The Indian cricket team will tour Zimbabwe next month for a clutch of One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 (T20) matches without a coach in place. Unless the vacancy is filled up in the next 8-10 weeks, there might be no coach for the Test series in the West Indies that follows either.

Ravi Shastri’s term as team director ended after the T20 World Cup in March and the new president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Anurag Thakur, has deferred a fresh appointment, asking for applications to the post.

This process is sound in intent, and in the current circumstances, where the board is embroiled in a tangle with the Supreme Court on matters of transparency in its affairs, perhaps also imperative. But it may not be as easy in practice, especially when it comes to high-profile former Indian players.

I wouldn’t think it extraordinary for foreign players—even big guns—to apply because the Indian coach’s post is prestigious and lucrative: Sources say the emoluments could be 4 crore a year or higher. That kind of money is not to be scoffed at, even allowing for the excruciating pressures that come with the job. But it is hardly likely to enthuse star Indian players to throw their hat into the ring.

Marquee names in sport are generally chary of getting into a “competitive situation" after retirement, Indian cricketers perhaps even more so, not quite sure how matters in the BCCI will play out. This explains why so few players get into administration: Those who don’t understand it, stay away; those who do, run away farther!

Most retired Indian cricketers are generally content protecting the laurels they’ve earned rather than risking them in the hurly burly of BCCI politics. Moreover, modern cricketers—say, of the last 20 years—have also reaped handsome financial rewards and, therefore, see little incentive in getting involved post-retirement. Unless it comes on a platter with few strings attached.

This extends to coaching too. Though accomplished former players will privately say they are willing to take up such assignments, they are usually coy about getting into an A versus B versus C scenario, preferring a direct assignment, though there is usually serious behind-the-scene lobbying.

Frankly, in the current situation, the appointment of a coach should have been a no-brainer, sans drama and ceremony, but for the fact that the BCCI wants to convince the Supreme Court that it is serious about implementing the Justice R.M. Lodha panel recommendations.

The obvious choice would be Shastri, under whom the team reached the semi-finals of two world cups in the last 15 months and won the Asia Cup, as well as the Test series against Sri Lanka and South Africa. From all accounts, players too were happy with Shastri.

Based on this, the hunt for a coach would seem unnecessary. Unless, of course, Shastri is unwilling to continue, or the BCCI and he haven’t been able to agree on terms, or that the board is looking for somebody younger like Rahul Dravid or, say, Daniel Vettori (if it’s a foreigner).

All told, having multiple options is a healthy situation, but the process needs prudent implementation. A simplistic, cut-and-dried approach may not work, past experience suggests.

It is not that there has never been a selection protocol for a coach in the past. In 2005, after John Wright’s tenure, the BCCI decided it would entertain multiple candidates interested in the job. West Indies’ Desmond Haynes, Australia’s Greg Chappell and India’s Mohinder Amarnath were among those who were interviewed.

As it happened, what tilted the decision in Chappell’s favour was the recommendation of the then captain, Sourav Ganguly, and we all know the turmoil it led to in Indian cricket. That’s a different story, but with a lesson in it nonetheless.

In the Indian context, it seems more practical for the BCCI to make a small wish list of candidates, sound them out informally, assess their appetite for the task and audit their body of work before taking the discussion to the next level.

More pertinent than just the individual are the parameters that should influence the BCCI’s choice. Paramount among these is that the coach should be acceptable to two captains, since India have Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in charge in different formats.

The coach should also have a “contemporaneous" mindset—not just a good understanding of the three formats in the sport, but also of how modern cricketers think, react and behave. Too often, coaches live in the past.

The coach should also be given a reasonable tenure to produce results: say, from now till the end of the 50-over World Cup in 2019. But this should be juxtaposed with periodic milestones, linked to financial bonuses and penalties based on the results.

Fundamentally, the aim should be to make Indian cricket top of the pops in all three formats within a given time frame. Being the richest cricket board in the world is fine achievement on the face of it. But the credit becomes dubious if the team is not the best too.

Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.

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