BCCI does u-turn on Dravid, Zaheer appointments
Now, the chairman of the committee of administrators (CoA) has said those were mere recommendations that needed action from the CoA "in consultation with the head coach". Ravi Shastri, India's new head coach, meanwhile, is set to get his own support staff as that has been decided "in consultation with the head coach already".
As for Dravid and Zaheer, yet another committee has been formed to decide if they are needed at all, and terms of engagement if they are. The committee, comprising acting BCCI president CK Khanna, secretary Amitabh Choudhary and CoA member Diana Edulji, will have a meeting with Shastri. The meeting will be convened by BCCI CEO Rahul Johri.
This is yet another process after a month-long farcical drama finally ended with a definitive BCCI release on July 11. It said, "The BCCI announces the appointment of Mr. Ravi Shastri as the Head Coach, Mr. Zaheer Khan as the Bowling Consultant and Mr. Rahul Dravid who will be the Overseas Batting Consultant (Test cricket) for the Indian Cricket Team." It was followed by praise for the appointees and gratitude for the cricket advisory committee (CAC) comprising Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, who had been tasked with identifying the new coach. The release was signed by Choudhary.
On July 13, an unnamed source from the CoA - which was about to be reduced from three to two members - was quoted as saying that the CAC had exceeded its brief in appointing the two consultants. On the same day, the CAC wrote an email to the CoA expressing its displeasure, and saying it had appointed Dravid and Zaheer after discussions with Shastri.
On July 15, the CoA met some BCCI officials in Delhi, and then its head Vinod Rai confirmed the u-turn. "There is no such thing as a contract yet," Rai said, when asked if the appointments of Zaheer and Dravid had been put on hold. "It is not an appointment. The recommendation has been made. And the CoA has to act on the recommendation. That recommendation will be acted upon in consultation with the head coach."
When asked if Shastri had demanded his own support staff, Rai said: "The support staff has been decided in consultation with the head coach already. There is going to be a core support staff, which will be fielding, batting and bowling, which has been decided. Any other ancillary etc, he [Shastri] will be coming back tomorrow [from England] and we will decide."
It has been widely reported that Shastri wants B Arun back as the bowling coach. Arun, Shastri's team-mate from Under-19 and India days, was India's bowling coach during Shastri's previous stint as team director too.
Rai's latest assertions, though, go against yet another BCCI release, titled "COA hails CAC coach recommendation", sent on July 12. The email was not signed by any person, but it said, "The Cricket Advisory Committee has made its recommendation regarding the coach. It is a comprehensive recommendation covering all aspects of the coaching requirement of any team. They have applied themselves to the cause at hand with dedication and commitment. This is exactly what we had expected from a committee of such distinguished cricketers. On behalf of all interested in 'Cricket India', BCCI and the COA, I thank them for the service so willingly rendered by them. We accept their recommendation in totality."
The release went on to use the term "new combination". "Now that they have made the choice, we sincerely feel that the new combination will steward the team to number 1 position in the World Cup," the release said. "We need to put the immediate past events to rest and wish the team, the Captain, coach and support staff a very 'happy Innings' in the run up to the World Cup."
The BCCI's tweets on July 11:
UPDATE: Mr. Rahul Dravid is appointed as the Batting Consultant for overseas Test tours pic.twitter.com/mS1KcVI2Hh— BCCI (@BCCI) July 11, 2017
The CoA's role in the coach-appointment saga has been curious to say the least. On July 10, the day the candidates were interviewed, the CAC had announced in a press conference that it needed more time and more consultation with captain Virat Kohli before it could decide on the coach. The following morning, though, various BCCI officials confirmed that they were asked by the CoA to announce the name of the new coach "as soon as possible". The name of Shastri as new coach was then announced late on July 11.
"I don't know what exactly happened because I was not in the country at that time," Rai said about the sudden change in timelines. "The CAC decided to decide the next day; they made the announcement."
When asked if the CoA had given any instructions, Rai said, "We need not go into the details of any of those things. There was a process, that process was followed, and the announcement was made well in time."
Explaining the CoA's role in the whole matter following the announcement of the appointments, Rai insisted on calling them "recommendations".
"Recommendations have come to the CoA, it will be discussed with the office bearers, and it is only courtesy that we discuss with the head coach as to who the other coaches should be," he said.
When told of the CAC's displeasure with the new turn of events, especially because, according to the CAC, it had consulted Shastri before making its choices, Rai confirmed Shastri had indeed been consulted, but only by the CAC.
"It is a fact that he was consulted," Rai said. "There was some conversation that took place. I can't clarify on that because I was not a part of it. We didn't know. We had left it entirely to the CAC to decide, we were told that he was consulted, but since we were not privy to it…"
When asked about the CAC's letter to the CoA, which expressed severe disappointment with the media reports attributed to the CoA, Rai neither denied nor confirmed receiving such correspondence. "CAC members have corresponded a lot with the CEO, and me also," he said. "Some of the emails have come to me, some have been copied to me. We reacted to each one of those things."
Rai went on to add that they needed to check if Dravid and Zaheer were in conflict of interest if given these roles. "The fact of the matter is they have made a recommendation," Rai said. "Before we put that recommendation into fact, we have to find out conflict-of-interest issues, their willingness issues, their availability issues. We have to do that."
When asked if the CAC hadn't already spoken to the two, Rai said, "They may have spoken; we haven't. Rahul, I am sure, is engaged elsewhere. Zaheer is also engaged elsewhere. So we have to ascertain their availability."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo