indian cricket

Dear Sachin, Sourav and VVS, care to explain why Anil Kumble was such a no-brainer for head coach?

The cricketing credentials of the 45-year-old are beyond doubt, but the manner in which he was selected by the BCCI's advisory committee raises some questions.

The decision was welcomed by one and all with utmost joy. One of India’s greatest ever cricketers – the country’s leading wicket-taker, the guy who batted and bowled with a broken jaw and the man who skittled 10 Pakistanis in one innings – was announced as the Indian team’s new head coach amid much jubilation. Ever since it was first reported that Anil Kumble had tossed his hat into the ring for the job, it was almost as if it was meant to be. No one else stood a chance. Ravi Shastri, who?

There are many reasons why Kumble would make a good coach, in spite of the fact that his coaching credentials are limited. The 45-year-old has never coached an international or first-class team, which was one of the criteria the Board of Control for Cricket in India had listed in the job description. Kumble has had a couple of brief stints as mentor of Indian Premier League franchises Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, but this is the closest he has gotten to coaching a professional sports team.

Kumble might still make an excellent coach and there’s no doubting his intentions and cricketing credentials, but it’s the manner in which he was selected that raises some questions. According to reports, the BCCI had received as many as 57 original applications for job, including Kumble’s, when it first put out the job vacancy in early June. Out of these, 21 were shortlisted by board secretary Ajay Shirke and their CVs were sent to the BCCI's cricket advisory committee, comprising the holy trinity of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, for the final round of interviews.

Now, here’s the interesting bit. According to ESPNcricinfo, Kumble had not made that 21-man shortlist. It was on the insistence of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman that his name was added to the pot. A select few out of the 22 men, obviously including Kumble, were then asked to make presentations to the advisory committee earlier this week. It was reported that Kumble’s presentation was the longest and most detailed of the lot. Not that it would have mattered, of course.

Stop-gap measure?

The advisory committee had made it clear that Kumble was its favourite for the job and, thus, it came as no surprise on Thursday evening when the BCCI announced the result. However, Kumble had only got a one-year contract. Shirke explained that the former cricketer “is now transforming himself from being a great on the cricketing field to probably becoming a great coach that we expect him to be. That transition has to be smooth…that is the reason we want to be able to be in a position to review our options should there be any need. I am confident that we will not have that need to address that need (sic).”

Shirke has tried his best to make it sound logical, but what this shows is that the BCCI isn’t sure of its own decision. It either means that they were not convinced with any of the candidates, including Kumble, but gave it to him as a stop-gap measure. If it works out, well and good. If it doesn’t, we’ll have the circus again in a year. Or, it could mean that they actually believe Kumble is the right choice, but considering his lack of experience, they want to test him out in a season where India is majorly playing at home.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t even a single candidate among the 57 that applied who wasn’t worthy enough of being entrusted with the Indian team for more than 12 months. The list included people with considerable coaching experience and proven credentials, such as Praveen Amre, Sandeep Patil and Tom Moody. If the BCCI did want to give Kumble a trial, could they not have offered him the role of a bowling coach or team mentor for a year, instead of making him head coach?

Where's the transparency?

BCCI President Anurag Thakur said that the advisory committee looked into all applications and the shortlisted names were discussed “with other stakeholders in the board [and] in the team” before taking a call. “We have taken little more time, but we wanted to be more transparent and wanted to pick the best,” he added.

If the BCCI actually wants to be transparent and involve all stakeholders, it should reveal to the fans, who are the ultimate stakeholders, as to why it bent its own rules to accommodate Kumble, but then gave him the job only on a temporary basis. Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman may be the most respected cricketers in the country, but unless they explain their decision, it’s only going to come across as preferential treatment to an old teammate.

With Kumble handling the senior team, Rahul Dravid in charge of the Under-19 and ‘A’ teams, and Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman working for the BCCI, it makes for a fascinating story: India’s fabulous five have taken control of Indian cricket. The future is bright and all that.

However, the fans deserve to know the reasons behind their decisions. If Kumble’s presentation was indeed so fantastic, can the BCCI put it in the public domain for everyone to see? If his candidature was indeed the best out of a pool of 57, can Messrs Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman care to explain what made him stand out?

Can the BCCI also clear the air over reports which stated that members of the Indian team, including Test captain Virat Kohli, wanted Shastri as head coach? For all the jokes that are cracked about his commentary, it was widely reported that Shastri had the support of the dressing room during his two-year tenure as team director, which ended in March. If this is true, where was he found lacking compared to Kumble, a coaching rookie?

Knowing the way the BCCI functions, it is unlikely these questions will ever be answered. Indian fans can, therefore, only hope that the board and its holy trinity have taken the right decision. Everything said and done, Kumble deserves a chance. Good luck, Jumbo, and hope it all works out for the best!

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.