With Indian cricket team's next international tour a few months away, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has started its hunt for the new coach, which is one of the most lucrative and demanding jobs in the cricketing circles. On Sunday [26th April], the BCCI's new regime under seasoned administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya will assemble for its first Working Committee meeting in Kolkata and the board is set to initiate the arduous process.
It will be the first time that Dalmiya and his colleagues will be formally meeting to set the agenda for the season ahead and finding a replacement for Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher, whose contract ended with the World Cup, is on top of the priority list.
Ever since BCCI decided to look for a new name, there has been intense speculation over a few former players who could possibly take over the coveted post. But the big question is, who will that person be - Indian or foreigner?
Since the beginning of the new century, Indian cricket has embraced the concept of foreign coaches. The trend was set by revolutionary New Zealander John Wright, succeeded by the controversial Greg Chappell. Then came the highly successful Gary Kirsten, the South African who took India to greater heights, erasing the scars left by Chappell.
Kirsten's departure saw the arrival of Fletcher, widely regarded as the one with an excellent knowledge of the technicalities of the game. However, in spite of everything, Fletcher's tenure was marred by the team's old inability to win abroad, especially in Test cricket. Over the past four years, India have lost 15 overseas Test matches, something that the board will want to correct.
With success away from home a criteria, the charismatic former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, the man under whose captaincy Indian cricket team learned how to give it back as hard as it got, could be considered for the role. The presence of Dalmiya also makes Ganguly's case strong as both share a personal bond.
Ganguly's career flourished under Dalmiya's reign and his return for a second stint in the board is being seen as a major advantage for Ganguly. The left-handed batsman Ganguly, often termed as the "god of off-side", has already been drafted into the governing council of the Indian Premier League and it is only a matter of time the former captain will be seen in even bigger roles.
Another name which is doing the rounds is Rahul Dravid. The former India captain, known for his copybook technique and calm attitude, also enjoys the confidence of the young players and had a good experience with the team during his stint as the batting consultant in England before the Test series in 2014. Dravid is also the 'mentor' of IPL team Rajasthan Royals - a job that he has performed remarkably well in.
Interestingly, Ganguly also said that both he and Dravid had the skills to do the job. "Both can be (good coaches). Rahul was a great player," he said.
Moreover, both Ganguly and Dravid have been leaders and both have performed at the highest level with success outside India as captains.
Also in the mix is Ravi Shastri, the team director. However, his elevation to the coach's position seems unlikely as Shastri himself wants to continue in his existing job. The former India allrounder may also have the backing of the players as ever since his appointment during the 2014 one-day series in England, Shastri has helped the team put behind the disappointment of the winless three months to be among the final four at the World Cup.
Some of the other Indian names who are on the radar are Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar. Bangar, the assistant coach, R Sridhar, the fielding coach, and Arun, the bowling coach, have been widely applauded for their efforts with the team and are proof of the value of having a local coaching structure to back up the main man.
Bangar, the only Indian coach in IPL, has also been credited with the success of IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab. The best thing about Bangar is that he has the ability to win the players' confidence and trust that help to bring out their best.
Since India's next international assignment is against Bangladesh, there is a possibility that the trio of Bangar, Arun and Sridhar would continue in their respective positions.
Meanwhile, if the board wishes to continue with the foreign coach policy, then former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and former Australia batsman Michael Hussey could also be discussed.
Fleming, who is also the coach of Chennai Super Kings, has been one of the reasons behind the two-time IPL champions' consistent show. He also shares a good relation with MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma - who are all part of the CSK setup. If he shows his interest, Fleming could be a strong contender to succeed Fletcher.
A few months ago during India's tour Down Under, a report in the Indian media suggested that Dhoni has recommended his CSK team-mate Michael Hussey for the top job. The report claimed that the India ODI skipper had described the Aussie as "a brilliant thinker and man manager who could bring Kirsten-like calmness and camaraderie on board".
Though it is highly unlikely that the board will make any major announcement on Sunday and the discussions will be more about the process that should be applied for selection of new chief coach, whoever gets the job - Indian or foreigner, it is clear that the priority will be to start winning abroad.
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