As we know, the main cast of characters in this melodrama are four: the BCCI; Duncan Fletcher, the coach who is now demoted into no one knows what; Ravi Shastri, who has been made the man Fletcher will report to, technically making him the head coach; and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who on Sunday said that Fletcher was “still the boss” and would remain so until the ODI World Cup in 2015, insinuating that Shastri wouldn’t have a say in coaching matters. The BCCI immediately clarified that this was not true—Shastri was the boss of everything to do with the team. BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel said that Dhoni’s statement was a personal opinion, which is a little bizarre— the identity of the coach is a point of fact and there cannot be an opinion on it.
Fletcher’s sidekicks, two assistant coaches, have been “given a break”, a euphemism for being sacked. And Shastri has got in two Indian assistant coaches. So, no matter what Dhoni might desire or opine, Shastri is de facto the man running things in the dressing room too. But that doesn’t make Dhoni’s irritation with the sudden change in affairs any less valid. After the 3-1 drubbing, he can’t do much about it, but that the BCCI has been arbitrary in its actions is evident.
The first question that needs to be asked is ‘Why Shastri?’ He really doesn’t have much of a record managing a team and commenting on games is no shortcut to being in charge of one. If Fletcher had to be superseded then there are good former cricketers who have decent coaching experience like Sandeep Patil and Mohinder Amarnath. Also, because everyone, including Shastri, is saying there is no magic wand to deliver immediate results, he will also not have responsibility for any debacles to come in this tour. It is a dream job: power without responsibility.
The purpose of this sudden appointment might be to humiliate Fletcher into quitting but there is little reason to be sympathetic to him. His record is abysmal and he should probably have been removed long ago (assuming of course that coaches matter in cricket, a debatable point). But the BCCI itself gave him an extension last year despite his record. The middle of a tour is hardly the time to demote him, especially when players have not been touched.
Not that the BCCI has not thought about how to make them perform. The other cause of the defeat, it has identified, is the presence of wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of cricketers. The BCCI’s new policy, post the drubbing, is that wives will now have limited time with husbands on tour. Girlfriends are barred completely, a move aimed at Virat Kohli who got the actress Anushka Sharma along to England. The revocation of privileges is to punish the players for being defeated. And while it would have been proper to sack underperformers, this was just a petty thing to do.