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A successor to John Wright!
by Gulu Ezekiel
May 01, 2005
The list of candidates for coach of the Indian cricket team beating a path to the doors of the BCCI is rapidly beginning to read like a who’s-who of Australian cricket.

Greg Chappell, Tom Moody, Dav Whatmore, Dean Jones…even Steve Waugh, though the last mentioned has staunchly denied any interest in the job. Currently Chappell appears to be the favourite for the job - certainly he is the players’ top pick, having already been a part-time batting consultant to some of them, most notably Sourav Ganguly.

Then again the Board has made it clear that they are not particularly bothered about the players’ preference which really is so typical of their attitude. Also typical is the fact that they are dragging their feet over the selection and are not likely to make a final decision till the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

The fact that the team has a break from international commitments till August has given the authorities enough breathing space. It also means that they can save money by not making a quick decision - this from the richest governing body in world cricket!

John Wright’s roughly four year tenure undoubtedly changed the face of Indian cricket for the better, despite the dire warnings from some ex-Indian players who had a vested interest in seeing him fail in the job.

But Wright’s revolutionary methods and the marvelous results he produced have ensured that not a single Indian’s name is on the shortlist for the job. The harsh truth is that a foreigner comes without any baggage and is seen both within the team and by the fans as someone who will not play favourites. In a way this is an indictment of the system in which Indian cricket operates whereby parochialism and regionalism have been the biggest bugbears.

Chappell comes with very strong credentials. He is of course one of the all-time batting greats of the game and a master technician and stylist. Ganguly credited his short stint with Chappell before the 2003-04 tour of Australia with boosting his confidence which led to the captain’s magnificent century in the first Test at Brisbane in November. It set the tone for an outstanding performance by Ganguly’s men Down Under and is the last international century he has managed since.

Though Chappell runs a training academy in Adelaide and has written numerous tomes on coaching, he has never been attached full time with an international side. His stint as coach of South Australia was both brief and unsuccessful.

For my money, Whatmore appears the ideal candidate. Like many top coaches in various sports, his record is hardly outstanding. Indeed, it is unlikely he would have ever played a single Test match if not for Australian cricket being forced to field a second XI during the Kerry Packer years.

Whatmore, who was born in Sri Lanka has over the last decade proved himself in sub-continental cricket. He was a major force in Sri Lanka winning the Wills World Cup in 1996 and is currently the coach of Bangladesh. Whatmore has extended his contract with Bangladesh for a year, at the same time putting in an escape clause in case the call comes from India.

That call if it comes, might just be the best thing to take Indian cricket out of its current doldrums.

More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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