A very long wait finally seems to be over. Two hundred and thirty six days after Greg Chappell conveyed to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that he would be unable to continue as coach, the national cricket team is set to have a full-time head coach in the form Gary Kirsten, the first South African to have played 100 Test matches. Assuming that Kirsten doesn't follow countryman Graham Ford's footsteps and beats a hasty retreat from being on the verge of taking over, he would likely join the Indian team during their Oz tour next month.
Kirsten is set to become the 12th full-time coach (excluding the three cricket managers the team has had in the last six months) and third foreigner after John Wright and Chappell to be at the helm.
While Kirsten remains the man most sought after now, Indian cricket, in the long run, should thank Ford for keeping the Kirsten issue under wraps for so long. The embarrassment of Fordgate, which exposed the lack of professionalism in the functioning of the BCCI, was precisely the reason why the BCCI arranged Monday night's meeting with Kirsten so secretly. Forget about the largest cricket-following media contingent in the globe, even some of the members who attended the meeting did not have a clue about such a meeting being planned till the meeting actually began.
The meeting incidentally, was chaired by Board president Sharad Pawar and also attended by three former captains - Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and S Venkatraghavan -, BCCI chief administrative officer Prof Ratnakar Shetty, Board secretary Niranjan Shah, treasurer N. Srinivasan and joint secretary M.P. Pandove.
On Monday afternoon, the BCCI secretary said in Delhi that the Board would not look beyond the list of 22 applicants it had. Barely hours later, Shah sat with some of his colleagues and offered a contract to Kirsten, who had "never applied" for the post. Logically, this means Shah either had no clue about the BCCI being in touch with Kirsten or he was part of a plan to maintain utmost secrecy about the meeting. "We just didn't want another Ford-like situation to arise," a top board official said on condition of anonymity.
There's a bigger question: When did Kirsten enter the race? "It was (Sunil) Gavaskar and Ravi (Shastri) who suggested his name," said another official. "Both were co-ordinating with him." Hopefully, this time around, they'll make sure he stays.