Indian coach likely for Team India

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Shamik Chakrabarty

Subhayan Chakraborty

Unless there’s a last-minute change of heart, the Indian team is likely to have an Indian coach, RevSportz understands. Gautam Gambhir is considered to be a front-runner in the race to succeed Rahul Dravid. VVS Laxman, despite his apparent reluctance to leave the National Cricket Academy (NCA), cannot be ruled out either.

The statement put out by BCCI secretary Jay Shah on Friday, regarding the appointment of the Indian team head coach, has an interesting line. “We are focused on identifying individuals who possess a deep understanding of the Indian cricket structure and have risen through the ranks,” it said.

The cricket board reportedly has sounded out Gambhir, who despite his lack of direct coaching experience at international or domestic level, has enough knowledge of Indian cricket. He worked as Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) mentor in the IPL before moving to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the same capacity this year. Gambhir has been credited by KKR players for the team’s golden run this season, something that has earned him a lot of admirers in Indian cricket.

During his international career as a cricketer that spanned for more than a decade, Gambhir played 58 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is. He was part of the two World Cup-winning teams – the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup. It’s not known, however, if he has applied for the job. The final deadline for submitting applications is 6 pm on May 27. A round of discussions between Gambhir and the BCCI is expected after the IPL final on Sunday.

Laxman, the head of cricket at the NCA, is someone who has risen through the ranks like his predecessor at the Academy, Rahul Dravid. The latter, too, was reluctant to take charge of the Indian teamin 2021. But Sourav Ganguly, then BCCI president, convinced Dravid to take up the job. A similar scenario cannot be ruled out with Laxman.

On Friday, Shah confirmed that the BCCI hasn’t approached any former Australian cricketer for the role. “Neither I nor the BCCI have approached any former Australian cricketer with a coaching offer,” said the statement. “The reports circulating in certain media sections are completely incorrect. Finding the right coach for our national team is a meticulous and thorough process.”

It came on the heels of Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain and the current Delhi Capitals head coach, revealing that he was approached to be India’s next head coach. “There were a few little one-on-one conversations during the IPL, just to get a level of interest from me as to whether I would do it,” Ponting told the ICC Review, adding: “A national head coach is a 10-or 11-month-of-the-year job, and as much as I would like to do it, it just doesn’t fit into my lifestyle right now and the things that I really enjoy doing.”

Justin Langer,the LSG head coach, also ruled himself out, saying the job is exhausting. Langer created controversy by revealing a private conversation with LSG captain KL Rahul on BBC’s Stumped podcast. “And the pressure of doing it in India… I was talking to KL Rahul and he said, ‘You know, if you think there’s pressure and politics in an IPL team, multiply that by a thousand. (That’s) coaching India.’ That was a good bit of advice, I guess.”

Shah ostensibly responded to it by stating: “When we talk about international cricket, no role is more prestigious than that of the Head Coach of the Indian Cricket Team. Team India commands the largest fan base globally, enjoying support that is truly unrivalled. Our rich history, passion for the game, make this one of the most lucrative jobs in the world. The role demands a high level of professionalism as one gets to nurture some of the best cricketers in the world and an assembly line of talented cricketers to follow.”

Foreign coaches like John Wright and Gary Kirsten have seriously contributed to Indian cricket. India became a force to reckon with in away Tests under Wright, winning their first-ever Test series in Pakistan and playing a World Cup final. Kirsten was in charge when India won the World Cup in 2011. Then again, there were flops like Greg Chappell and Duncan Fletcher.

After the failed experiment with Fletcher, the BCCI decided to appoint Indian coaches and Ravi Shastri (in two stints), Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid were the next three appointments. The sequence of appointing Indian coaches is unlikely to be broken this time.

The next India coach will have two tough assignments to start with – a five-match Test series in Australia in the winter and the Champions Trophy in Pakistan next year. And given that his term will be from July 1, 2024 to December 31, 2027, he will have to oversee a transition in the team as well.

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