Clayton Murzello: Two captains script needs strong director

Shastri’s presence will be vital with Dhoni playing only limited overs cricket and Kohli making rapid strides towards leading in all formats

Why fix it if it’s not broken? This goes out to those who want to see a change in guard where Team India’s core coaching staff is concerned.

Ravi Shastri’s contract as team director expired at the end of the ICC World T20 tournament. Whether Shastri accepts a new deal, sticks to commentary or is replaced by a new coach is to be seen, but the fact is that he has done a good job even if India didn’t go the distance in the ODI and World T20.

Erstwhile Team India director, Ravi Shastri has an on-field discussion with MS Dhoni, former coach Duncan Fletcher and Virat Kohli. File pic
Erstwhile Team India director, Ravi Shastri has an on-field discussion with MS Dhoni, former coach Duncan Fletcher and Virat Kohli. File pic

The Indian team is not exactly Dad’s Army and there’s still a lot they can learn from Shastri at this stage of their careers. “The first thing that I said (to the players) was, they’ve showed me India’s greatest Test win overseas (at Lord’s) and then they showed me spineless cricket as well. I don’t hide anything,” he told me in an interview after the one-day series win in England 2014.

Shastri is one cricketing personality who, apart from his playing career, has not had a long run for his contribution to be put in true perspective. In 1988, he got one Test to captain India in after regular skipper Dilip Vengsarkar’s injured hand prevented him from leading the side in the fourth and final Test at Madras against the West Indies, whom India beat to square the series 1-1. Then, Shastri led India to victory in a limited overs competition in Sharjah.

He always maintained that he was a caretaker captain and held no grudges that he ended his international career without having led extensively. In his own words, “I gave a sh*t. You knew how good you were. You knew that if you were asked to do it at any given time, you would have done the job better than a lot of people. When you got a chance, you did it as well as you could.”

In 1993-94, he led Mumbai to a Ranji Trophy triumph after eight seasons and retired from international cricket a few months later. Those who played under him during that season learnt lessons that would stand them in good stead for the rest of their careers. In Amol Muzumdar’s case, make that a large one — 15 years for Mumbai, his first Ranji Trophy team. The wiry batsman still remembers how he was all set to play the 1993-94 Ranji Trophy final against Bengal as soon as he stepped out of the room at the Garware Club House, where Shastri held his confidence-boosting team meeting the previous evening.

While Shastri ended his term as team director recently and cleared his throat, as it were, for commentary duty in the Indian Premier League, there appeared reports about Rahul Dravid standing a chance to coach the senior Indian team. Dravid came up with an interesting reply when he was first asked about it: “Any decision that I make at this stage of my life would depend on whether I have the bandwidth to do all of these things. Anything that comes back to you needs to be weighed with lot of consideration.”

Sure, Dravid has the bandwidth to do it and he’ll make a very fine coach, but don’t we want to see this extraordinary cricketer be associated for a longer time with the under-19 and India ‘A’ teams? Imagine the good it will do to our young guns at a stage when they have to dot their I’s and cross their T’s at their level. Who better than Dravid?

Over the years, Dravid has played sage and stood calm even when the Indian Premier League music got too loud. Last Sunday, the camera panned on him after Delhi Daredevils shocked favourites Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dravid’s home city of Bangalore. There was nothing animated about him as he congratulated his team for their victory over his first IPL team. He never seems to be too up on a high and down on a low. It must be hard to stay normal on such a glamourous, action-demanding stage, but Dravid is a master of taming hype. That’s what young Indian players can learn from.

Shastri’s chances of being team director again are bright, if not brilliant. A fresh innings would also help in the handling of a tricky scenario where your much celebrated captain plays only limited overs cricket and the feisty Test captain is making a good pitch for the captaincy of both teams through his performances.

There is talk that Stephen Fleming could be India’s next coach. With due respect to Fleming’s credentials as a New Zealand batsman and captain, and his work as coach of the Chennai Super Kings, there is no compelling reason for Shastri not to be team director again or Dravid to be rushed in as coach of the senior team.

Of course, the players have had some say in every coach’s appointment since John Wright became India’s first foreign coach in 2000. Should the players decide their non-playing captain? Probably not, but then these are modern times. If recent reports are to be believed, they can even decide who could be on commentary duty.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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