The war of words is getting uglier by the minute. To borrow from Ravi Shastri’s unending list of commentary cliches, both sides are firing tracer bullets. The public spat between two former Indian captains, Shastri and Sourav Ganguly, has unfortunately overshadowed the very events that triggered it—the appointment of Anil Kumble as India’s next coach. Kumble pipped Shastri and several other contenders, both Indian and foreign, following an exhaustive search process that ended last week.
While Kumble’s appointment has by and large been seen as a welcome move in India’s cricketing circles, Shastri’s public reaction to being overlooked has come as a surprise for many. It began with the understandable “disappointment” at missing out on a job someone desperately wanted, to hitting out at Ganguly, one of the three men tasked with finding India’s next coach. Shastri went on an interview spree with several newspapers to single out Ganguly who, as he himself confirmed, was absent during Shastri’s presentation and interview to the Cricket Advisory Committee. Two other Indian legends, V.V.S. Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar were part of the CAC, with former India selector Sanjay Jagdale as its chief co-ordinator.
“All I can say is that Ganguly wasn’t there when I was interviewed and you should ask what problem Ganguly has with me instead of asking me,” Shastri told the Times of India. He later accused Ganguly of being “disrespectful to the selection process”, due to his absence. Shastri told an English news channel, “Nothing surprises me in Indian cricket anymore. A member of the committee (Ganguly) wasn’t present and that was disrespectful to the selection process. A person was disrespectful of a candidate who he was going to interview. He was disrespectful to the job he was entrusted with.” Not done with his outburst, Shastri even had a piece of advice for Ganguly, who now heads the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). “Next time, be present in a meeting, especially when it is as important as this one.” Shastri, who was holidaying in Bangkok, was to join the interview process via Skype.
He did. Only to find out that Ganguly wasn’t around to interview him and instead was attending to prior commitments, including CAB’s working committee meeting. The interviews were conducted over two days at the Taj Bengal hotel in Kolkata.
It took Ganguly a while to break his silence, and when he did so, it was in predictable fashion, a throwback to his playing days when Ganguly would address feisty, often quotable pressers. “I just feel that the comments are very personal and if Ravi Shastri feels that I am responsible for him not being the coach of India, he’s living in a fool’s world,” Ganguly told reporters in Kolkata. “It’s a committee and there are people in the committee who are of more repute than I am and there are other people involved also who were consulted and spoken about. So that’s disappointing.”
Ganguly also clarified that he had informed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and had got its consent before leaving the panel to convene the CAB meeting. “I had informed the BCCI on the 19th of June in an official mail that I will have to leave at 5 o’clock because the CAB working committee meeting was supposed to happen that day and being the president of the association, I’m supposed to chair the meeting.”
He further explained, “The working committee meetings get decided 14 days before the meeting and to cancel it is impossible. And this meeting was decided in two days. Ravi’s meeting was at 4.15pm in the afternoon and doing interviews with everyone it went past their time and we reached 5 o’clock.”
“I requested the committee if I could come back at 6 o’clock and do it again, which they agreed. Once I came here to this meeting, I got a message from Mr Shirke (BCCI secretary) that the other two members are requesting if they could continue with Ravi, which I was fine with. I said ‘Fine, I know I have been stuck with this and you please go ahead and do it.’ That happens everywhere in the world and that’s the exact story.”
He added, “I am extremely saddened when he went on air, expressing his views, especially from someone who has been in every BCCI committee for the last 20 years. He has been in my position, you know, the position to select the coach. I don’t think he’s aware of everything.”
“I’m personally hurt because of what he said, of disrespecting, which was not the case. If that was the case, Ravi’s interview would not have been slotted at 4.15pm and I’ve got the mails. And since he spoke about disrespect, and honestly, I say this with anger, that he gave me a suggestion that in the future I should be available for such meetings. I’ve been a part of BCCI for a while now and I make sure I’m available.”
If that wasn’t enough, Ganguly came up with a piece of solicited advice, invited by Shastri’s swipe at his absence. He said, “I have some advice for him also—that you know when the coach of India is selected, it’s one of the most important jobs in cricket, you should be in front of the committee giving your presentation and not sit in Bangkok on a holiday and make a presentation on camera. Especially when one of the greatest cricketers of India of all time spoke for two hours nearly—Anil Kumble. So that’s my advice to him. I’m hurt because of the personal attack, which was not required. If he’s talking about respect, he should have been here as well.”