Team India finally has a new coach. After weeks of high drama and anxiety around the Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli rift, several players in the side will breathe a sigh of relief after the Cricket Advisory Committee named Ravi Shastri as Kumble’s successor.
Shastri’s appointment does not come as a major surprise. But it does complete a full cycle for the former captain, who was bitterly disappointed after being overlooked in favour of Kumble last year.
There were some raised eyebrows for sure. Shastri, during his tenure as team director had done reasonably well. An ODI series triumph in England, a Test series win in Sri Lanka and a Test series victory over South Africa were followed by a T20I whitewash over Australia down under and a semi-final spot in the World T20.
Kumble, on the other hand, had no prior coaching experience but his result was awe-inspiring. India won Test series against West Indies, New Zealand, England and Australia. They won everything at home across formats, Kohli blossomed as a Test batsman, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh showed glimpses of their glorious past and reached the final of the Champions Trophy.
Despite the raging success, there were discords, rifts and ego wars between the captain and the coach in the dressing room. BCCI tried to play it down when India Today first broke the news of simmering tensions between the two most important men in the Indian squad.
Kohli rubbished any such news as mere speculation while Kumble remained silent. Yet, the players looked stiff and there was a feeling that not all was well with the team. The board advertised for the coach’s post and several big names applied and one of them was: Virender Sehwag.
And then it all came tumbling out.
On June 18, India lost the title clash to Pakistan. On June 20, Kumble stepped down as coach citing differences with Kohli. Not long after, the captain deleted a tweet he had put out to welcome Kumble in 2016. It was all getting ugly and spiraling out of hand.
And then emerged reports that Kohli wanted Shastri back, that he did not want him to go in the first place. The two shared a great working relationship and most players in the team regarded him as an “elder brother”.
Fresh applications were sought and Shastri applied apparently at the behest of Sachin Tendulkar.
By the time the process ended in Mumbai on Monday, only two names could have succeeded Kumble: Shastri or Sehwag.
The CAC, after interviewing five candidates, decided to defer the announcement as Ganguly felt Kohli needed to be spoken to. He was convinced that the next coach had to stay till the 2019 World Cup at least and was categorical that the management would not want another repeat of the Kohli-Kumble war.
But in a dramatic twist the CoA instructed the BCCI to finalise the coach today – the drama had gone on far too long and it was beginning to show India in poor light. Consequently, the advisory committee was asked to speak to Kohli on Tuesday and close the process.
Kohli, vacationing in New York with Anushka Sharma, woke up early in the morning to attend to an important call. That was probably the only time he was going to talk shop with colleagues in India – he would have been asked who he wanted in the dressing-room as head coach.
That Kohli wanted Shastri was crystal clear. After a conference call between Mumbai, London and New York City, the decision had been made: Ravi Shastri would be India coach at least till the 2019 World Cup.