In a country where the guru-shishya parampara is considered sacred and has the sanction of the scriptures, a mundane thing as the appointment of a cricket coach is bound to arouse more than routine curiosity.
India’s new coach is a rotund, overweight, sulky-looking former Zimbabwe player, who not many here would have known much of, except for the fact that he was the England team coach for a considerable period of time and did not do a bad job.
The pros and cons of Duncan Fletcher’s appointment are being weighed with all seriousness, with two of our greatest cricketers finding it distasteful that India can’t find an Indian fit for this job. It is a legitimate question that requires a larger debate and much larger space than this column can afford to get to the heart of the matter.
Search for Outsider
Suffice to say that it can be embarrassing for a cricket obsessed nation to always search for an ‘outsider’ when it comes to providing technical inputs and man-management skills to its team, which is among the best in the world. Whether this is to do with the colonial mindset or a genuine lack of these attributes in an Indian, is again a subject for an in-depth analysis.
One has heard often, that too from the players themselves, that they generally don’t trust an Indian for the job as they suspect he would play “politics” with the team and could easily become the mouthpiece of the establishment.
Right from the day, around a decade back, when John Wright become the first overseas professional coach of the team, India has rarely given a thought to employing one of its own for this job.
Even when Greg Chappell was playing havoc with the team and had undermined its confidence with his autocratic, unreasonable ways, India still chose to seek ‘foreign’ help.
Chappell, it is said, in the long run did a great service to the coaching manuals worldwide, by making everyone aware how not to coach and deal with an international team, especially if it happens to be as star-studded as the Indian team.
The Best Thing
His successor, Gary Kirsten, a wise man armed with the “don’ts” left behind by Chappell, is now considered the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket with the players talking about him in reverential tones reserved for a true-bred Indian ‘guru’.
Will Fletcher, who may soon find the players who have formed the backbone of the Test team retiring, be able to reconstruct and guide the side without causing fissures, is the moot point.
Will the Zimbabwean, transposed into Indian conditions — because Kirsten believes Fletcher thinks like him — be able to navigate the ship to safe shores? If he does so, it would be much harder to visualise an Indian getting his job once his tenure is over.