Ravi Shastri: Indian Cricket's most controversial coach
Over the years, Team India have had several coaches who have been handed the responsibility of shaping and nurturing a team worthy of winning a game of cricket. Though the Indian cricket team was formed way back in the 1930s, India’s first ever coach, Bishen Sigh Bedi, was appointed 50 years later in 1990.
He was followed by many other coaches – Abbas Ali Baig, Ajit Wadekar, Sandeep Patel, Madan Lal, Anshuman Gaekwad. Even the only World Cup-winning captain until then, Kapil Dev, had the opportunity to contribute to Team India.
And when the BCCI found Indian coaches unremarkable, an era of non-Indian coaches emerged. Team India entered the 21st century with its first ever foreign coach. A very sober New Zealander, John Wright started it off (2000-2005) followed by the Australian Greg Chappell (2005-2007), whose tenure was a failure in many ways.
Then came probably the most respected Indian coach till date, the South African Gary Kirsten (2008 - 2011). He was also the most successful coach considering India won the ICC World Cup after a long drought of 28 years. The responsibility was then passed on to the Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher following a relatively successful coaching stint with England (2011- 2015).
After 15 years, BCCI eventually decided to turn to an Indian coach for the Men in Blue. They surprisingly appointed Ravi Shastri (2014-2016), but was given the title ‘Team Director’. No one could have imagined it was just the start of a major controversy.
In few years, when BCCI opened up the vacancy, Anil Kumble (2016 – 2017) was appointed as head coach. Sadly, the stint came to a scandalous end when he voluntarily stepped down citing differences with the Indian captain Virat Kohli. Many had believed that Kumble and Kohli was a great combination.
Once again, the responsibility was handed back to Ravi Shastri (2017) to take the team forward, but now as head coach of the Indian national cricket team. Interestingly, he was not the preferred choice of the elite selection panel – comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman – but was given the responsibility based on the Kohli’s strong recommendation. Even before starting his tenure, Shastri was already in the news.
On many occasions, his team selection has raised eyebrows for swiftly chopping and changing the team members based on a few poor performances. Cricket veterans believe that the current team management lacks giving enough confidence to the new joiners. The recent exclusion of India’s invaluable players like Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwa Pujara for important test matches against South Africa and England respectively at their soil came under extreme criticism and generated very big controversy.
Known for speaking his heart out, more often than not, his very casual and at times, vulgar comments have created an unwanted controversy around him. In the last one year, on several occasions, he was being dismissed for his unprofessional statements. His obnoxious speeches have understandably made the cricketing world furious with anger. In fact, it reached a level where fans started to demand his sacking despite Team India’s successful performances. It appears that not many in the cricketing fraternity enjoy his over the top attitude.
Yet, despite being the controversy’s child, he has managed to deliver goods for Indian cricket. In just a few months from now, Team India will embark on their journey to win the most prestigious trophy in the cricketing arena, the ICC World Cup 2019. Without a doubt, this event will be his biggest assignment up until date.
Winning this all-important tournament not only is a great opportunity to stamp his presence over the Indian cricket history with gold but also, may just enable him to a win billion hearts back, at least for a short while, until he sparks yet another controversy.