June 24, 2016 1:27:46 am
When the second Test of the India-Pakistan series began at the Ferozshah Kotla on February 4, 1999, among those in the press box was a German reporter.
Pakistan were in India after a long time and the relations between the two nations weren’t great. This was a contest which went beyond just cricket.
One February 7, the last day when Anil Kumble claimed all ten Pakistani wickets, the gentleman looked around at the celebrations quizzically and asked, “Is this unusual?”
It would take too much time to explain the details, so I said, “My dear sir, this is unheard of.”
Kotla has seen Kumble at his best, as the champion bowler. It has also witnessed his retirement from the game, in November of 2008. That is when Mahendra Singh Dhoni became captain.
From that day to this, when Jumbo takes to the dressing room again, to impart unto the fortunate there his knowledge, aggression and determination.
The only galling thing is the one-year term. Surely, if Duncan Fletcher can get a long stint, so can Kumble.
But what would the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) be, unless a control freak? They are also quite the dramatic divas. As the coaching saga shows.
If you thought the nominations for the US presidential elections was something to watch, you haven’t seen anything yet. Check out the Indian cricket team coach saga.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India really thrives on secrecy and a rather dark shade of suspense, which makes for the play of varied senses, from intrigue to irritation, amusement to anger.
When it began, there was the one and only Ravi Shastri, striding with his trademark arrogance, deemed to be the man who’d get the job.
The next thing we hear is that Chief Selector Sandeep Patil is also applying. Wonderful.
By the time you figured out all of those things, there were 57 people in the fray.
This figure was quickly brought down to 21, and then whittled further down. To what figure exactly, is still a little grey. A very intriguing mystery indeed.
Next one is, where and when did Kumble appear? That one really did put a wrench in the works.
But the biggest question that bothers me is this. As we understand, Virat Kohli, the man of the present and future of Indian cricket, was quite impressed with Shastri as Team Director, so why go through this entire song and dance act?
If the coach and captain (or potential captain) has worked well together, where is the need to hold an IAS-like examination for candidates who aren’t really in the fray?
Truth be told, it looked pretty set, barring the shambolic candidacy race, that Shastri would be the man. Till Kumble appeared on the scene.
Also, does the act that Shastri didn’t need to personally appear for the interview with the committee set up for the job mean anything? Maybe he doesn’t need to.
In sum total, it should really be left to one person– the captain. He should be the one who gets to take a call on who is the best person to work with. Unless, of course, the BCCI is averse to cut and dried. Or there are other considerations like commentary deals and such.
One thing is pretty symptomatic of how the pecking order is fixed for the Indian cricketing fraternity.
While the coach issue is taking up reams of paper, the Zimbabwe series is really a sideshow. The problem with such a series is that only a loss makes headlines. Take the last over of the T20 match played on Wednesday.
Barinder Sran was given the job of protecting 21 runs in the last over and almost gave it away. It was only because Zimbabwe do not get the kind of exposure afforded to all other sides in the world that they lost the game. Any half decent side would have made the left-arm seamer pay, after he had gone for 12 runs off just one legal delivery.
So this was pretty much a series for all the hopefuls who want to make a place for themselves in the big team. Make no mistake – the one in Zimbabwe isn’t the big team.
So the likes of Lokesh Rahul may well be in consideration, post his century on ODI debut. But that apart, the successes were few. Or rather, some of successes aren’t ever really going to be considered such, since they came against Zimbabwe.
Also, it’s a rather forlorn figure that leads this side. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is leading India to another success abroad in the limited-over format. But this could well be one of the last, and it definitely not a stage where he’d like to end.
Irrespective of how he says it, it is a matter of time before he has to hand the mantle of ODI and T20 captaincy over to Kohli. One only wishes it is on a big stage that he signs off.
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