The chasm is split wide open. From news channels on TV to social media and everywhere else, the newest rift in Indian cricket between Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri has taken precedence. Rather than celebrating and welcoming a man as respected as Anil Kumble as the next Indian coach, the concentration in Indian cricket has been diverted to the unwanted episode between Ganguly and Shastri; as has always been the case, a few other cricketers joined in the debate uninvited. The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) found Kumble the best candidate to take over as India coach, but that never implied Shastri was the wrong man for the role.
Coaching in cricket has become more than merely assisting teams to get better; it involves a lot of other things, such as planning, making sure players are fit and ready, as well as blueprinting the downfall of the opposition. These are only a few roles in the long list of duties of a coach.
A coach can play that role which a captain cannot even think of, or is capable carrying out. Michael Clarke was never that efficient as a captain with Mickey Arthur as coach as he was with Darren Lehmann. The impact Lehmann had on the Australian Test side post Ashes 2013 was monumental, picking a bunch of cricketers out from trenches to right at the top.
But that does not mean Arthur was a bad coach. Maybe his efforts were not penetrating the cricketers’ minds. Maybe he was not the right man for that job. Maybe he did not belong.
When Shastri walked into the camp, he spoke about how important it was to concentrate on the mental aspect of the young Indian cricketers. He did a terrific job at that — India’s attitude did surprise Australia and the world watched a new team in making that believed in itself. For four Tests.
Six months ago, in England, it all had fizzled out after just two Tests into a five-match series.
The idea of skipping the tri-series Down Under in the lead-up to ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 was again, a masterstroke.
A few months later, Shastri and his men were said to have not left Galle stadium after being handed a shocking loss by Sri Lanka in the first Test of 2015 tour. India bounced back to win 2-1.
What Shastri brought to the table was different from Chappell, Wright, Gary Kirsten and Duncan Fletcher. He carried out the fine-tuning task very efficiently, which was way too different from mundane coaching steps. He made young men go out a little more aggressive on the field — all backed strongly by their cricketing skills and belief.
Shastri was never the one to send throwdowns in nets. As a coach, he is a man who can talk, and make you work on that talk. There are other men who have been used in the past just for throwdowns. Remember DVGI Raghavindraa?
Different men bring different approaches to coaching; to judge them is fine, classifying them as good or bad is probably not. A coach’s methods may work for one side but not for all — it is perfectly natural. For years, Chappell has served Australia well, be it at Center of Excellence or with the ‘A’ sides. Arthur did not click with Australia, but he was perhaps the best coach South Africa got in a long time.
John Buchanan could achieve nothing as Director of New Zealand Cricket (NZC) or coach of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), but there are not many who achieved as much as he did back in his days for Australia. He was way ahead; he belonged. He organised boot-camps.
Shastri’s strengths are different from Kumble’s. In fact, this is the first time Kumble’s abilities will be tested, since he has kept getting promotion from a player to a captain and now a coach. He wants to make a difference. His approach will undoubtedly be different. There is no comparison here, there cannot be any.
And for many who have forgotten, there were a few other strong candidates as well who were rejected. With an IPL win, Tom Moody made a ridiculously strong case. And what about India’s Chief Selector Sandeep Patil, who sprang a late surprise by throwing his hat in?