Selection will go down to the wire with players pushing for foreign coach May 29, 2007

India continues coach hunt



While senior players, including Ganguly and Dravid, appeal for a foreign coach, Indian greats such as Kapil and Gavaskar want someone chosen from within © AFP

Who will be India's next coach is very much an open question. When the seven-member committee formed to tackle this very issue meets on June 4, it is likely to be faced with two conflicting opinions: the current players would like the job to go to a foreigner, whereas a campaign, championed by no less than Sunil Gavaskar, a member of the committee himself, is building up from former cricketers to appoint an Indian.

In a significant development, four senior members of the Indian team, Rahul Dravid, the captain, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, are learnt to have met Sharad Pawar, the Indian board president, and conveyed their wish to be coached by a foreigner. The meeting took place during India's tour of Bangladesh.

There is precedence of the players' views playing a decisive role in the appointment of the coach. John Wright, who was appointed India's first foreign coach in 2000, was recommended by Rahul Dravid, who had played under Wright for Kent in the County Championship in England and when Wright's contract came up for renewal, he was publicly backed by Tendulkar and Ganguly. And in 2005, when there was a clamour for a homegrown coach, the job went to Greg Chappell, whose candidature was supported by, ironically, Ganguly.

This time too, the opinions are divided. Though Dav Whatmore, with whom some of the BCCI officials have had informal talks, has emerged as a strong candidate, the final decision is yet to be taken. And lobbying for an Indian coach has begun, with Gavaskar and Kapil Dev leading rally.

Gavaskar, writing in his column in the Mumbai tabloid Mid Day, has made some thinly-veiled attacks on Whatmore, who is believed to be the frontrunner. Writing after the second Test against India, Gavaskar pointed to the "lack of cricketing acumen" in the Bangladesh camp following their decision to bat first.

"It's here that Bangladesh suffered the most, for even allowing for the fact that Habibul Bashar is not the wiliest of skippers, it was clear that he had little help, and if anything, the lack of tactical input was exposed by the decision to field first in the last Test as well as that of not trying for a win in the first Test when the target was achievable with some bold batting."

Kapil Dev, was even more direct. "Who is Whatmore," he thundered in an interview in the Telegraph, the Kolkata based daily. "Why do we need to talk about Whatmore? Or, for that matter, anybody not associated with our team at this point in time. In my opinion, when Ravi (Shastri) isn't available after Bangladesh, the Board should give the coach's powers to Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, both of whom have played international cricket and are currently working with the boys."

Kapil, who is director of the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, has already made his preferences clear by appointing Rajinder Goel, Sarkar Talwar and Rajinder Pal, to instruct the trainees.

Interestingly, while the focus has been solely on Whatmore, the name of Graham Ford has suddenly begun to do the rounds as a contender. Ford, who prefers to be low-key, had successful stints with South Africa, Natal and Kent, and could be a good man for the job. However, it is unclear whether the board has even got in touch with Ford to check on his availability or interest. From all indications the board is waiting till the meeting in Bangalore on June 4, set to begin sometime in the evening, to make its moves.

Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo

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