The signs are clear. Ravi Shastri is seemingly not interested in extending his association with the Indian cricket team as their head coach beyond the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup that starts next month. If true, that will culminate a four-year association that began in 2017 when Anil Kumble stepped down from the post in controversial circumstances.
Under Shastri, India have achieved several milestones, more significantly in Test cricket that included reaching the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, back-to-back series wins on Australian shores and the recent tour of England where his team was leading 2-1 before the final contest was called off due to covid outbreak in the touring camp.
Several names are being talked about as his potential successor. Here we take a look at the top contenders who could be appointed to the role.
Dravid’s excellent work with the Indian junior and A teams makes him the top prospect for the top job. The fact that he has been in the system for a significant period and has been nourishing the domestic stars some of which are now representing India makes him an automatic choice. Aside from his rich coaching experience during various India A tours, between 2016 and 2019, he was also at the helm of affairs of India’s U-19 teams that finished runners-up in 2016 before became champions in 2018.
Since then he has been the Director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and in June this year, was appointed as the head coach of an Indian team’s limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. Dravid though has again applied for the post at NCA which all but rules him out of contention should he be reappointed. Add to that, he is reportedly not interested in the role on a permanent basis.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has said the board hasn’t approached the batting legend formally but has kept the doors opened.
India legend Kumble isn’t new to the rule. In fact, he served as their coach for a one year between June 2016 and June 2017 before stepping down citing his partnership with the captain Virat Kohli had become ‘untenable’. Kohli still continues to be the India captain although he will be stepping down from the post in T20Is following the World Cup. This would be an interesting choice should Kumble make his return.
Since 2019, Kumble has been serving as the head coach of the IPL franchise Punjab Kings.
This could be a wishful appointment. Dhoni retired from international cricket in 2020 and has shown no indication that he wants to become a coach. But his appointment as Team India mentor for the T20 World Cup does fuel rumours of the legendary captain returning to the set-up in full-time capacity.
He doesn’t have any full-time coaching experience but there’s no doubt over his sharp cricketing brain. He has a rich leadership experience and several members of current India squad including Kohli have time and again cited his influence in shaping their own careers. His stature, record in winning ICC trophies could be the right tonic the current team needs that has been searching for its first ever global title since 2013.
Batting legend Laxman has been serving as the batting consultant of Bengal Ranji team since 2020 and has been associated with the IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad as their mentor for some time now including in 2016 when they won their first and only league title.
Laxman is widely regarded as one of the finest batters to have played Test cricket. He scored 8781 runs in 134 Tests including 17 centuries and 56 half-centuries. In ODIs, he made 2338 runs in 83 innings including 10 centuries and 10 fifties.
Besides that, he was part of the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) also comprising Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly that was created to assist BCCI in top cricketing matters including appointment of head coaches.
Among the likely candidates, Rathour may not have a sparkling resume when it comes to playing international cricket but he does have an impressive coaching experience. The former wicketkeeper-batter represented India in six Tests and seven ODIs but was a prolific run-getter in domestic circuit where he played for Punjab. He scored over 11,000 run in first-class cricket with 33 centuries and 49 fifties. In 99 List A games, he scored 3161 runs alongsife seven centuries and 14 fifties. He also had 251 dismissals to his name across formats.
He is the current assistant coach of the Indian cricket team and before his elevation, served as their batting coach. Additionally, he has also served as the head coach of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in the past.
Between 2012 and 2016, he was the member of Indian selection committee. And as per reports, a long association with the national setup could work his favour.
The last foreigner appointed as Indian coach was the Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher between 2011 and 2015. And since then, BCCI has been putting its faith in Indians with the likes of Shastri, Kumble, Sanjay Bangar and Dravid wearing the hat.
Although, there’s no official word on the Indian cricket board possibly in hunt of an overseas coach, there are rumours that Sri Lanka batting legend Mahela Jayawardene has been contacted if he’s interested. Jayawardene has been the coach of IPL franchise Mumbai Indians and under him, they have won the titles three times. Earlier this year, he also guided Southern Brave (men’s team) to title win at the inaugural The Hundred competition.
Prior to that, he has worked as batting consultant for the England’s men team, coached Bangladesh Premier League franchise Khulna Titans as well. In July this year, the 44-year-old took up the role of consultant for Sri Lanka u-19 cricket team as well.
But like Dravid, Mahela also isn’t interested in taking up the job full time for an international team as he doesn’t “want to live out of a suitcase for 12 months of the year.”