New Delhi: The workings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India could well be compared to the screenplay of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Almost every big decision is surrounded by speculations, suspense and most importantly confusion.
The same happened on Tuesday as after a lot of flip-flops and rumours, finally the name of India's next head coach was announced. Ravi Shastri, who had lost out to Anil Kumble last year, after a fairly successful two years as team director, finally had the last laugh as he was made head coach of the Indian team till the 2019 World Cup.
To many, it might seem like a foregone conclusion that Shastri would eventually become India's coach, but the decision was arrived at after a lot of behind the scene action.
CricketNext has learnt through highly placed sources in the BCCI that what finally turned the tide in Shastri’s favour was the players — led by Virat Kohli — a top-class presentation during the coach’s interview and more importantly a divided Cricket Advisory Committee.
Speaking to CricketNext, a BCCI official in the know of developments over the past two days said that while it was earlier decided that Kohli would be consulted once he returned from his mini-holiday in America, it was on the insistence of one of the members in the CAC — comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman — that Vinod Rai, head of the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators, got into the scene and insisted that the decision be made known on Tuesday itself and Kohli be contacted in America over the phone.
Ganguly was against the idea of disturbing Kohli while the Indian skipper was on a break, saying as much to the media at an event, and wanted to have a face-to-face conversation to discuss the pros and cons of the candidates interviewed and the reason behind the CAC’s final choice.
CricketNext has further learnt that majority of the three-member CAC was backing Virender Sehwag for the post, even though the final decision would be taken after having a word with Kohli. But once Rai was informed that the CAC hadn't made a unanimous decision, he asked BCCI CEO Rahul Johri to get the team’s opinion and go-ahead with naming the coach. And that is when it is said that Johri informed the COA chairman that the team had made it clear that Shastri was their choice.
In fact, while initially it was speculated that Kohli was the man backing Shastri to return to the top post, it has now come to the fore that the whole team stood united in the call to get Shastri as the coach after they made it clear that working with someone like Anil Kumble wasn’t possible.
But interestingly, CricketNext has also come to know that Shastri took everyone by surprise with his presentation during the meeting at the BCCI headquarters on Monday. Even though he wasn’t personally present and met the committee over Skype, he is said to have ensured that there was no way that questions could be raised over his seriousness, like the last time round in 2016 when Kumble was handed the job and Shastri was blamed for being casual.
In fact, it is also learnt that while Sehwag had said that it was the team which would get preference and he would always stand by the team and take decisions in unison, Shastri is said to have told the CAC that if the need arises, he would indeed call a spade a spade and not hold back.
Sehwag is said to have stood third behind Shastri and Tom Moody as far as impressing with the presentation was concerned. One of the members in the CAC wanted an Indian at the helm as he felt the players are more comfortable around an Indian and can express their issues better because language becomes a barrier when a foreigner is made coach.
While it was a race to the finish between Shastri and Sehwag, the former was the deserved winner if unbiased BCCI officials are to be believed. Solely on the basis of his intent and vision, let alone the support of the players and certain bigwigs in the board.