Is the race to become the next India head coach becoming a one-horse race with incumbent Ravi Shastri leading the charge? Friday (August 16) will decide who will be taking up this job with the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) conducting interviews of the six shortlisted candidates in Mumbai.
The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), who have no say over the decision of the CAC, are expected to announce the new coach on Friday itself with the support staff interviews being held simultaneously by the men’s senior selection committee chaired by MSK Prasad.
Apart from Shastri, the other three contenders for the position are Tom Moody, Mike Hesson, Phil Simmons, Robin Singh and Lalchand Rajput. The BCCI claimed to have over 2,000 application since the advertisement for the post of India head coach and the support staff went up on the website but they included applications for the all the positions including the administrative manager of the team.
The lack of top applicants meant the shortlist has been limited to six candidates and the entire process will be over in a day. The BCCI’s predicament can also be judged by the fact that they had to compromise on the minimum requirement they had initially advertised for the position of head coach.
In at least two of the shortlisted candidates — Hesson and Rajput — the BCCI had to forego the minimum criterion of ‘minimum of 30 Tests or 50 ODIs played’. While Hesson had never played international cricket, the experience of coaching New Zealand team successfully played a big role in BCCI calling him for an interview.
“The criterion had to be overlooked because we had to look at the candidates coaching experiences as well. At this point of time, Shastri looks favourite to be retained as the coach because he has support of the Indian captain as well. It remains to be seen if CAC will have their own opinions on this issue,” a senior BCCI official told CricketNext.
Rajput has a couple of Tests and four ODIs to his name but was the manager of the Indian team which managed to win the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 after the disappointment of a first-round exit from the 50-over World Cup that same year.
Three out of these six candidates are foreign coaches and BCCI have not been in favour of bringing in foreign candidates since the departure of Duncan Fletcher after the 2015 World Cup semi-final exit for India.
Since then Anil Kumble and Shastri have held the position as head coach. Kumble’s disagreements with current skipper Virat Kohli was the reason for his premature exit in 2017.
Shastri, whose first stint with the Indian team was as a Team Director with Fletcher as head coach back in 2014, has gelled with Kohli during his stint as the head coach.
Under Shastri’s two stints, India has won over 70 per cent of their international matches including two Asia Cup titles and a historic away Test series win over Australia earlier this year.
Virat Kohli’s side are No.1 in the Test rankings and No. 2 in ODI rankings behind world champions England. On the flip side, the team lost overseas Test series against South Africa and England and couldn’t get past the semi-finals at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.
"If the CAC wants my advice or opinion, I'll speak to them. With Ravi Bhai, we share a great camaraderie and have mutual respect,” Kohli had said before the team's departure for the West Indies tour.
“We will be very happy if he continues since we have done well under him. But I haven't been contacted by the CAC, I don't know what is going to happen in the process. That's where it stands.”
Shastri even got a thumbs-up from CAC member and former India coach Gaekwad, adding further weight to his claim to remain in the job.
“Speaking purely from the results perspective, he (Shastri) has done quite well. So, besides Ravi, all other positions (in the coaching and support staff) in my opinion are open depending on who is applying, their credentials and whether they meet the criteria of the BCCI,” Gaekwad had told Mid-Day.
If the CAC led by former India captain and coach Kapil Dev opt for an Indian option, it will be hard to ignore Shastri’s credentials when compared to those of Robin Singh and Rajput. Shastri’s presentation and interview are expected to be held towards the end of the day on Friday considering the fact that he’s in West Indies with the Indian team currently.
It remains to be seen if the CAC will stick with tried and tested Shastri or opt for an experienced but foreign option in Moody, Hesson or Simmons.
Rathour, Amre & Rhodes in Race for Support Staff
Former chief selector Vikram Rathour is one of the candidates in the race to become India's next batting coach, to replace Sanjay Bangar. He'll face competition from the likes of Englishmen Jonathan Trott and Mark Ramprakash as well as Praveen Amre.
Rathour's appointment if selected will once again need to be cleared of conflict since he is the brother-in-law of junior selector Ashish Kapoor, a fact that stopped him from becoming the batting coach at NCA.
Bharat Arun is expected to be retained as bowling coach but the likes of Venkatesh Prasad, Sunil Joshi and foreign candidates like Steffan Jones and Clint McKay have applied for the position.
Fielding coach R. Sridhar will face tough competition from the likes of South African Jonty Rhodes.