Jonty Rhodes in reckoning to be India’s fielding coach

Team India and Jonty Rhodes
Team India and Jonty Rhodes (PC: BCCI & Jonty Rhodes/X)

Jonty Rhodes is in the reckoning to become India’s new fielding coach, RevSportz understands. The former South Africa cricketer hasn’t received any formal approach yet, but his is one of the names doing the rounds. A new coaching team will take over from July. The BCCI will announce the appointment of the new head coach before the end of this month and Gautam Gambhir is believed to be in pole position to replace Rahul Dravid.

Rhodes had earlier applied for the position of the Indian team’s fielding coach in 2019, but didn’t make the shortlist. R Sridhar was reappointed, for then head coach Ravi Shastri wanted him to be part of his coaching staff. The head coach usually picks his assistants and Shastri had a core team, including B Arun as the bowling coach and Sridhar as the fielding coach.

Similarly, when Dravid was appointed the head coach in 2021, he brought in Paras Mhambrey and T Dilip along with him to look after the bowling and fielding departments, respectively. The three had worked together for India A and at the National Cricket Academy before coming to the Indian senior team fold. The current coaching unit will make way for the new appointments after the end of the T20 World Cup.

Rhodes, widely considered as one of the greatest out-fielders in the history of the game, is currently the fielding coach of the IPL franchise Lucknow Super Giants. Before that, he had worked in the same capacity at Mumbai Indians for nine years. At LSG, he worked with Gambhir also, when the latter was the team mentor. The 54-year-old knows Indian cricket inside out.

Five years ago, when Rhodes applied for India’s fielding coach’s job, he had said: “Yes, I have applied for the position of India’s new fielding coach. My wife and I love the country, and it has already given us so much… We have two children born in India.” He also spoke about adding “a few more things” to the coaching process.

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Team India for ICC T20 WC
Team India for ICC T20 WC (PC: BCCI/X)

MSK Prasad, then chief selector, was in charge of finalising the appointments and he had explained why Rhodes didn’t make the final cut. “We don’t see Jonty fitting in there (as second and third choice), because those roles are more for India A level and the NCA.”

Over the past several years, both under Shastri and Dravid, the BCCI had opted for an all-Indian coaching team. But the cricket board secretary, Jay Shah, has dropped a hint that it might change this time. “If the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) selects a foreign coach, I can’t interfere,” Shah told reporters earlier this year. The CAC comprises Ashok Malhotra, Jatin Paranjape and Sulakshana Naik.

If Gambhir is appointed as the head coach, he will not come from any formal coaching background. He is expected to make his choices with an open mind. Also, as a team mentor, he has the experience of working with foreign coaches in the IPL – Rhodes at LSG and Ryan Ten Doeschate at Kolkata Knight Riders. The new coach’s tenure will be from July 1 to December 31, 2027.

Things might become a little interesting, if Dilip, the current fielding coach, throws his hat into the ring again. A few days ago, at a press conference in Lauderhill, he spoke about how, during his time, bowlers have been fielding well. “It’s heartening to see the bowlers doing their fielding roles very well,” he had said. “This adds a lot to the whole fielding group. We see bowlers standing in hot spots. This gives Rohit Sharma the versatility to keep good fielders in all positions.” 

With the selection of the head coach all but settled, focus will gradually shift to the appointments of other coaching staff.

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