Besides providing a day's worth of juicy headlines and the opportunity for television channels to revel in the confrontation, the Sourav Ganguly-Ravi Shastri fracas isn't really much of anything. Anil Kumble, by all accounts, made a compelling pitch to be India's head coach, and frankly, once he showed the inclination for the job, you'd rather not look someplace else.
However, while the BCCI deserves credit for setting up a robust process to find their next head coach, this farcical public spectacle created by two prominent individuals involved in that process has shown up the flaws in the final stages of its execution.
Ganguly's outburst on Wednesday, after a couple of days of snarky interviews in which Shastri made the point that Ganguly wasn't present when he, Shastri, was being interviewed, but was instead chairing a meeting at the Cricket Association of Bengal, which he heads - wasn't entirely unexpected. You don't have to be a close friend to know Ganguly has a combative side to his personality, and while he has mellowed over the years, when confronted, the feisty fellow from within pipes up. The tone of the argument aside, bristling as it was with cutting sarcasm, it is the substantive commentary Ganguly offered that must be dissected.
"I have an advice [sic] for him also," Ganguly said towards the end of his testy rant. "When the coach of India is selected - and it's one of the most important jobs in cricket - he should be in front of the committee giving his presentation and not sit in Bangkok on holiday and make a presentation on camera, especially when someone who is one of the greatest cricketers of India [of] all time spoke for two hours nearly, Anil Kumble."
Ganguly is right. An applicant for a job as high-profile as India coach must show not just urgency but also desperation to convince those selecting him of his merit. For Shastri to make his case over a Skype line in the middle of a holiday doesn't really send that message. Shastri was in Thailand, a short flight from Kolkata. He could have flown in, made his presentation and flown back to resume his holiday the same night.
Why then did the BCCI not mandate that all candidates shortlisted for the interviews be present in person in Kolkata? If a prominent organisation were appointing a member of upper management, would those involved not insist on a face-to-face interaction with all those who aspire to the job? So while Ganguly is spot on about implying that Shastri didn't appear to regard the interview process seriously, the BCCI is at fault as well. All it needed was an email to the candidates saying they needed to make themselves available in person.
On the other hand, while Ganguly's "advice" to Shastri about "being in front of the committee and not sit in Bangkok on holiday" is valid, one wonders if he applies the same standard to his co-selectors. He wasn't the only one of the cricket advisory committee missing from the room when Shastri was being interviewed. Sachin Tendulkar was also on a video call from wherever in the world he is holidaying at the moment. Only VVS Laxman and Sanjay Jagdale were in the room.
While modern technology is a miracle, it hasn't fully replaced human interaction yet. So if Ganguly expects - and rightly so - Shastri to have made the effort as a candidate, should he not, by the same token, have expected Tendulkar to do the same? After all, in his own words, this is "one of the most important jobs" in cricket. Is the process well served if one of the four men entrusted with finding the right candidate is in another location, reliant on an internet connection, and as a result is presumably finding it hard to be part of the conversation? Should not both the interviewers and interviewee regard the process with the same rigour?
For his part, Ganguly explained he had already notified the BCCI that he would need time away for a CAB working committee meeting. He explained that he left presuming the process would take a break while he was away, only to be asked if he was okay with letting the others go on with the Shastri interview. To which he said fine. Could he not have been asked to reschedule, considering he was in the midst of conducting interviews for "one of the most important jobs" in cricket?
"While modern technology is a miracle, it hasn't fully replaced human interaction yet. So if Ganguly expects Shastri to have made the effort as a candidate, should he not have expected Tendulkar to do the same?"
Shastri's bombast, which set off this chain of events, also deserves calling out. It would be only natural for him to be cut up about being denied an extension. It is a high-profile, high-paying position, and Shastri by all accounts was a popular figure in the dressing room. However, by saying he was "miffed" at Ganguly's absence and advising him to "next time be at a meeting when someone is being interviewed for a position as important as that", he seems to be issuing a veiled warning.
What, though, stopped Shastri from explaining to us whether he did raise this question as his interview began? Did he ask the others why Ganguly was absent? If so, what reply did he get? If he was unhappy with the reply, did he place any kind of protest on record? If he didn't raise the issue of Ganguly's absence at all during the interview, why bring it up now? Had he been appointed coach, would he still have considered Ganguly's absence "disrespectful"? Would we have heard him say, "I am very thankful for this opportunity, though I do wish Sourav Ganguly would have been around when I was making my case."
Those invested in Indian cricket - players, fans, officials and media - will know this is a temporary storm. When Shastri and Ganguly next run into each other there will be the statutory photo ops and plenty of laughter and backslapping. If anything, their tussle should alert the authorities to one minor learning: next time, get everyone in the same room while making critical decisions.