Confusion continues over the appointment of consultants for the Indian cricket team, especially the bowling coach, with different versions coming from the BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), the cricket board and the Committee of Administrators (COA). Clarity is expected at the COA meeting in New Delhi on Saturday following which the media will be briefed.
On Friday at Eden Gardens, Sourav Ganguly, a member of the CAC, along with Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, was asked about Zaheer Khan’s contract and role as bowling consultant. “Zaheer was contacted for 150 days per year,” Ganguly told reporters. Asked about this, the BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary said: “I’m not aware of this.” A COA member stressed that the CAC is recommendatory and the final decision related to the appointment of coaches and consultants lies with the Supreme Court-appointed committee.
“The CAC is only recommendatory. The CAC has been constituted to recommend the names of the coaches and the COA will decide about the appointment and other details (consultants, support staff and nature of contracts),” the COA member told The Indian Express. Ganguly had told this paper that Zaheer and Rahul Dravid were brought in as bowling and batting consultants respectively only after consulting Ravi Shastri, the new Indian team head coach. In a letter to the COA chief Vinod Rai on Thursday, the CAC members reiterated this.
“There have been suggestions that the CAC has exceeded its ambit in going with Mr Khan and Mr Dravid, and that these two legends of Indian cricket have been foisted on the head coach. We also bring to your notice that the mail you had circulated to us saying that we had absolutely free hand in picking the coach of the Indian cricket team. Also we did inform you over the phone along with Rahul Johri (BCCI CEO) and Amitabh Choudhary of all that transpired immediately after the meeting was over,” the letter said.
The CAC felt that Shastri would be “better served”, with Zaheer and Dravid by his side and mentioned that in its letter. “Taking various factors into account, we decided that Mr. Ravi Shastri was the best man for the job but we also felt that Indian cricket would be better served if Mr. Shastri had the services of Mr. Zaheer Khan as bowling consultant and Mr. Rahul Dravid as batting consultant for overseas Test matches of which several are lined up in the next two years.” The letter also said Shastri “readily agreed to the idea of having them in the set up” for the team’s benefit.
Before that, on Tuesday, a BCCI press advisory had described Zaheer as “the Bowling Consultant” and Dravid as “the Overseas Batting Consultant (Test cricket)”. Another cricket board press release yesterday came with a tweak as it said: “After taking the decision on his (Shastri) selection, the CAC consulted him and decided on having Batting and Bowling consultants on overseas tour-to-tour basis, as per the requirement of the team.”
Although Zaheer and Dravid weren’t mentioned in the latest press release, the BCCI didn’t reverse its earlier announcement either, implying that assignments of the two former greats would be overseas tour-specific. It has been widely reported that Shastri wants Bharat Arun as the full-time bowling coach, while retaining the services of Sanjay Bangar and R Sridhar as batting and fielding coaches respectively. All three had been hand-picked by Shastri, when he became the team director in August 2014.
Shastri enjoys a good rapport with Zaheer and Dravid and in media interviews he has said he would be happy to have them as part of the set-up in some foreign tours. Then again, it’s an accepted custom in sport that the head coach brings in his own full-time support staff. Those in the know say the uncertainty over the bowling coach/consultant is a carry-over effect of last year’s coach selection episode where Ganguly is said to have played a big role in Kumble replacing Shastri.
The two former India captains fell out publicly, with Ganguly questioning Shastri’s “seriousness” for giving his interview via Skype. “If he (Shastri) has advised me to attend such meetings, he should also make sure that he was here. It’s one of the most high-profile jobs in the country. We can understand family commitments. We can understand emergencies, but not holidays on the beach in Bangkok. He should have been here,” Ganguly had said. It was a response to Shastri’s allegation that Ganguly had been “disrespectful” to the coach selection process because he wasn’t present, during the former’s interview. Ganguly had taken a break to attend a Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) meeting.
Eventually, Kumble, who wasn’t even shortlisted, trumped Shastri to become the Indian team head coach. Twelve months and five Test series wins on the bounce later, Kumble quit in acrimonious circumstances at the end of the Champions Trophy last month, leaving the door ajar for Shastri’s return as the cricket board extended the timeline for the application of the head coach.