The self-effacing facilitator

Graham Ford may seem an unlikely frontrunner for the post of Indian coach, but the former South African mentor's mild-mannered personality and reputation as a technical facilitator may be just what is needed to calm the stormy seas around Rahul Dravid's team.

Ford's impressive CV includes working as the late Bob Woolmer's assistant at the 1999 World Cup and then taking over the reins to lead South Africa for three years in which he improved their winning ratio in Test matches and won 63% of their ODIs.

But Ford's retiring nature meant he left the credit for the players and, when Australia, at the peak of their powers, blasted South Africa home and away in 2002, he was made the scapegoat. The 46-year-old subsequently joined Kent in 2004 and has earned tremendous respect for his coaching ability and, importantly, impressing several members of the Indian team who play county cricket.

It is acknowledged that the Indian players are backing Ford to succeed Australian Greg Chappell; which is no surprise given that he is very much a "players' coach". Ford's modus operandi is to work in the background, using his keen technical eye to help the players and he has always been willing to spend the morning throwing hundreds of balls at a struggling batsman in the nets.

The likes of Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener will all attest to how he ironed out problems in their techniques and set them on the path to being international stars. Ford's coaching career began at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, where he was employed as a Sports Union officer. Having played first-class cricket for Natal B as a top-order batsman, he became the university cricket club's player/coach and would spend much of his day devising tactics and field placings - not just for the first XI but all the varsity teams.

Natal University were able to call on a host of players with first-class experience in the early 1990s, including Rhodes, and Ford was the logical choice to coach the Natal Colts team, before the province came calling with the offer of taking over the senior side.

Ford took Natal to the four-day first-class title in 1994-95 and the domestic double in 1996-97, although he will always point out he was fortunate to have the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Clive Rice and outstanding youngsters in Pollock, Rhodes and Klusener to lean on.

For Ford, the chance to coach the most high-profile team in world cricket would be the ultimate. He has a passion for the game that is not unlike that found in India and the chance to work with some of the greatest batsmen the game has seen may just be the clincher

His reward was to take an SA Under-24 team to Sri Lanka in 1998 and he was soon being touted as Woolmer's successor, as the former England batsman battled to get his contract renewed by the United Cricket Board of South Africa.

Ford went with Woolmer and the South African team to New Zealand in early 1999 and, after the dramatic World Cup semi-final exit at Edgbaston, he succeeded Woolmer. Although there are few more easy-going, likeable coaches around than Ford, controversy would soon become his unwanted shadow. He was bitterly disappointed when his captain, Hansie Cronje, betrayed him with his involvement in match-fixing, with Pollock taking over.

Ford and Cronje had worked well together; the coach keeping in the background and Cronje the public face of the team. But Pollock and Ford are cut from similar cloth and, with national team selections increasingly being influenced by politics, the cracks began to form as both men battled to accept the limelight.

South Africa went to Australia in 2001-02 with injury problems and key players out of form, and their opponents at their most ruthless. An already fraught tour was made worse when Percy Sonn, then the president of the UCB, charged into Australia in the days leading up to the Sydney New Year's Test and changed the team on the first morning, inserting Justin Ontong for Jacques Rudolph.

South Africa were beaten 3-0 in Australia and then lost the return series at home 2-1 and Sonn made statements in the press blaming Ford. It was no surprise that he did not survive but it just added to Ford's experience of the political intrigue that unfortunately seems to go hand-in-hand with cricket. He returned for second and third spells with Natal, where the political infighting and backstabbing was even worse.

So the backroom shenanigans of Indian cricket will be nothing new. But with the backing of a strong, respected captain in Dravid, Ford should be able to just get on with the job he does best - honing the techniques and mental strength of his charges.

One possible obstacle to him taking the job could be family considerations. His wife, Liz, a Natal tennis champion just like him, has struggled with cancer in the past and he has two school-going children, one of whom has also had health problems before.

But for Ford, the chance to coach the most high-profile team in world cricket would be the ultimate. He has a passion for the game that is not unlike that found in India and the chance to work with some of the greatest batsmen the game has seen may just be the clincher.