Kolkata: The appointment of the next head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team has actually been reduced to a farce, with captain Virat Kohli making his preference known and Anshuman Gaekwad also giving the thumbs up to Ravi Shastri, the incumbent, who is on extension like the rest of the support staff.
Baroda royal family member Gaekwad’s isn’t an insignificant voice, as he’s on the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) that will interview candidates and make its choice known to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Kapil Dev and Shanta Rangaswamy are Gaekwad’s colleagues on the CAC, with India’s first World Cup-winning captain chairing the panel.
The deadline for applications ended at 5pm Tuesday. But why bother calling anybody for the head coach’s interview after principal stakeholder Kohli’s endorsement of Shastri?
Well-placed sources told ThePrint that it’s not only about the comments by Kohli and Gaekwad, but the process of appointing the full complement of support staff is muddled. More on that later.
Should Kohli, in a definite way, have tried to influence the appointment of the next head coach? Definitely not.
Yet, he did just that in Mumbai, ahead of Team India’s departure for the US and the West Indies.
A powerful captain, and Kohli is certainly one, is always heard by the Board. Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are other examples, looking back on the last two decades.
Kohli’s defence may be that he was responding to a question at a media interaction, but the other applicants would feel they are at a disadvantage.
They’d probably be tempted to say it’s not cricket, not a level-playing field.
Kohli backed Shastri two years ago
In any case, it was on Kohli’s recommendation that Shastri got the job in July 2017. He’d earlier been the team director.
Predecessor Anil Kumble, one of cricket’s all-time greats, had to opt out of the race two years ago owing to an unpleasant situation created and encouraged by some in a period of considerable behind-the-scenes drama.
It was humiliating for Kumble.
‘Appoint’ has different interpretations
On the process getting muddled, there’s a “dispute” over who will take centre stage when it comes to the appointment of the support staff, apart from the head coach.
Indeed, in how many ways can “appoint” be interpreted? It’s a question troubling the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), running the BCCI since January 2017.
So much so, that the opinion of a retired judge of the Supreme Court has been sought on its interpretation and on other issues.
Such an exercise became necessary for the three CoA members — chairman Vinod Rai, Diana Edulji and Lt Gen. Ravi Thodge (retd) — after the BCCI CEO, Rahul Johri, slipped in a googly.
The retired judge’s view has become critical as Johri has an “interpretation” of “appoint” which is different from that of the BCCI’s “in-house legal team”.
Last Friday, Johri is understood to have told the CoA that he alone would appoint Team India’s support staff, excluding the head coach.
Johri, who was at the centre of a sexual harassment storm and faced an inquiry late last year when the #MeToo campaign was at its peak, has cited 24 (5) of the ‘The Functions Of The CEO’ in the BCCI’s constitution to press his case.
It reads: “To appoint team officials for the Indian teams which shall compulsarily include qualified coaches, managers, physiotherapists, trainers, analysts, counsellors and medics. However, the head coach of each of the national teams shall be appointed by the Cricket Advisory Committee…”
Johri’s argument is that when the CAC has the power to appoint, he does too, based on the constitution’s wording.
The Board’s in-house legal team’s contention is that “appoint” means nothing more than signing the appointment letters.
If that is so, what will Dev, Gaekwad and Rangaswamy do? After all, what’s the difference between “to appoint” and “shall be appointed”?
The women’s and junior selectors have the power to appoint the support staff, apart from the head coach.
But why selectors? Bizarre.
Strictly speaking, the BCCI constitution has no mention of “Junior Selection Committee”. Instead, it reads “Junior Cricket Committee”.
It hardly reflects well on the once-revered Board and those who drafted the constitution, a legal document, for what would have been a hefty fee.
Retired Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha and his colleagues on a high-profile Supreme Court-appointed committee had gone to the extent of giving all selection committees the power to appoint the entire support staff.
That was amended in the context of the men’s team before the BCCI constitution was registered last August.
Amended to cause more confusion, as it turns out.
It’s baffling that Dev and his colleagues are competent to appoint the head coaches of the respective teams, but not the complete army of support staff. It defies logic.
To top it all, the BCCI’s constitution hasn’t listed the CAC as one of the Standing Committees. There are, in fact, only two references.
Moreover, the CAC is supposed to be appointed at the Board’s annual general meeting, not otherwise. The reality is that there hasn’t been a single AGM after September/October 2016! The CoA, which is a nominated body, has appointed Dev, Gaekwad and Rangaswamy.
Thanks to lone warrior Edulji, Dev and the other two must give an undertaking they are “not conflicted”. Going by recent orders of the Board’s ombudsman, Justice D.K. Jain (retd), all three appear to have conflicts of interest in one manner or the other. It’s to be seen what undertakings get furnished.
It’s messy and embarrassing for big names who have, over the years, served the game with distinction.
Lokendra Pratap Sahi is a veteran sports journalist who has covered cricket across the globe for nearly four decades.