It is ironic that the two coaches the Indian cricket board considered for its star-studded national team are both from Zimbabwe — a country whose cricket structure is in a shambles.
The BCCI’s top circle considers Andy Flower as the world’s best coach, but he was unavailable, and renewed his England contract. It felt Duncan Fletcher was the best man available and signed him up as Gary Kirsten’s successor. As Fletcher arrives in India today to attend his first selection meeting, it also draws attention to the lot of the domestic coaches.
Ignored by the board, they are nowhere even in the Indian Premier League. They also lag behind compared to other countries in the sub-continent. Cricket Sri Lanka grooms a local candidate by appointing him assistant to the foreign coach. Pakistanis are in demand worldwide as bowling coaches.
Robin Singh is the lone Indian who has a post of some relevance, as the Mumbai Indians coach.
The BCCI has its reasons for opting for the foreigners. It is felt Indians struggle to handle the big egos in the star-studded team while the foreigners will not have any baggage and will also be immune to board politics.
There is also the question whether a local might be susceptible to regional bias. Lalchand Rajput, highly successful in his short term as India’s cricket manager, dismisses it. "The Indian coach cannot afford to do that. Doesn’t he want to win at all costs? Can he put his own position in jeopardy?"
Former coach Madan Lal said: "That fact is a coach is as good as his team. If Fletcher and Flower are so good, why can’t they make Zimbabwe the world champions? I know what coaching they are doing.
"I don’t think Indian players are comfortable with Indian coaches. There could be a number of reasons for it. But no Indian is getting a chance to prove himself. You need to have confidence in them."
Rajput admitted Indian coaches used to be at a disadvantage where there was no training set-up and coaches had to travel abroad for doing courses. The first Level III course was conducted in 2002-03.
Rajput, who passed out of that batch, said: “We have the same qualifications now. The Level III exam in Australia is the same that is conducted here. Video analysis is an important tool, and having done the Level III coaching course, nowadays our coaches are adept at it.
Rajput, cricket manager of the team that won the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007 and the VB tri-series in Australia in early 2008, was ignored after that and eventually moved into administration with the Mumbai Cricket Association.
Fletcher and Flower are products of a failed cricket set-up; neither have they been part of a successful team in their native land. But they were fortunate to make their coaching career in the English county set-up and the national team."Coaching in the IPL provides a platform similar to county cricket, where your overseas players, if impressed, recommend you to their associations and boards. It’ll help if the Indian coaches get chances in the IPL," said Rajput.