Will the coachless Indian team be dogged by bad weather?

By Ashis Ray, IANS

Belfast : "The sun never shines at Old Trafford" has been a recurring refrain. Not too far west of this Manchester venue, across the Irish sea is Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Depressions forming over either city often envelops the other. In the ensuing week, not just these two urban centres with notorious climates, but almost the entire British isles is forecast to experience a deluge. So, as Rahul Dravid and his men abandoned net practice on Sunday and went sight-seeing, rather frustrating weather could be awaiting them in the week ahead.

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Two months ago, the Honorary Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Niranjan Shah, thoughtlessly proclaimed that it was not for his organisation to go searching for a successor to Greg Chappell, but for interested candidates to approach them. In the event, only Dav Whatmore apparently did on his own initiative; but was, inexplicably, not even invited for an interview.

If Shah thought the job of India coach is the most coveted in the cosmos and the brightest talent would be tripping over each other to apply, he was under a major misconception. The reported remuneration of US$20,000 a month is not significantly higher than salaries drawn by county coaches in England, and a one-year term is acutely insecure for a person expected to quit an existing long term contract. In fact, the extension denied to Chappell has made potential applicants even more wary.

Where the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) appointed a coach within 48 hours of Duncan Fletcher's resignation, the BCCI continues to grope in the dark even after three months of it becoming evident that the writing was on the wall for Chappell. Why? Quite simply because the BCCI is not administered by professionals. Decision making by committee is a process without conviction. Moreover, it takes weeks for a committee to convene and months to summon a board meeting. How can Indian cricket compete in the modern world under such a medieval set-up?

In effect, the Indians have arrived in the United Kingdom without a coach. Cricket Manager Chandu Borde may be a respected figure, perhaps even a good tactician, but at 72, his familiarity with the application of computers in cricket is likely to be limited. Therefore, the Indian tourists, who have become accustomed to a coach with a modern and scientific coach, will have to endure a significant handicap.

However, India's visit transpires after peace has mercifully descended on Northern Ireland after decades of bloody violence between Catholics and Protestants. If play is at all possible between the predicted rain at the leafy Civil Service Ground within stone's throw of Stormont Castle, office of the British Minister for Northern Ireland and the nerve centre of political activity in the province, South Africa possess a better pace attack than India and are, consequently, at an advantage in the bowling department in Irish conditions. But are slightly debilitated by the absence of Shaun Pollock and Graeme Smith.

The Indians, on the other hand, could have persevered with a policy of experimenting with new players instead of nervously reverting to Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The "off-shore" series, a part of the BCCI's money-making exercise, was an opportunity to begin creating options for next year's Champions' Trophy.

Saturday's victory over the club level side that Ireland presented provided few clues to India's actual capabilities, though it was exciting to watch the teenaged Piyush Chawla, who, if selected, could also trouble the South Africans, generally not the most skilful negotiators of wrist spin.