The Indian cricket board sprung a surprise on Wednesday by appointing Duncan Fletcher as the national coach with even its working committee members, who ratified the decision, unaware of it till it came up for discussion.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) current regime - headed by the president Shashank Manohar and secretary N Srinivasan - prefer to keep the cards close to their chests.
As a result, speculation over who will succeed Gary Kirsten turned out to be a smooth affair. And the outgoing India coach had a vital role to play in the 62-year-old former Zimbabwe captain getting the job on a two-year contract.
"Once Kirsten made up his mind not to renew his contract, he was asked to suggest a suitable candidate as his replacement," a highly-placed BCCI official told HT. "Fletcher was his first choice."
However, board insiders said India might have landed a second Kiwi coach, after John Wright, but they could not persuade Stephen Fleming, who is the Chennai Super Kings coach.Once the former New Zealand skipper turned down the offer, it was easy to pick the man recommended by Kirsten.
Kirsten has always been close to Fletcher. It was during Fletcher's first coaching assignment - with the University of Cape Town - that he promoted Kirsten from No 9 to opener. And in 1993-94, in his first season as the coach of a first-class side, when Fletcher guided Western Province to the South African domestic championship, guess who was the captain? Gary Kirsten. However, Fletcher will have an unenviable job to better the work done by his former ward. Kirsten guided India's to number one in Tests and number two ranking in one-dayers before signing off with the World Cup.
When Kirsten was appointed, the BCCI was struggling to find a replacement after the turbulent Greg Chappell era and had roped in former India captains Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri to convince the South African opener.
This time around, only the core of the current Indian team were kept informed. "Most of the top players, including skipper (MS Dhoni) were consulted before the secretary's office formally approached Fletcher," an insider said. "Some of the players had a detailed discussion with Gary (on Fletcher)."Simons for WI
Bowling coach Eric Simons, whose contract was also renewed on Wednesday, will be in charge during India's six-week tour of the West Indies, starting on June 4.
"Since Fletcher has prior commitments, he may not join the team in the West Indies," BCCI secretary N Srinivasan said. Simons felt coaching the world's No.1 ranked team would be a challenge for Fletcher, but he was confident his wealth of experience would benefit the buoyant Indian team.