In a nation where the game of cricket is viewed as national religion, the position of its cricket team coach commands the respect reserved for the Head Priest. India’s apex cricket body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is now on the lookout for a suitable Head Coach for the Indian men’s team and the ‘search’ for a suitable coach seems to have attracted massive interest and response. The BCCI has defined and put up on its website the qualification parameters it seeks in the future Head Coach.
Ever since India won the 1983 World Cup, the Indian team’s game has been improving consistently and today, India is one of the top cricketing nations in all three formats – Tests, 50 Overs and T-20.
Not just the game, India has now emerged as the top revenue generating nation from cricket and is the largest contributor to the ICC kitty. The introduction of IPL has further cemented India’s position in the world of cricket and as a natural extension, the Indian team’s performance assumes great importance.
Therefore, it’s only expected that the coveted position of the Head Coach of the Indian cricket team generates maximum interest and applications. According to reports, the number of applications has already reached 57! The list of applicants includes well-known domestic and international cricketers.
The position of Head Coach became vacant after former Zimbabwean cricketer Duncan Fletcher stepped down as India’s coach in 2014. Ever since, India has had to make do with stand-in coaches with inputs from Ravi Shastri, who has been serving as the team director for the last 18 months.
BCCI was bogged down with its own internal issues and has only now taken up the coach selection process in right earnestness.
BCCI’s June 24 Meet at Dharamsala
The next crucial meeting of the BCCI is due to be held on 24 June at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The meeting assumes importance as this will be the last opportunity for the BCCI to discuss crucial changes suggested by the Justice Lodha Committee prior to Supreme Court’s verdict.
It’s very likely that BCCI will announce the name of the new Head Coach at the Dharamsala meet, as India leaves on a crucial tour of West Indies in early July, and BCCI would like the new Coach to take charge immediately.
Selection Criteria for the Head Coach
- The applicant must have coached a first class or international cricket team, in any of the member country of ICC.
- The applicant must have a recognized coaching certificate from any full member country of ICC.
- The applicant should be able to articulate his vision with a clear and defined program, for attaining leadership in all three formats of the game.
- The applicant must have exposure in using various tools to measure and map performance metrics and include aspects of sports psychology and sports medicine for optimizing player performance.
- The applicant will also be required to contribute positively to the NCA cricket development program.
- The applicant must possess a non-controversial and dispute-free record with boards of ICC or any of its affiliates.
Top Contenders for the Post
Here’s a look at some of the leading contenders in the race.
The former all-rounder has a proven track record both as a player as well as team director. Known for his hard no-nonsense approach, he is regarded for his incisive analysis of the game and aggressive approach to matches.
His role as a team director in the last 18 months gives him an edge as he has a deep insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian players in all three formats.
His only drawback is his plain speaking to players and the Board, which is not taken too well by some, but most respect him for his clear and decisive views.
Former Indian all-rounder Sandeep Patil is presently heading the Indian team’s selection panel and is fully aware of each player’s abilities and shortcomings.
The former bowler and captain of Indian cricket team is presently serving as Chairperson of the Technical Panel of ICC. Post retirement from cricket, he served as a mentor to Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
Known for his genial nature and strong, clear headed thinking, Anil Kumble is a strong contender for India’s cricket coach. His only drawback is the fact that he hasn’t had coached any team before, which is one of the selection criteria of the Board.
This former Indian opener has experience as a coach of the under-19 team that toured England. He was manager of the T-20 World Cup winning team in 2007 and also coached Mumbai Indians in the 2008 IPL season. He has the experience but it remains to be seen if it’d be enough to win over the BCCI.
This popular right arm fast bowler has been associated with coaching bowlers post retirement. He served the Indian team as a bowling coach between 2007 and 2009. He is presently serving as bowling coach of RCB in the IPL. Venkatesh Prasad is liked by most players but his lack of experience in coaching in all aspects of the game places him at a slight disadvantage.
Other Indian contenders
Some of the other names in contention are Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Vikram Rathore, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Pravin Amre and Surendra Bhave among several others.
Some International Names in the Fray
This former captain of New Zealand is the current coach of RCB in the IPL. The fact that Virat Kohli looks up to his coaching abilities in RCB makes him a strong contender for the Indian coach position, but that is subject to BCCI giving due weightage to Virat’s opinion.
The Big Aussie’s stature as a coach rose several notches when, under his watch, Sunrisers Hyderabad won the 2016 IPL. His successful stint as coach includes the Sri Lankan team (2005-07), Western Warriors in Australia and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, all of which makes him one of the strongest contenders among all international applicants.
The Australian all-rounder has had exposure as coach with the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka teams. He faces stiff competition from Tom Moody and Daniel Vettori for the position in question.
The Big Question
Will BCCI go with an international coach, as has been the practice for some time now? Or will it decide on an Indian? That is the big question. Both have their merits and demerits but in the end, a coach is only as good as the players he gets. With a strong bunch of emerging cricketers, the new Indian cricket team coach will have plenty of choices and opportunity to further groom them towards leadership. Indian cricket enthusiasts will have to wait for the BCCI meet on 24 June to know who gets the final nod.