Shastri as Head Coach? It will please Kohli, but Kumble's shadow will loom
One is almost tempted to emulate his own bombastic commentary style when making the following statement:
“And, in the end, after a year's lapse, Ravi Shastri regains ground.”
By announcing his candidature for the post of the Indian cricket team's Head Coach, left vacant in the wake of Anil Kumble's decision to end his 'untenable' relationship with captain Virat Kohli, Shastri has confirmed the widespread belief that the captain would possibly find comfort in his company and express himself more dominantly on the cricket field again.
It may be baffling that someone who enjoyed the exalted position of Team Director not too long ago has apparently decided to apply for the lesser post of Head Coach a second time. But it is clear that skipper Kohli may have persuaded Shastri to serve from within the Indian team's dressing room, irrespective of designation.
One thing is certain: despite Shastri being a giant in his own right, he will get along well with Kohli. To be sure, Shastri is not a yes-man, but will have his own way of dealing with the captain's persona, his idiosyncrasies and his choices in the playing XI. They established a wonderful working relationship, and it should not take much effort to revive that one more time.
All said and done, it is essential that everyone in the dressing room is on the same page, preventing any scope for BCCI officials and officers to wear the cloak of anonymity and share 'juicy' bits in public. We can be sure that neither Kohli nor Shastri will offer Board officers and officials feedback on each other’s traits.
Pressure is on
If Shastri does indeed land the job, there can be no doubt that both Kohli and he will be under immense pressure to deliver results. It may no longer be about just the processes being right – the outcomes will be under the microscope. Besides, a popular belief is that BCCI would unhesitatingly leave Kohli in the lurch at the first sign of failing under pressure.
This only grows in the wake of the consistently positive results that the Indian team delivered during Kumble's tenure as Head Coach. Unfortunately for him, his popularity within the BCCI management declined when he responded to a request of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators and made a presentation. The BCCI officers made Kohli the front for the campaign against Kumble. No such thing is likely to happen with Shastri.
It is a good wager, though, that if it becomes necessary, Shastri will speak up for Kohli, and do his best to ensure that there is stability in leadership, at least until the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. It is for this reason that Shastri will have his nose ahead of all other contenders in the race to land the Head Coach’s job.
In the absence of any word from the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, on what transpired in the wake of its parleys with Kohli and Kumble in London, and on the evidence of Kumble's social media post through which he declined the CAC invitation to extend his tenure as Head Coach, it can be only deduced that some BCCI officials and officers informed him about Kohli's discomfort.
Interestingly, the CAC seems to have not interviewed any of the other candidates before deciding to invite Kumble to continue as Head Coach. If, on the one hand, the CAC did not deem it fit to converse with any of the other aspirants, on the other hand, it was mystifying that BCCI went ahead and chose to revise the process of selecting the Head Coach.
The fact that the application process was reopened, and the last date for application extended, suggested that these were done to bring in more eligible candidates, who may not have thrown their hats in the ring when the incumbent Kumble was in the race. Or, perhaps we should speak of an 'eligible candidate' in singular rather than in plural.
Of the others who had apparently not feared finishing second best to Kumble, only Lalchand Rajput appears to have raised a voice against the reopening of the application process. We can scream ourselves hoarse that Indian cricket can do without its fans having to constantly read between the lines but has BCCI really cared for the fans?
Shastri's spat with Ganguly
In the wake of the public spat between Shastri and Sourav Ganguly in June last year, it will be interesting to see how Ganguly handles the interview this time. We must not see Shastri's return to team management as Ganguly eating humble pie, but as a reiteration that in cricket, as in life, there are no permanent enemies. Perhaps we must tell ourselves that it is the Kaleidoscope Syndrome.
Yet, on a day when a cell phone company offered Rs 2199 crore for the IPL's title rights for five years, it needed the big man to bring the focus back on the hunt for the Head Coach.