The South African presence in the Indian coaching bench has gained further weight after the BCCI today appointed Eric Simons, the former South Africa coach, as bowling consultant for the upcoming Test series against Bangladesh, and the Test and ODI series at home against South Africa that follow.
It has been learned that Simons spoke to Gary Kirsten, India's coach, last week and that was the first occasion he learned of the management's interest in him. Simon's appointment comes after former South African fast bowler Allan Donald's name cropped up last Tuesday, as one of the contenders for the vacant bowling coach position.
MS Dhoni, India's captain, recently admitted that the absence of a specialist bowling coach is hurting the team's performance. It was no understatement, because the inconsistency in the fast bowling department has remained a concern right from the World Twenty20. In England, Zaheer Khan had aggravated the shoulder injury he picked during the IPL in South Africa. His inability to go full throttle exposed the younger lot like Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, and though Ashish Nehra was around he was just finding his own feet, having made a return after a long time. Things did not improve during the Champions Trophy, and India's problems were exacerbated during the home ODI series against Australia, which they lost 4-2.
During the recently concluded Sri Lanka series the Indian fast bowlers were lukewarm even if they improved on their death bowling, and in the current tri-series in Bangladesh they have been disappointing. They failed to defend a total of 279 against Sri Lanka and allowed Bangladesh to post 296.
The 47-year-old Simons, who played 23 one-day internationals for South Africa and toured New Zealand in 1995, has a rich pedigree in the coaching profession and was South Africa's head coach from 2002-2004, a period when Kirsten played under him. Simons spread his first-class career, mostly with Western Province, over 17 seasons as a right-arm medium pacer and a handy lower middle order batsman.
He has never had any experience as a bowling coach except for the brief stint in the second IPL in South Africa last year, where he worked as a consultant with Royal Challengers Bangalore. Simons has worked in various capacities at the prestigious High Performance Centre in Pretoria along with the likes of Kepler Wessels.