South African Graham Ford should almost certainly be named India's new coach in Chennai on Saturday. It is widely believed that the presentation he and the other contender, former England off-spinner John Emburey, will make to the seven-man BCCI selection panel in the evening will be a mere formality.
The panel, chaired by BCCI president Sharad Pawar and comprising former Indian captains, S Venkataraghavan, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar, will interview Ford and Emburey and watch their presentations, similar to the process of two years ago, when Greg Chappell was appointed India coach.
Ford has the backing of Rahul Dravid and other seniors, who had apparently told Shastri, then the stopgap cricket manager for last month's Bangladesh tour, of their interest in the current Kent coach. As first mentioned last month end by the Hindustan Times, Ford’s name cropped up in the lead-up to the first meeting of the coach’s selection panel in Bangalore last Sunday, the meeting that eventually ruled Dav Whatmore out of contention.
That the BCCI shortlisted Ford and dropped Whatmore is viewed as a victory of sorts for the players, who were reportedly unhappy with some strategies adopted by the former Bangladesh coach. What gives Ford a brighter chance to succeed Chappell ahead of Englishman Emburey is his experience of having already coached an international team, and having good results (winning nine of 11 series with the South African team) after taking over from Bob Woolmer at the end of the 1999 World Cup till he was removed in early 2002.
Ford, only 46, began his coaching career aged 32, an age when Emburey was still in the middle of his England career. Ford has also had the advantage of working with reputed names like Malcolm Marshall and Clive Rice in the South African province of Natal early in his career, and assisting Woolmer in the national side.
The announcement will be immediate. “We have to announce the next coach on Saturday itself as we have no time," said BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah. But the new coach may not attend the selection committee meet on June 12 in New Delhi to pick the side for the one-day internationals in Ireland this month end. “What would he have seen of Indian cricket to attend the meeting?" asked a senior BCCI official, adding: "He will attend the short camp in Bangalore next week before the Ireland series."
Meanwhile, the choice of Emburey, reportedly a suggestion from Gavaskar, is somewhat of a surprise because he has had little success as coach, his stint being terminated even by Northamptonshire in 1998 owing to poor results, with a year of his contract still to run. He opted to coach a minor county side, Berkshire, in 2001 and when he returned to mainline coaching the following season, he only succeeded in coaching his own county Middlesex to relegation to the second division in 2006. He was then moved from coach to director of cricket there.
His edge? He has played the game at the highest level. But as history has shown time and again, most recently in India’s own case, that isn’t always an advantage. It should be Ford all the way.