Ford a contender in two-horse race
Former South African coach Graham Ford, and a "foreigner whose availability could not be ascertained", are the contenders for India's next coach, the board announced after a meeting of their seven-member committee in Bangalore. It meant that Dav Whatmore, who coached Sri Lanka to World Cup glory in 1996 and was one of the favourites till recently, was ruled out of contention.
The committee, after an hour-and-a-half long meeting that started at 8.30 pm, decided to hold discussions with the two candidates it had narrowed down to on the evening of June 9, in Chennai.
"The panel has decided that we will invite for further discussions Graham Ford and one more person whose name I am unable to disclose at this moment because we have not been able to establish contact with him to ascertain his availability. The duo will meet the committee in Chennai on the evening of June 9 for discussions, after which we will take a final call," N Srinivasan, treasurer of the BCCI and a member of the committee that met to select the coach, told the gathered media, who had been kept out of the hotel where the committee met, ostensibly for "security reasons."
Srinivasan refused to drop any hints on the identity of the second candidate, only smiling when asked if he was Asian, and not even doing that much when pointedly asked if the man was Arjuna Ranatunga. He would only say, "All I can say is that he is also a foreigner. He has not approached us, his name was suggested by one of the members of the committee."
Srinivasan did, however, state quite bluntly, that the committee was not considering Whatmore any longer, if indeed it had seriously done so at any point. "We have established contact with Whatmore. You can say by implication that yes, he has been ruled out."
Whatmore was the first to throw his hat into the ring, announcing first through the media and then in a meeting with the Indian board officials that he was keen on the job. In the absence of the board having sounded out any other candidate, and with the Whatmore's name gaining momentum in the media, he emerged as a frontrunner for the job.
Now the focus has shifted firmly on the identity of the second candidate in the fray. The names doing the rounds - and this is largely speculation at this stage, with the committee, including former captains Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Srinivas Venkataraghavan keeping absolutely mum on the matter - are those of Ranatunga, Duncan Fletcher and former India coach John Wright. However, Cricinfo has reliably learnt that Wright, whose name has been associated with the Australian Cricket Academy, is not one of the contenders for the Indian job. Long after the meeting had ended, the other names, including Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting and John Emburey, were added to the list as speculation mounted.
Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo