Clayton Murzello: Give Virat Kohli the coach he wants
It's quite clear skipper Virat Kohli would like to resume his partnership with Ravi Shastri as coach. Pic/AFP
Indian cricket is never a straight road, especially when it comes to appointing a coach. One must always expect tricky curves, bumps and gravel along the way. And as the Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli controversy has shown us, there could be strife long after the destination is reached as well.
What a strange scenario we have experienced in the last month: Applications are invited for the head coach's post even before the first ball is bowled in Team India's Champions Trophy campaign. Then, skipper Virat Kohli addresses the press and gives them a hint that something is not quite right between him and coach Anil Kumble when he openly supports the Indian cricket board's decision to call for fresh applications.
When it comes to speaking about Kumble's role in the team's stupendous home success, Kohli lights a flame of suspicion when he utters, "When you have results come your way, the contribution is from every part of the team. It is not from a single source to say the least. Everyone works hard equally if not more than the other person."
Stories about a rift intensify as the tournament rolls out and finally Kumble pulls out of the race in the most controversial of circumstances when he learns from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the skipper had issues with his style of coaching. End of the Kumble coaching era!
The media now feel vindicated as their rift stories are proved right and Amitabh Choudhary, the acting BCCI Secretary, who rubbished their reports, is proved wrong.
Now, the BCCI's decision to extend the deadline for coach applications to July 9 is not being well received. Cynics reckon it was done just to get Ravi Shastri in and they believe that he stayed away from applying because Kumble was expected to get a fresh contract considering the team's recent success.
To some, Shastri's willingness to apply for the post is the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but should we be viewing his entry with a thick layer of cynicism? To an extent, yes, but him wanting the job is understandable too.
Shastri has always been ambitious. He also has some unfinished business left. To be fair to him, he ought to have got the job before Kumble's last-minute entry. He had everything going for him — performance, which included Test series wins against South Africa and Sri Lanka, as well as semi-final entries at the ODI and T20 World Cups. Most of all, the players responded well to him. He's never given the impression of being over-friendly with the players, so whoever got the idea that they liked him because he allowed them to do whatever they wanted, must have some serious stories of freedom to tell.
Shastri's entry makes him a favourite to take over a team that he is familiar with, with a captain who reads from the same book of aggression.
It's quite clear Kohli would like to resume his partnership with Shastri. His preference for Shastri shouldn't be viewed with negativity. Didn't Sourav Ganguly, who is now part of the selection panel, push for Greg Chappell in 2003 after the great Australian batsman helped him with his batting just before the tour to Australia, on which Ganguly scored a sizzling hundred in the opening Test at Brisbane?
Even Chappell admitted that he wouldn't have got the job if not for Ganguly. "He (Ganguly) contacted me just before I declined the West Indies job to say that the Indian process was taking longer than expected, but he was confident that there would be a decision in my favour," wrote Chappell in Fierce Focus.
Shastri was not favoured by Ganguly the last time around, but he could well be pushed to nod in agreement with Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in the room this time. The past should not dictate the present, but it cannot be brushed aside. Ganguly formed a fruitful partnership with John Wright; India prospered to an extent with the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappell combination (yes, they had their high points like the Test series in the West Indies in 2006, and the maiden Test match win on South African soil the same year), while Dhoni and Gary Kirsten brought about the 2011 World Cup win. It's probably time for Kohli to get his opportunity with Shastri.
Shastri may display a kind of arrogance that is not pleasing to the ears, but that's the only way he knows how to go about a job. The more arrogance he displays, the more every move will be watched, and he realises it. But first, he has to get the job. Who knows, the wheels of cricketing destiny may yet discover another road.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org