Going by recent developments it would appear that Dav Whatmore has
emerged as the front runner to take over as Indian coach sometime next
month. The BCCIs seven-member coach selection panel is expected to
hold a discussion in Bangalore on June 4 and a new coach may be in
place by June 10.
The Sri Lankan-born former Australian middle order batsman has never
hidden his enthusiasm for the job. Midway through the World Cup even as
the Indian campaign was grounded ignominiously and it was clear that
Greg Chappell would be on his way out the 53-year-old Whatmore asked
about his interest in the post made it clear that he was keen. ``If the
opportunity comes along, surely any person who is a professional coach
and prides himself in doing a good job would be interested. Any job is
a challenge. I have taken up pretty good challenges in the last ten
years and this will be another big challenge. Theres a huge passion
for the game in India. It is a religion and there is enormous pressure
on the team, he said.
Ever since Chappell resigned several names both Indian and foreign
have been doing the rounds. In an interim arrangement Ravi Shastri
agreed to be the cricket manager only for the tour of Bangladesh owing
to his media commitments. But the new coach will have to take up the
post sometime next month given the fact that the Indian team has a
packed international calendar before them.
The BCCI after playing with its cards close to its chest finally
admitted that they discussed with Whatmore his interest in coaching the
Indian team. Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, said he was satisfied
with his meeting with Whatmore in Bangladesh and would report his
feedback to the seven-member committee appointed to find a new coach
for the team. "I met with him on Saturday. I will report the details to
the committee," said Shah. "I am satisfied with the meeting during
which Whatmore expressed his desire to coach India." On his part
Whatmore confirmed the discussion but just said "Let's see what happens
on June 4. I'll know if I am successful.
Shah was part of a four-member Board delegation headed by its president
Sharad Pawar who visited Bangladesh during the current tour. According
to Shah the officials had come over on an invitation from the
Bangladesh Cricket Board and not to negotiate with Whatmore whose
contract with the Bangladesh team ends with the current Test series.
Things however obviously fell into place. The seven-member committee is
headed by Pawar and there are three former Indian captains - Sunil
Gavaskar, Shastri and S Venkataraghavan. Board treasurer N Srinivasan
and joint secretary MP Pandove are the other members with Shah as the
Whatmore has already had "positive discussions" with Shastri about the
prospect of his taking the India job when his term with Bangladesh
ends. "I had a short discussion with Ravi about taking up the job of
coaching India and I have spoken in the affirmative. The discussion
centered round how interested I am. We are both satisfied with the
initial discussion. All I can say is I am ready for the challenge if
the opportunity comes. I am ready to sink my teeth into any problems
and find out a solution as the BCCI would want me to." According to
Whatmore Shastri told him that he would be happy to have his name put
forward as a candidate. ``Whether anything materializes from that
remains to be seen, Whatmore said a few days ago.
There is little doubt that coaching the Indian team is one of the
toughest assignments what with the intense scrutiny and the sky high
expectations but Whatmore is confident that he is capable of working
with players who are superstars. "It's a question of man-management and
how far one wants to take ones career forward and I have to deal with
them individually if and when the time comes. I have had star material
to work with always. When I coached Lancashire for two seasons they had
nine England players in the side and three overseas players who were
stars too. Sri Lanka had players who were big stars in their country.
But I never found it difficult to handle them. What we tried to do was
to ensure that the practice sessions were meaningful and the tactical
part was taken care of. The team meetings were exciting and vibrant. I
was not the only one talking. That's the whole idea."
Whatmores coaching credentials are impressive. As is well known he
played a major role in Sri Lanka winning the World Cup in 1996. Besides
a successful stint with Lancashire he has been Bangladeshs coach since
2003. The side has shown marked improvement proof if required being
seen in the recent World Cup where they defeated India and South Africa
and quite unexpectedly made it to the Super Eight.
An interesting aspect of the selection of the new coach is that this
time the cricketers want a piece of the action too. Sachin Tendulkar
for one has made it clear that he would like the BCCI to consider the
players' views while appointing the new coach. ``We hope that our
inputs will be considered he told reporters in Bangladesh the other
day. Tendulkar's comments assume significance in the context of the
well publicized misunderstandings he and many players had with Chappell
during his tenure.
In the country itself opinion is divided whether the team should have
an Indian coach or a foreign coach. Some former Indian cricketers have
spoken out openly against having a foreign coach especially after the
Chappell fiasco. Against that of course the fact remains that John
Wright was a success as Chappells predecessor. Overall however one
would like to agree with the balanced view of former Indian wicket
keeper Syed Kirmani who just the other day said that it does not matter
if the coach is Indian or foreign; he should be the best man for the
job. And at the moment it looks like Whatmore has all but clinched it.