Following the resignation of Gary Kirsten and termination of Eric Simones after the triumphant World Cup 2011 campaign, Duncan Fletcher was appointed as the man to oversee India’s cricketing progress. At that time the team was on the cusp of something great – the team had won the World Cup and some youngsters like Raina and Kohli were making their presence felt with consistent contributions and there were people like Rohit Sharma on the horizon. Yuvraj Singh was also starting to become what India had been waiting for him to become – the match winner, the go-to-man in the shorter form.
The experience of a certain Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid was also there along with the cool head of MS Dhoni. It all looked rosy. In the months that followed Trevor Penney was added as the fielding coach followed by Joe Dawes who came as a highly recommended bowling coach from Australia. The expectations were many but the results did not exactly match up.
From that World Cup onwards India has managed to worsen its record, losing to one and all. Its problems in seaming conditions have been laid bare by fast bowlers from the opposition teams as would be indicated by the pummeling it has received in Australia, South Africa and England and its embarrassing displays in New Zealand. The team is also yet to win any silverware in the interim.
Ravi Shastri as cricket manager
In this period MS Dhoni has become perhaps one of the most hated people in the country especially to a section of cricket experts. There have also been calls to remove Fletcher and his coaching team. A step was taken during the recently concluded one-day series with Dawes and Penney being asked to leave on vacation. Ravi Shastri was instated as the cricket manager and the team bounced back remarkably well thanks to his encouragement and overall nous.
However, Shastri’s appointment was very much a short-term step and he has himself acknowledged that he has no ambitions going into the future. The question, which comes up now is what should the coaching line-up for 2015 World Cup look like? There is a definite need for change as can be understood from the poor results of the team in the last couple of years. The question is who will replace them. If one takes a look around world cricket right now it would be evident that almost all the teams are relying on international cricketers who have sufficient experience of playing at the highest level. The dictum that a good player is not a good coach does not apply anymore.
Going by that logic the obvious choice for the Indian coaching team for the 2015 World Cup would be Rahul Dravid as the cricket manager-cum-batting coach, Robin Singh as fielding and assistant coach, Javagal Srinath as the fast bowling coach and Anil Kumble as the spin bowling coach. The cricketing credentials of these gentlemen need not be questioned. From the perspective of coaching too, they have some experience save Srinath. Dravid has done well in the IPL as the mentor for Rajasthan Royals and Singh had previously been associated with the Indian team as a fielding coach. Kumble has been a mentor for Mumbai Indians and even though it may not be sufficient enough, one feels that the experience he has gathered in international cricket a la Dravid will stand him in good stead.
If someone has gone up to international cricket it means that person has the right fundamentals. The international game requires a greater amount of mental adjustment compared to technical changes. This is where people who have seen it and done it all are better able to guide the players as to what they need to do to remain successful at the highest level.
Batting in international game
Regarding Srinath, he has no experience at the highest level as a coach but where he scores is his success in international cricketers as a quick bowler and not a medium pacer like Venkatesh Prasad. It was during Prasad’s regime that Ishant Sharma lost his blistering pace that one saw on the tour to Australia in 2007-08. The quality of batting in the international game nowadays requires bowlers to be exceptional in something and pace is a big component of that, considering not all pitches encourage swing and the tendency to overindulge in varieties means that the emphasis on accuracy is lesser than before.
Indian quick bowlers needed to be taught how to retain their edge and Srinath was able to do that till the fag end of his career. This probably means he will be able to help the young guns as well as was evident during the 2003 World Cup when he was able to inspire the young Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra to bowl at their best. The obvious question would be that the change should not happen before the World Cup starts.
However, the tournament is still a few months away and there is a tough series waiting in Australia just before the World Cup starts. So perhaps this is the right time to get the aforementioned gentlemen involved and give the team a fighting chance to do well Down Under.