The decision to appoint a director on top of the chief coach was not an overnight decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. According to Ravi Shastri, he was approached by BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel on Day 2 (August 8) of the fourth Test at Manchester to take charge of the coaching staff. India lost the Old Trafford by an innings inside three days and repeated the ‘feat’ in the fifth and final Test at The Oval to lose the series 3-1.
The BCCI is not in a hurry to sack Chief Duncan Fletcher. Board secretary Sanjay Patel said: “At the moment, it will be unfair to say anything about Fletcher’s ability or his future. Everything will be decided after we assess the tour report that will be presented to us by the coach and manager.” Fletcher’s contract with the BCCI is till the end of the 2015 World Cup. Fletcher’s assistants – bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney – have been given a ‘break’, usually a subtle hint to step down.
A number of scenarios confront BCCI. If Fletcher quits after the England ODI series, then the Board will either ask Shastri to continue till the World Cup and bolster the coaching staff. Not surprisingly, Rahul Dravid’s name is doing the rounds. Dravid has been successful as a mentor to IPL team Rajasthan Royals but still remains inexperienced as a classical coach. The BCCI has already appointed Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R. Sridhar as assistant coaches.
The ‘Wall’ worked as a consultant before the Test series started at Nottingham on July 9. Dravid was invited by the BCCI after Fletcher made a request. Dravid declined a long-term association due to his media assignments. Fletcher was happy to have Dravid in his team. Apart from offering batting tips, Dravid also provided a batsman’s point of view to the team’s quick bowlers. India’s bowlers did better than the batsmen in the series.
If Fletcher continues, Shastri can still remain team director. But a lot will depend how India perform in the ODI series. After India won the ICC Champions Trophy beating England in a rain-hit final in Birmingham last year, Dhoni was all praise for Fletcher and his support staff. At no stage in the current crisis, has Dhoni blamed the coaching staff for India’s 3-1 humiliation. The captain has singularly blamed the batsmen for the debacle.
The decision to appoint Shastri was virtually taken unilaterally by senior Board members. The ‘news’ was conveyed to Dhoni and Fletcher over a midnight phone call on Tuesday. “Some people might ask why not wait till the end of the tour to ring in the changes. But this is how I think, if you are feeling unwell today, will you take your medicines now or do it after four days?” Patel said.
Dhoni’s views will be important. He continues to enjoy the BCCI support. It is unlikely the selectors will knock him off from the hotseat because he was the only batsman to perform in the Test series. A school of thought also feels that until and unless someone is entrusted the captaincy, India will never be able to groom Dhoni’s replacement. India play a three-Test series against the West Indies at home in October-November. This series could just be the right platform for a new captain.
Calling himself as the “elder brother”, Shastri has been intelligent enough to give Dhoni the respect he deserves. “There is only one team boss and that is the captain of the team and his name is Mahendra Singh Dhoni,” Shastri said. Communication and attitude will be key for Team India now. The ODI squad is far more ‘experienced’ than the Test team and hence Shastri will have to handle Dhoni’s boys carefully.