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Supremo Gautam Gambhir Steps up To Bat for India – What To Expect From New Era?

As Gautam Gambhir steps up to take the baton of Team India, Indian men's cricket team's newsiest phase beckons.

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Reducing screen time is something most of us strive for these days. It has become an addiction and something everyone has tried to shake off at some point or the other.

But if your work depends on following Indian cricket, this addiction can never be shaken off. You just must be scrolling through your social media apps to keep yourself updated because big developments can be announced without any warning at any time.

If you miss the announcement, you will be left behind.

That’s what happened when suddenly on 9 July, at around 8 pm, BCCI secretary Jay Shah made the grand announcement of the appointment of Gautam Gambhir as the new head coach of the Indian men’s team. The 8 pm time slot is still better than the 10:45 pm slot reserved for selection announcements.
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But the announcement, though expected, came out of the blue, just when everyone may have been preparing to end their day.

The amazing part was that the Jay Shah post came a good 30 minutes before the BCCI themselves announced the appointment officially via a media release. There is still no news about an official press conference where Gambhir can outline his vision for Indian cricket. But then, that is Indian cricket!

Newsiest Phase of Indian Cricket Beckons

Gambhir was quick to post himself on social media, painting a picture of someone preparing to go to war on behalf of India. This is just the start of what you can expect from Gambhir over the next couple of years, more of these over-the-top pronouncements where he may end up whipping up passion.

This is, therefore, going to be an interesting time in Indian cricket. For about 17 years, we have had a quiet time with the head coaches being quiet to the point of being almost always in the background, except when Ravi Shastri was in charge. Hence, since the departure of Greg Chappell in early 2007, this promises to be the newsiest phase of Indian cricket.

If you look at the coaches since then, you would have to search very hard to look for controversies directly involving the principal characters.
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Entering the Transition Period

The other interesting aspect of this phase is that Gambhir and his coaching staff will have to deal with a transition in all formats of the game. The Test squad has already undergone a small transition, but there are still some older hands who will need to be handled carefully. The T20I squad is going to undergo a change with a new skipper, especially with the retirements of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja. Then there is the ODI squad, which is neither here nor there, as much of the playing group at the 2023 World Cup will slowly start moving on.

The biggest target, already set by Mr Shah, is winning the Champions Trophy next year and the World Test Championship. In the interim there, is also the small issue of possibly winning a treble in Australia when the squad tours Down Under with an aim to win the third successive Test series there.

There are other challenges, like dealing with two skippers and a huge turnover of players especially with format-specific squads being chosen.

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The Biggest Issue of Them All

But the biggest issue will be dealing with the seniors. The interpersonal relationships that Gambhir forges with the likes of Sharma and Kohli, amongst a whole host of others, is what will define this era.

The Kohli-Gambhir dynamic will be one to watch out for. They have had several visible fallouts on the field during the IPL over the years. But this year’s visible bonhomie may well have been possible because both parties knew what was in the offing.

Gambhir can be a volatile character, someone who can wear his heart on his sleeve. He may need to forget that he is no longer the player, but a coach who can at best show his frustration from the sidelines.

How he deals with the changed scenario is going to be an interesting one to watch out for.

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Indian cricket has had a few issues with head coaches and captains in the past.

  • Bishan Singh Bedi and Mohammed Azharuddin in 1990 ended with the head coach being sacked. Azhar had a major fallout with Bedi and said the side could do without a coach/cricket manager (as it was called then)

  • Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly started with the former India captain plumping for the great Aussie. But then as the tenure started Chappell had a fallout with Ganguly, but this time it was the captain who lost out

  • Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli were two distinctly different personalities. Kohli was always keen on Ravi Shastri, but Kumble was appointed against his wishes. Slowly the issues started cropping up resulting in a big disaster at the Champions Trophy 2017. This time Kumble stepped down

So, the score is 2-1 in favour of the captain historically when it comes to ‘battle’ with head coaches. Hence the Gambhir-Sharma relationship will also be one to watch out for.

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Man Management – The Aspect in Focus

Coaching a national team is more about man management than teaching the basics of the game to the group. That will be the one area where Gambhir will have to watch out. It is easier at the franchise level to some extent where the pressure is on for just a couple of months. With an India coaching role, the pressure will be on for 10 months a year. Every performance will be scrutinised closely and so will every statement.

Angry reactions from Gambhir in the dugout or the dressing room could also add to the pressure faced by the players on the field. Hence, the support staff coming on board with Gambhir will also be very crucial because they will define the kind of work this regime will do going forward.
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Gambhir Needs To Set the Standard at the Top

The focus of the new era cannot just be white ball or just red ball. It must be a holistic vision because there are still a few pain points in Indian cricket.

We need to know Gambhir’s views on:

  • India’s Test squad transition

  • Dual captaincy

  • Vision for white-ball tournaments

  • Vision for Test series abroad

  • Workload management

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Once that is out of the way, Gambhir needs to realise that the head coach’s work needs to be seen, not heard. The bombastic over-the-top statements must be avoided because it all sounds very good on social media but must also translate into performance on the field.

Right now, everything appears hunky dory about Indian cricket post the T20 World Cup triumph, but that was a victory in just one format. Indian cricket needs to aim for domination across formats, across territories and across age groups or gender. 

For that, Gambhir needs to set the standard at the top.

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