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Monday, 5 June 2017

Coaching blues: Indian cricket team faces a tough off-field challenge at the Champions Trophy (The Times of India - 5 June 2017)

     Team India took to the field against Pakistan to defend its ICC Champions Trophy title amidst a raging controversy – over reported differences between captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble. Though Kohli has denied these reports, it must be distracting for the team how BCCI invited applications for the post of head coach just as it landed in England to play a prestigious tournament. Until then Kumble’s one-year contract was widely expected to be renewed given the team’s impressive performance under him, with five Test series wins in a row.

     This controversy raises fundamental questions about continuing lack of professionalism in cricket governance. Why did the Committee of Administrators (CoA) leave such an important decision to be made at the very end of Kumble’s tenure (which concludes with the Champions Trophy)? Perhaps the captain has expressed concerns only at this juncture but if his view is so important, he should anyway have been consulted earlier instead of creating a situation that adversely affects team morale during a very competitive overseas tournament.

     This is disappointing especially as expectations ran high from the Supreme Court appointed CoA which took over running BCCI affairs from January 30. CoA member Ramachandra Guha has resigned during this cricketing firestorm but not without raising more troublesome questions – about how CoA has been unable to resolve the sensitive issue of conflict of interest, which was critical to its replacing the established BCCI leadership. Too much of cricket administration continues to be person-specific rather than principle-based.

     Take the case of Rahul Dravid who is India A and India under-19 cricket coach who has been given a 10-month contract by BCCI. This allows him to double up as mentor of Delhi Daredevils during the remaining two months in IPL season. To secure his exclusive services BCCI would have to give him a longer-term contract and enhanced compensation, because today such services have a market that’s high-paying and global. Basically CoA needs to replace non-transparent loopholes with a holistic and impersonal approach to conflict of interest among coaching and support staff. Meanwhile, the likes of Virender Sehwag and Tom Moody have thrown their hat in the ring to replace Kumble. Competition as such is well and good. But as Justice Lodha points out, what’s unfortunate is how the atmosphere surrounding this coach selection has been vitiated.

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