Fleming and Ponting on BCCI’s radar to succeed Dravid

Ponting and Fleming are the frontunners to become next head coach of the Indian team (Source: CSK)

The position of the Indian team’s head coach is an open race this time. Ravi Shastri’s appointment in 2017 was an open-and-shut case, for the then India captain Virat Kohli had fallen out with Anil Kumble and publicly backed Shastri’s return. In 2021, Rahul Dravid was handpicked by then BCCI president Sourav Ganguly who convinced him to apply despite the former’s initial reluctance.

Dravid, it is learnt, is unwilling to continue after his term ends in June. And so far, there is no indication that VVS Laxman, the head coach of the National Cricket Academy, will throw his hat into the ring. Also, the BCCI is not too keen to disturb the NCA set-up.

According to sources, two experienced foreign coaches, Chennai Super Kings’ Stephen Fleming and Delhi Capitals’ Ricky Ponting, have been informally sounded out by the BCCI. But the response from their side hasn’t been very positive. Both have been plying their trade in the IPL for a long time. They know Indian cricket inside-out. But the round the year job might prove to be a deterrent.

Over the last two decades-and-a-half, India had two outstanding foreign coaches in John Wright and Gary Kirsten. Under Wright, India became a force to reckon with away from home, drawing Test series in England and Australia, and reaching the 2003 World Cup final. Wright was also in charge, when India won their first-ever Test series in Pakistan. Kirsten presided over India’s 2011 World Cup triumph. But after a failed experiment with Duncan Fletcher, the BCCI changed its policy and preferred Indian coaches.

The Shastri-Kohli combination took the Indian red-ball team to dizzy heights, winning back-to-back Test series in Australia and taking a 2-1 lead in England. The Dravid and Rohit Sharma combination took the team to the World Test Championship final and a runner-up finish at the 50-over World Cup. All the while, though, an ICC trophy has remained elusive.

The tenure of the new coach would be from July 1, 2024 to December 31, 2027. The Test series in Australia in the winter would be his first big assignment followed by the Champions Trophy in Pakistan next year. The team needs someone who can meet fire with fire and as of now, there’s no standout Indian candidate for the job.

No wonder then that the BCCI has kept its options open as regards to appointing a foreign coach this time. “If the Cricket Advisory Committee selects a foreign coach, I can’t interfere,” cricket board secretary Jay Shah told reporters last week.

Of course, Rohit’s inputs will be taken. The India captain, it is learnt, wanted Dravid to continue, at least in the longer format. But the latter refused, citing family commitments. If Dravid was willing, the BCCI might have opted for different coaches for different formats. His refusal prompted the board to shun thoughts of split-responsibility.

“There’s no precedent of different coaches for different formats in Indian cricket. Besides, we have a number of players who are all-format players. There are many common players across formats such as Rishabh Pant, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma,” Shah said.

As things stand, there’s every chance that the next coach of the Indian team would be a foreigner. May 27 is the deadline for submitting applications. In between, further back channel conversations with Fleming and Ponting aren’t ruled out.