Ravi Shastri’s Tenure as Coach Will Continue, But Should It?
Everyone has had a say on why India has lost a chance to be in the World Cup final on Sunday. Post-mortems have begun and villains have been identified.
But as usual, those reviewing India’s showing in England have ended up confusing formats.
And that’s also the reason why India is out of the title bout.
However, if there is one man who has never confused formats, it is the head coach Ravi Shastri. He has been with the Indian team in various capacities now for five years, save a year when Anil Kumble was in-charge.
Shastri has had the unstinted support of captain Virat Kohli and that is all that has mattered for him to be able to hold onto his role. Even now there is a high likelihood that the coach will be retained in his role because Kohli believes in him and backs him completely.
In team sport usually the ideal tenure for a captain and coach is five years because it gives enough time to build a side, leave your imprint and then leave.
A December 2016 study by Business Insider revealed that the average tenure of a coach or manager of a sports team is at a maximum of four seasons.
- National Football League (NFL) coaches are with their teams for 4.3 seasons
- Major League Baseball (MLB) managers are second at 3.7 seasons
- English Premier League managers come in last at 3 seasons (Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Fergusson have been exceptions)
Sports teams need fresh ideas and directions which usually makes it imperative for the coaches/managers to leave after a fixed tenure. India is at a similar place with Shastri because there is only that much hyperbole that you can deal with as a player and as a spectator.
But in cricket we have had some honourable exceptions too with coaches having long tenures like Bob Simpson (Australia 10 years), John Buchanan (Australia, eight years), Duncan Fletcher (England, eight years) and Intikhab Alam (Pakistan, 15 years)
Tough Road Ahead
Shastri may have some tough questions to answer when a review of the World Cup is conducted in the coming days. It was not a disaster, but it also did not yield what everyone was looking for.
The results have been there for all to see with Shastri as Team Director first and then as Head Coach:
- India has not won a single ICC title since 2013
- India is the number one Test side in the world after winning series in West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia
- India did not win the Test series in South Africa and England in this cycle
- India won the ODI series in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, alongside Asia Cup
So the glass is certainly half full when it comes to looking at Shastri’s tenure.
Not just Shastri, the entire support staff has been with the squad since 2014.
Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar have all spent close to five years with the squad. They came in as a team and have stayed together, barring the Kumble reign when only Bangar and Sridhar were around.
Same Old Same Old
Despite this consistency in the staff’s tenure, the fact is we have had the same issues to deal with for five years: number four in ODIs, openers in Tests, choice of Test ‘keepers and ideal bowling combination in all formats.
We do not seem to be getting any closer to the answers.
We cannot continue to spend the next four years looking for the same answers in ODIs and Tests for example with the same set of players who will only keep ageing.
Shastri is a great motivator who talks up his charges and is generally positive about everything. But sometimes sides need a bit more than that.
With a newer lot of players set to come into the Indian sides in all three formats, perhaps it is ideal for a fresh approach to be followed.
Need Another John Wright
The last man who would be keen to get his hands dirty was certainly India’s first full-time foreign coach John Wright. His tenure was the longest for an India coach till Shastri just recently outlasted him.
He never got the support staff he wanted, but set up a system that has worked thus far. Greg Chappell was happy camping in Bangalore, but was keen to take on the system too soon. Gary Kirsten and Duncan Fletcher had quiet tenures, but took the first flight to Cape Town whenever there was a break.
India should ideally go back to the Wright formula because with the pool increasing it is time for a quiet background coach to emerge, ideally from abroad. With the new Head of Cricket at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), Rahul Dravid providing support, the Head Coach will have valuable ground level inputs.
Every Game Vital
With a World Test Championship starting next month and the ODI league starting in May 2020, every bilateral ODI or Test will have a context going forward. The only place you can afford to experiment could well be in the bilateral T20 Internationals. So while the focus may be the T20 World Cup in 2020, the fact is every Test or ODI going forward will have something riding on it. That would mean a wider pool of players with specialists in every format.
Maybe it will be the ideal time to probably trial having not just separate captains, but separate coaches like England have just tried. But then we are usually late to adopt a system followed by other cricket sides, because we believe that we are always right till proven wrong.
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