Why VVS Laxman is the right candidate to succeed Dravid as India coach
The BCCI may like to close the issue before the full and demanding South Africa tour begins on 10 December
There is no surprise in seeing VVS Laxman, one of the world's modern batting greats, at India’s dugout as they begin a T20 series against Australia in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam on Thursday. This time, of course, it could be the beginning of a long haul as the current head of National Cricket Academy (NCA) is in line to replace Rahul Dravid as the new head coach.
As the dust is settling after the 50-over ICC World Cup, it could be the first step of the churn in Indian cricket for the next two-year cycle leading to the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy. However, Dravid, whose two-year contract ended last Sunday, has not officially expressed his desire to step down after the World Cup final.
Speaking immediately after the six-wicket defeat to Australia in the final, Dravid said in reply to a query about his future: ‘’Honestly, I haven’t thought about it. All our campaigns, all our energies were focused on this match, focused on this tournament. And I haven’t given it any thought. I have had no plans of what’s going to happen in the future.’’
There is also a school of thought that he could be asked to take over a particular format and hence, 'The Wall' kept things open-ended. The buzz, however, is that the former India captain, who was coaxed into accepting the job by his erstwhile teammate and then Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly, is not willing to stay away from his family for long stretches any longer — and would prefer to return to the Indian Premier League (IPL) as a coach with his former team Rajasthan Royals already keen to have him on board.
The arrow then points to Laxman, who has been filling in for Dravid over the past two years whenever the men in blue were engaged in two series simultaneously, though there could be many a slip between the cup and the lip. Nonetheless, with less than three weeks left ahead of India’s tour of South Africa, which begins on 10 December, the BCCI may like to close the issue before the full and demanding tour over the year-end.
The board, in the past, used to put out advertisements to regularise any appointment, and had invited famous overseas names for interviews, but in a policy shift, dispensed with the idea of a non-Indian coach since Duncan Fletcher, whose tenure ended in 2015.
The decision makers were also inclined to the idea of roping in someone of the stature of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a mentor for the T20 format, like they did for the 2021 World T20, though it did not produce the desired results.
What are the attributes that make Laxman the right man for the job? The biggest plus in his favour is that after Dravid, he is the man with the best credentials as a cricketer who can command the respect of a star-studded team, including the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. A key attribute in a team like India, where the job of the head coach is more that of a manager who is also competent enough to provide cricketing inputs if anyone needs it.
The other factor which works in Laxman’s favour is that he has been through the grind in terms of coaching experience — starting as a batting consultant with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for their ‘Vision 2020’ programme, initiated at the behest of its erstwhile president Ganguly, for a number of years.
Laxman was also in the thick of things when it came to the T20 format as batting mentor for IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad until two seasons ago, when he took over the NCA role. He worked in tandem with Tom Moody, a highly rated strategist often in the reckoning for the India coach’s post and Muttiah Muralitharan, turning Sunrisers into one of the most consistent IPL outfits until they slipped up over the last two seasons.
The third factor is surely Laxman’s familiarity with the India set-up as he had been at the helm of the second-string Indian team over eight T20 Internationals and nine ODIs. This included a gold medal campaign in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, while the win percentage under him in T20Is is 75 per cent (six out of eight matches) and 55.5 per cent in ODIs (five wins out of nine, two losses and two no results).
The next couple of weeks will provide a clear picture on this front!