Another day, another crisis
Another day, another crisis, and as you were for the BCCI. Just two days ago, the seven-man committee empowered with choosing India's next cricket coach assumed that they had got their man. Graham Ford had flown down to Chennai - along with John Emburey, a dummy candidate in all but name - and his presentation had convinced the wise men to offer him a one-year contract.
On the face of it, the BCCI and the Indian players, Rahul Dravid in particular, would have cause to feel let down because, according to information available to Cricinfo, Ford had almost accepted the job. It was merely a question of when and not if. He was aware that the offer was for one year, with a provision for a two-year extension, and that he would have to work with existing support staff that included Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh.
Somewhere along the line, he changed his mind. Several conjectures have been made as to why he did so; the briefness of the tenure, maybe, or he was unhappy with what he saw. Personal reasons have also been mentioned. His wife, Liz, has battled cancer for several years and it's understandable if he had second thoughts about taking on the stresses and strains of a job in the subcontinent.
But it certainly does not absolve the BCCI of its responsibility. The fiasco has merely highlighted the board's ineptitude in finding the right man for the job. India were sent packing from the World Cup long before the April-fool jokes were sent out, yet no serious attempt was made to draw up a shortlist of replacements for Greg Chappell.
Even as Ravi Shastri was appointed caretaker coach for the tour of Bangladesh, the whispers behind the scenes kept throwing up one name - Dav Whatmore. In addition to an impressive resume, Whatmore had revealed his interest in the job and, when certain top BCCI officials spoke to him in Dhaka, it appeared a done deal.
When it comes to Indian cricket, though, you should never believe what you see or read. Yesterday's flavour became today's bitter aftertaste as Whatmore's name was cut from the list of probables a week ago. Influential folk within the team, and on the seven-man committee appointed to choose the coach, were said to be against him and it was thus that Ford moved into pole position.
What followed illustrated just how low Indian cricket's stock has fallen. To create the illusion of a contest for a job that had once interested so many, the board roped in Emburey, a man with no coaching credentials to speak of. If anything, it was a slap in the face of the homegrown candidates. Had there been a viable second option - Tom Moody and Desmond Haynes were in contention when Chappell got the job - the BCCI could have turned to him after Ford's rebuff.
By not advertising for the post or sending out feelers as soon as Chappell left for Australia, the board seriously overestimated its own hand. The promise of a big fat payday may lure those more mercenary but a top-level coach requires all sorts of assurances before taking up a job of such magnitude. Freedom to choose one's own support staff and the autonomy to chart out a long-term plan - in consultation with the captain - are of paramount importance to the best in the business, as is involvement at some level in team selection.
It's also worth noting that the last two Indian coaches were chosen by the players. Rahul Dravid was instrumental in John Wright's arrival from Kent, and Sourav Ganguly played a pivotal role in Chappell being appointed. It's no secret that the move to bring in Ford also had the blessing of the team's seniors. Whether that's a healthy trend is debatable, since part of the coach's job description undoubtedly involves tough love when the team is going astray.
What are the options now? As Sunil Gavaskar, one of the members on the committee that offered Ford the job, has said, the board is back where it started. Squads will be selected on Tuesday to tour Ireland and England and there is no time to find a coach to accompany the team. Will they find one before more serious business, India's Test series against England, begins?
For a start, do they even know where to look? This is an embarrassment that the BCCI has brought upon itself.
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Dileep Premachandran is associate editor of Cricinfo