The BCCI's shambolic efforts to find a national coach took an embarrassing turn today when it was revealed that Graham Ford, the former South African coach who's now director of coaching at Kent County Cricket Club, had turned down the offer to coach the national side. Ford had been chosen last Saturday after a seven-man committee listened to presentations from him and John Emburey, the other candidate to be invited to the meeting in Chennai.
It was no secret that Ford was the players' choice, with the grapevine suggesting that the move for him had been initiated by Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain. After Greg Chappell's tenure, characterised by off-field controversy as much as anything on the field, Ford - who has a reputation as a back-room facilitator rather than an outspoken disciplinarian - was seen as the perfect choice to heal the fissures within the Indian team.
The news will come as a severe blow to the BCCI, who didn't have any other noteworthy candidate lined up once Dav Whatmore was ruled out by the committee. The top officials are currently in Bangalore, in parleys with senior players over contracts, and this development will force them to send out fresh smoke signals for what was once seen as one of the more prized assignments in international cricket.
Soon after that meeting, N Srinivasan, the board treasurer, spoke about the decision. "We have received a communication from Graham Ford that he cannot accept our offer at short notice because of his commitments to Kent. He has said he's withdrawing as candidate for the position." Srinivasan added that the matter would be discussed at the working committee meeting in New Delhi tomorrow.
Sunil Gavaskar, a member of the committee that interviewed Ford, said he was unaware of the reasons behind Ford's decision. "We are back to square one, that is a fact of life", he said. "I don't know what the BCCI's thinking is, whether it will start the process [of appointing a coach] all over again or make a short-term appointment as it did for the Bangladesh tour."
There is also the possibility that it will fall back on Emburey. When contacted by Cricinfo, Emburey said: "I haven't heard anything from the BCCI, I understand they are trying to contact me but haven't heard yet." However, Times Now, an Indian television channel, reported that Emburey had turned down the offer as well.
A media release issued by Kent quoted Ford as saying: "I am very grateful to the club for allowing me to go to India to find out more about the job of coaching the Indian Team. I have had a chance to reflect on the offer made by the BCCI and their urgency to fill the vacant position.
"After careful consideration, I have decided to continue my work here at Kent. This has been a really difficult decision. I am honoured that India have shown such interest in my capabilities, but feel that this is the right decision for me and my family."
Kent were understandably delighted by Ford's decision to stay. Graham Johnson, the club chairman, said: "This is really great news for Kent cricket. We are delighted Graham has decided to stay with us. I would like to say how much we appreciate the way Graham has handled the last few days.
"I know that all in the business at Kent, the playing staff, the coaching staff and all our administrators will be thrilled by his decision. It also says much about the future vision we have for Kent, the way we conduct our business and how we all play a part in the delivery of that vision, not least through what we do on the field."