The many-shaded intrigues that shadow Indian cricket officialdom, and even its players, take our focus away from the real action on the field. A sport survives not because of what the officials do or don't do behind the scenes and in an Indian context, it has survived despite their 'infamous' deeds.
A fresh and much-rested Indian team is now in Sri Lanka preparing itself for a three-Test series. It is a first real test for Virat Kohli as he would be for the first time captaining the side for a full series.
For someone who finds his on-field tantrums irksome and not befitting the captain of a team, I must admit he does speak with a great degree of assurance and confidence on many aspects of his team and what he expects from them. He is a young man whose self-belief is astounding, reflected by not just the number of runs he has scored in adversity, but also the quality of his outstanding stroke-play.
Whether that self-assurance is also a reflection of his maturity and tact which any captain requires in leading a side, only time will tell. It is easy to make the right kind of noises but not that easy to execute the plans you believe are right for the team.
Equally challenging, if not more difficult, is to blend men of different temperament, talent and ego, into one cohesive unit. Many towering figures in the world of sport have found it is much easier to deal with your own expectations than to guide and nurse the talent of your teammates.
Kohli, like all great leaders of men, will have to rise above the biases that can wreck a team’s spirit and end in disastrous results. For that he would need the best advice from people he trusts, as well as those who are looking after the team. It is here that the coach’s job becomes crucial. A coach’s job is not just to iron out technical errors that creep into a player’s game but to handle with tact and wisdom players who come from different regions and backgrounds.
If reports are to be believed, Kohli has great faith in Ravi Shastri’s abilities and it is on his suggestion that Shastri so far has been retained as team director. However, what is disquieting here is that Shastri seems to have chosen to fulfill his media commitments over his commitment to the team.
Shastri will be joining the Indian team on the eve of the first Test, busy as he is in England doing commentary for the Ashes series. It does appear strange that the Board allowed such a situation to exist, where the coach is missing from the team’s preparations in Sri Lanka. That is why one starts doubting the intentions of the Board, which is planning a crackdown on officials and players mired in various conflict of interest situations.
If the Board thinks Shastri is the right man to be coach (technical director as he may prefer to call himself) then give him a long-term contract which would bar him from taking up any other assignment.
As things stand today, Shastri’s actions remind me of what a few players who coach state teams do. They too, like Shastri, spend time in television studios, while their team is preparing for Ranji matches and join them on the day of the match. No wonder one has little faith in Indian cricket.