The game of cricket is treated as a religion in India, a sport which unites a billion people and gets them on the same page, with the common goal of an Indian victory. Unsurprisingly, the cricket-fanatic nation magnifies each achievement or demerit of the sportspersons plying their cricketing trade.
The position of the captain and the coach has been of utmost importance in the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ and it assumes greater significance when one refers to the Indian cricket team.
Over the years, numerous coaches have distinguished themselves with Gary Kirsten and John Wright quickly springing to mind. However, there have been a few men whose tenures haven’t quite worked out as planned, for example, Greg Chappell.
Thus, with India embarking on another four-year cycle post the 2019 World Cup, all eyes have inevitably shifted to the Kapil Dev-led committee entrusted with selecting the Men In Blue’s next head coach.
Ravi Shastri, the man in charge of operations currently, hasn’t endured a sub-standard stint by any stretch of the imagination. Under his tutelage, the Indians have scaled the top of the Test rankings, even winning a Test Series Down Under at the start of 2019.
However, the former Indian all-rounder’s inability to guide the side past vital ODI hurdles, recently the 2017 Champions Trophy Final and the 2019 World Cup semi-final has cast his role under the scanner.
Moreover, a few of Shastri’s selections have left a lot to be desired at times and many have voiced their opinion of replacing the veteran with someone better equipped to handle coaching assignments.
Several eminent coaches had thrown their name into the aforementioned category and the BCCI has pruned down the list to six candidates, including Shastri. The committee is expected to conduct interviews on the 16th of August and name the next Indian coach after those discussions culminate.
Hence, through the course of this article, we take a look at the five new contenders who could land the job and rank them according to their suitability to the Indian team.
#5 Robin Singh
Robin Singh has been around the domestic coaching fraternity over the years and has given a good account of himself. After having ascended the Mumbai Indians throne in 2008, the former all-rounder has been working as a batting coach for the IPL franchise and has played a vital role in guiding them to a number of titles.
With Robin in the mix, the Indian team would be signing up for a coach whose expertise lies in making the batsmen adapt to situations. During his time at the Mumbai Indians, he has managed to bring through the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav.
Thus, the former cricketer’s coaching pedigree, when it comes to franchise cricket seems a cut above the rest. However, international cricket is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Robin has only taken charge of the Hong Kong cricket team as the head coach and has functioned as the Indian fielding coach between 2007 and 2009. Hence, his international CV seems quite light in comparison to some of the other contenders.
And, though the Indian team would be getting an extremely passionate person as their coach in the form of Robin Singh, his lack of experience could just prompt the top brass to look the other way.
#4 Lalchand Rajput
Lalchand Rajput has been around the coaching circuit for a little more than a decade, ever since undertaking a similar role for the Indian U-19 side’s tour to England in 2007.
Though terms with Afghanistan and Zimbabwe have followed, the Indian would most fondly be remembered for being associated with India’s triumph in the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20 in 2007.
Rajput was appointed as the manager for the MS Dhoni-led side and he etched his name into the history books courtesy of the team’s ground-breaking victory.
The experienced coach is an adept man-manager and could help gel the dressing room better. Moreover, with talks of a rift within the team not fizzling out, the arrival of Rajput could act as a tonic to those ailments.
However, the Indian’s lack of international pedigree could weigh him down with him not covering himself in any real glory when at the helm for Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.
Though he could extract every ounce of performance from the youngsters, his unproven track record of excelling on the biggest of platforms could be an impediment, especially when considering India has been guilty of spurning advantages in crunch situations recently.
Rajput could be a good appointment but at this juncture, one reckons that he might not provide an approach that would be different to what Shastri has adopted.
Thus, it is anyone’s guess what path the BCCI wants to tread on.
#3 Phil Simmons
Phil Simmons has long been regarded as a top-drawer coach and has lent weight to that argument with a couple of decent outings.
The former cricketer oversaw Ireland’s transformation from mere also-rans to genuine giant-killers, a reputation strengthened by the Irish victories over England and the West Indies at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups respectively.
Moreover, he enabled a generation of Irish cricketers to realize their potential and develop their game technically. The likes of Gary Wilson, Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling have reaped the rewards and have found themselves proving their mettle for various teams in the English County circles.
The West Indian continued his growth as a coach when he combined his nation’s T20 riches into a tight-knit, title-winning machine at the 2016 ICC World T20. The Caribbean outfit’s commitment to a unified cause was quite refreshing to witness, considering the West Indians haven’t specialized in that facet over the last decade.
Additionally, he has helped Afghanistan establish itself as a dangerous cricketing unit, a team capable of ruffling feathers in international cricket.
Simmons pays an enormous amount of attention to detail and his arrival could allow a few Indian players to iron out the technical flaws that plague them currently. Apart from the above, he has also shown a propensity to be brave and shake up things when required, an aspect that might keep the team on its toes and force them to perform optimally. Thus, the appointment of Simmons has a lot of advantages.
However, the West Indian is a spikey character and likes complete autonomy in the dressing room, meaning it could sow the seeds of discontent amongst the Indian ranks. After all, the last time a superb cricketing mind tried to tweak things, the Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli saga broke out, an episode which didn’t quite end on good terms.
Hence, despite the benefits Simmons might bring, the committee might not favor the West Indian as much as some of the others.
#2 Mike Hesson
Mike Hesson shot to stardom in the mid-2010s when he transformed the way New Zealand played cricket. In combination with Brendon McCullum, the New Zealander took his country to dizzying heights, a journey which reached a crescendo at the 2015 World Cup.
In his time at the helm, Hesson professed a brand of aggressive cricket, meaning that opponents were always put on the back foot. Though the approach failed on a few occasions, it was a style that took the world by storm.
Thus, the New Zealander could preach a similar philosophy with the Indian team and that could work a charm. At the moment, Virat Kohli is the skipper of the Men In Blue and he too likes to take the game to the opposition. Hence, the Hesson-Kohli duo could blossom in each other’s company and it could also provide the Indian outfit with a new cricketing identity.
Moreover, the infectious confidence of Hesson could get the best out of swashbuckling talents of the ilk of Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer.
In addition, the New Zealander recently got a taste of Indian cricket when he coached the Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 IPL. Though he failed to navigate a way through the play-offs, his side looked a well-oiled unit that stuck to its strengths.
Hence, Hesson could be just the appointment India needs, especially with the nation looking for a man to spearhead their tilt at the 2023 World Cup.
#1 Tom Moody
The most experienced coach on the list, Tom Moody has carved a niche for himself in the coaching circuit in the last decade and a half. After taking charge of the Sri Lankan team in 2005, the Australian led them to the World Cup final a couple of years later, where they were defeated by the Aussies.
However, since then, Moody has not sought an international coaching job, instead turning to the lucrative T20 leagues across the globe. He has been a prominent figure in the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp and the outfit were crowned the 2016 IPL champions under his stewardship.
Moreover, he won the Bangladesh Premier League with the Rangpur Riders in 2017. Thus, highlighting that the Australian has what it takes to be a competent coach.
If Moody were to be appointed, he would bring a methodical approach to the Indian side. Hours of analysis would go into identifying the opposition’s weakness and exploiting them whereas due deliberation would also be given to the chink existing in one’s own armour.
The Australian, known to back his protégés, would also accord confidence to several under-performing players courtesy the ploy, thereby potentially resulting in an upturn in form.
Most importantly though, Moody would be a calming influence in the dressing room and would act as the perfect foil to Kohli. On occasions, the current Indian captain has indulged in a change too many but with Moody calling the shots, Kohli could develop as a leader further.
Thus, at the moment, the Aussie seems the perfect fit for the Indian cricket team. However, his appointment would depend on the decision the BCCI takes on Shastri.
Yet, if the higher echelon of the board indeed decides to do away with Shastri, there might not be a coach better suited to the trials and tribulations of Indian cricket than Moody.