There are pros and cons to how Anil Kumble was preferred over Ravi Shastri as chief coach of the Indian team. But in my opinion, the contentious aspect is procedural and not personal.
Shastri and Kumble may have become rivals for a short while in that they were vying for the same post, but otherwise belong to the same `party’, which is Indian cricket.
True Shastri was disappointed at being passed over after doing a fine job in the preceding 18 months. He perhaps also did not anticipate any contest. But he was the first to admit that Kumble has excellent credentials.
As it transpired, Kumble called Shastri up immediately after the selection was made. Given their passion for the sport and Indian cricket, I would be surprised if the two don’t share notes in the future too.
Which is why the intemperate war of words that broke out between Shastri and Sourav Ganguly subsequently makes little sense. It did not do any credit either to them, or Indian cricket.
Both donned the India cap for long periods of time, both captained the team (Shastri only in 1 Test), know how Indian cricket works inside out and have also interacted with each other for over two decades in various capacities.
Both are strong personalities, and unafraid to voice their point of view. That is usually a virtue – except when one is ranged against the other, when it can become embarrassingly and pointlessly no-holds-barred.
Shastri’s peeve was that Ganguly, part of the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are the other two), was not present when he was making his case via Skype from Thailand.
Shastri called it "disrespectful" to the applicant (him) and the authority vested in the CAC. "Next time be present at the meeting," he quipped when asked on television what advice he had for Ganguly.
A couple of days later came the rejoinder from Ganguly, who accused Shastri of getting personal. He claimed he had got clearance from the BCCI for the meeting he was to attend as Cricket Association of Bengal president that made him skip the interview.
Ganguly also admonished Shastri for not being present in person considering the importance of the job. As a parting shot, Ganguly said that "Shastri was living in a fool’s world" if he thought that he (Ganguly) had decided against giving him the job.
This was a juicy, newsy confrontation between two marquee names in Indian cricket which naturally grabbed headlines, but in my opinion, at the core of the problem is the haphazard process followed in the selection.
Shastri, when speaking to Economic Times (Panache, July 1), said that he was informed of the interview to be held on June 21 only on June 19, when he was already in Thailand. He claims he has an email from the BCCI saying it was okay to be available on Skype.
Ganguly, on his part, says he has mails exchanged with the BCCI explaining that he would have to be away for a while for his CAB meeting, which incidentally coincided with Shastri’s interview.
Given the importance of the post, it seems inexplicable that the BCCI did not insist on all stakeholders in the selection – the applicants and CAC members – meeting each other in flesh and blood, not through a technological contraption.
Not just Shastri, Tom Moody and Stuart Law were interviewed on Skype too. Also, Tendulkar participated only through video conferencing. Others like Kumble, Lalchand Rajput and Praveen Amre made presentations in person.
This shows that the process, while fine in intent, was not executed consistently.
Clearly, the BCCI was eager to finish the selection before the Supreme Court resumed hearing on the Justice RM Lodha recommendations that has been dangling like Damocles’s sword over the board.
But more important surely was ensuring impeccable due diligence. The interviews could have been fixed in another window in the calendar, when everybody was available.
Even if the BCCI had to stick to its deadline, their nominated convener for the CAC, Sanjay Jagdale, should have stepped in to ensure that the process was pursued comprehensively. For instance, Shastri’s interview over Skype could have been rescheduled rather than have one of the three members absent.
This does not condone Shastri choosing to make his case through Skype. Realising that getting the job would not be a cakewalk considering the number of aspirants, he should have sensed the need to make a bigger impact on the CAC which could only come in a face-to-face meeting.
But Ganguly should also have been sensitive to the situation. The CAC had extended Shastri’s tenure for almost a year and he was party to this. To skip the interview summarily because he had a prior meeting arranged makes it seem like he was indifferent rather than interested in Shastri’s application, even if the truth may have been otherwise.
In hindsight, Shastri and Ganguly are both right and wrong in the positions they have taken, though its bitter playout in the public was unfortunate. Had they mulled over the matter a little longer, they might perhaps have seen it differently.
In fact, if the consequences were not so controversial, this was like a comedy of errors that could easily have been resolved had the BCCI chosen to be on top of the situation rather than remain mute spectator.
Live Score, News & WC 2019 Updates