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Ravi Shastri Denied Birthday Gift, Deserved Return as India Coach

If the board had to keep a stop-gap coaching arrangement going for the tour of Zimbabwe, then wouldn't it have been better to keep a settled Shastri in the job?

Jaspreet Sahni |Cricketnext |May 27, 2016, 2:38 PM IST
Ravi Shastri Denied Birthday Gift, Deserved Return as India Coach

You need an experienced shepherd to ensure the herd doesn't stray off the hill, and when that analogy is attributed to the appointment of India's new coach, the board doesn't need to look too far beyond Ravi Shastri.

But the BCCI isn't gnawing on that option, for the Zimbabwe tour at least.

It will be Sanjay Bangar calling the shots on the African Safari, elevated from the post of batting consultant under the 'former' Team Director cum coach Shastri, who celebrates his 54th birthday today.

That must have left slightly sour taste in Shastri's mouth, not because Bangar has been preferred, but because he's been ignored despite being very much 'available'.

Since Duncan Fletcher left in 2015, it's actually been a stop-gap arrangement for chief coach that the BCCI filled using Shastri in the role assisted by Bangar, fielding coach R Sridhar and bowling consultant Bharath Arun.

That then raises a question why BCCI had to take a different route if it's still only stop-gap show. Why not keep a settled coaching staff going until they appoint somebody permanently?

Shastri's contract ended with the ICC World Twenty20 on March 31 when India lost in the semis. Since then, it had only been conjectures until the newly-elected BCCI president Anurag Thakur said the board will advertise for the post to be filled before the Test tour of West Indies in July.

But it seems Shastri is interested in a return not by applying for the post but on the basis of his performance during the 18 month he was in charge, where India became the No. 1 Test team briefly, won a Test series in Sri Lanka after 10 years, ended SA's nine-year unbeaten run in away Test series, won the Asia Cup and reached the World T20 semi-finals.

“I’ve already told the concerned authorities I would like to continue. If they [BCCI] feel happy with what I’ve done, I’m willing to continue,” the former India captain told The New Indian Express in an interview.

Even the senior Indian players have repeatedly thrown their weight behind Shastri, with whom most struck a chord and developed good camaraderie.

The likes of skippers MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina have always praised the way Shastri managed the team and backed the players.

But contesting with Shastri in the race is Rahul Dravid, who has already proved his coaching credentials with India A, India U-19 and the Indian Premier League franchises Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils.

More important, Dravid hasn't said no to the job, which means the batting legend hasn't ruled out the option to coach the national team. Plus, he too may have to apply for the vacancy when advertised and it will be interesting to know what his reaction to that would be.

But the new BCCI regime seems adamant on taking that route and weigh their options before taking a decisive call.

Alongside Bangar, Abhay Sharma has been named the fielding coach for the limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe beginning June 11.

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