zaheer does after breaking the wrist and twisting the fingers over the ball,” Sekhar had said during the T20 tournament.