Is the Indian cricket head coach’s job not a hot property anymore?

Incessant travel, pressure of all formats and competing IPL pay packages mean lesser takers now

Gautam Gambhir is believed to be among the top contenders for Rahul Dravid's job (Photo: KKR/X)
Gautam Gambhir is believed to be among the top contenders for Rahul Dravid's job (Photo: KKR/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

There were no real surprises when Gautam Gambhir, the sole contender for the post of India’s head coach after Rahul Dravid, expressed his readiness to take over the job at a promotional event in Dubai on Sunday, June 2, 2024. His public admission, meanwhile, is sure to generate a sigh of relief among the BCCI top brass as it has become a virtual one-horse race now.   

‘’I would love to coach the Indian team. There is no bigger honour than coaching your national team. You are representing 140 crore Indians and across the globe as well,’’ said the two-time World Cup winner. Riding on a high after Kolkata Knight Riders’ IPL triumph last week and an extremely successful debut as a IPL mentor barely three seasons back, Gambhir is definitely a candidate with strong credentials but the circumstances under which he became the only choice raises questions about how inviting the job currently is. 

Is the position of India head coach then not such an enviable one anymore, despite the high profile and the wholesome pay package it entails? There was a time – not so long before – when the likes of a Greg Chappell had to pass the muster with a presentation while heavyweights like Ravi Shastri or Anil Kumble had to appear in virtual interviews with the erstwhile Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) members with a vision plan.  

Cut to 2024, it’s still not clear whether Gambhir had formally applied within the stipulated deadline of 27 May but is considered the best candidate anyway as VVS Laxman – the head of National Cricket Academy (NCA) and deemed to be a natural successor to Dravid at the conclusion of the 50-overs World Cup last year – has expressed his reluctance to take over the job.  

Meanwhile, former Australian captain Ricky Ponting went public in a signed article on the ICC website that he was sounded out for the job on a one-to-one basis while Justin Langer, his erstwhile teammate and head coach of Lucknow Super Giants, did his cause a huge disservice by revealing that he was alerted about the ‘pressure and internal politics’ of the job by none other than KL Rahul – captain of his franchise. Stephen Fleming, the respected former New Zealand captain and head coach of Chennai Super Kings, was another candidate who was sounded out for the top job without much success. 

The BCCI (read: Jay Shah) retorted to such reports with a quick denial that they have contacted any overseas candidate and announced that the candidate will be an Indian with an inside out knowledge of Indian cricket’s ecosystem. Well, it’s Shah’s words against someone like Ponting and the board will take a final call, but the enormous pressure of the job and travel for almost 11 months in a year – vis-à-vis the huge packages on offer these days to be in charge of a IPL franchise for less than three months annually – is certainly proving to be a dampener towards finding overseas coaches.  

Meanwhile, the BCCI’s reluctance to appoint separate coaches for the red and white ball coaches – despite them being the richest national cricket body by a light year – has also not helped in alleviating the pressure of the job. Just ponder this, nations like England, South Africa and Pakistan have toed the line while Australia are travelling with an interim coach in Andrew McDonald, but India have no such plans.  

It’s a factor which had deterred Dravid for a long time from taking up the India job, till Sourav Ganguly – his longtime friend and erstwhile BCCI president – persuaded him to take up the challenge for a two-year term till the 50-overs World Cup. Dravid, whose contract was then extended by another six months till the World T20, could not reportedly be convinced to extend his term any further. 

Now that Gambhir is agreeable to the job in principle, it’s a formality for him to part ways with the Kolkata Knight Riders management – despite the latter nurturing a long term vision with him. Can GG repeat his magic in the arduous, and often thankless job of guiding the most widely followed cricket team in the world – apart from earning acceptability across the board with the players?     

 We will wait and watch till he actually takes over! 

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