Is controversy over the selection of chief coach just a storm in a teacup or is there something deeper to the BCCI’s decision asking for applications for this post despite Anil Kumble’s stellar record in the past year? Speculation abounds. The performance of the Indian team in the preceding 12 months should have made Kumble’s retention a no-brainer. Indeed, even putting out a notice for applications seems a travesty. So why wasn’t the extension given automatically?
The BCCI says it is playing it by the book for purposes of transparency. Kumble’s term expires at the end of the Champions Trophy, and a fresh appointment can only be made via a protocol that was put in place last year. Under flak from several quarters, not the least the Indian judiciary, for the opaque manner of its functioning, the BCCI decided not to extend the then Team Director Ravi Shastri’s tenure and gave the selection of chief coach a formal structure.
Kumble won the vote from among several, including Shastri. All applicants had to make a presentation and were then interviewed by the BCCI-appointed Advisory Panel consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V V S Laxman before the decision was reached. On this count, the BCCI can’t be criticized for following strictly a process instituted to thwart further criticism. With the Supreme Court appointed Committee Of Administrators also in place now, the Board is chary of doing anything that would raise questions.
Moreover, Kumble has not been debarred from applying for the post. In fact, he gets an automatic entry, as it were. BCCI sources point out too much is being made of the issue, and that there is nothing new or unusual about the procedure. Conspiracy theorists see the situation differently. The BCCI is trying to put Kumble on the mat, they argue, for his confrontational ways. This hasn’t gone down well with the ‘old guard’ of the Board still stuck in a feudal mindset, they add.
Kumble had spoken in favour of playing the Champions Trophy when the BCCI was threatening a boycott. Subsequently he also raised issues about substantial pay hikes for players and himself, which the conspiracy theorists aver, has riled the BCCI. They point at the timing (the day the team departed for the Champions Trophy) of inviting applications for chief coach. Why couldn’t this be done in the two-month period when the IPL was being played they ask, rather than now.
As I see it, however, in either case, there is no real threat to Kumble’s position. It is unlikely that there will be many (if any) applicants to challenge him. How many players with Kumble’s cricketing credentials — and current track record as coach — are around?
There could be a hitch if an equally renowned candidate is willing to accept rock bottom terms. This seems farfetched and even if it transpires may not still win favour for money (within limits) is not such a big deal for the BCCI. But even if the BCCI is genuinely unhappy with Kumble, it is hamstrung to effect an upheaval. The Committee Of Advisors — a supra authority — will supervise the coach selection process. More relevantly, the appointment will still be by the Advisory Panel.
To dislodge Kumble all three — BCCI, COA and Advisory Panel — have to be aligned. The first two share a fractious relationship. And it would be surprising, to say the least, if Messrs Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman have had a change of heart. The conceivable reasons why Kumble could be found unacceptable is if some conflict of interest emerges, or if major Indian players have become resentful, as had happened in the case of Greg Chappell more than a decade ago. But this seems like a dystopian scenario.
All said, however, the crux of the matter is about the original terms of Kumble’s assignment. After the elaborate screening process, why did the BCCI and Advisory Panel fix it for one year? And why did Kumble accept it? How ridiculous this appears now!...