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Time to decide Chappell's future

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HARD-HITTING REALITY: Chappell is not entirely culpable for India's uneven performances, for to believe so is to exonerate the board and absolve the players.
HARD-HITTING REALITY: Chappell is not entirely culpable for India's uneven performances, for to believe so is to exonerate the board and absolve the players.

Rohit Brijnath

By the time we calculate we require a coach, half the best candidates will have fled

Let's sketch a profile of the man we're looking for and then go find him, writes Rohit Brijnath

In a vaguely sensible world (as opposed to a "perfect world" which the BCCI will never inhabit), we would have dumped this shortly out-of-contract coach by now. Or, indeed, decided to embrace him for two more years.

Either we say, "thanks, bhai, but see you later, mate, here's your post-World Cup ticket home and please accept this sandalwood box as a token of our lack of esteem."

Or we say, "hang on you philosophising prophet, we understand it'll take just a year or two to fulfil your powerful vision, so here's another garland and an invitation to stay on."

Whatever, we've taken too long to make up our minds.

What are we waiting for? A World Cup we've got as much chance of winning as Sreesanth has of being a future match referee? If we win that ugly trophy, it'll be a miracle, and a miracle is not quite the appropriate basis for choosing a coach.

Australia's changed its coach. Tom Moody's name springs up following suggestions of Duncan Fletcher's execution. No one mentions India. By the time we calculate we require a coach, half the best candidates will have fled the scene.

In that vaguely sensible world I mentioned, we'd at least have a committee by now, if nothing else because no one enjoys panels, committees and commissions quite like we do.

The committee's men must not necessarily be the best from India, but those who want the best for India. If they're going to give us banal lectures on how a firangi can't identify with the culture in the dressing room, when, dammit, it's exactly that culture of mediocrity we want to change, then, please, don't sit on the committee.

The committee would investigate Chappell, weigh results, but make its decision not solely on India's results. Chappell is not entirely culpable for India's uneven performances, for to believe so is to exonerate the board and absolve the players.

A fair decision

What also matters is did Chappell bring valuable ideas, did he communicate them smartly, was he judicious, fair, honest, did he instil confidence in players or steal it away, did he stand up for cameras when India won and slink away when we lost, is he necessary change but in too harsh a package, is he a fine speaker or should he just suture his lips? Talk to the captain, ask players, interrogate wise observers, and if the X's outweigh the ticks, head for the sandalwood shop.

Even if we decide to farewell Chappell that would be half the job; deciding on his replacement would complete it. What did we like about John Wright, Chappell, Wadekar, what does this particular team need, let's sketch a profile of the man we're looking for, then go find him.

In a vaguely sensible world, the BCCI would also remind Virender Sehwag that the captaincy (whenever Dravid goes) isn't, as once assumed, automatically his, it isn't a prize for longevity. In manner, and form, and example, Sehwag must demonstrate he deserves it.

The BCCI might do well to worry, too, that so few candidates exist for the future captaincy (Irfan is struggling, Bhajji not a first XI regular, neither is Kaif, leaving a new-ish Dhoni and a evolving Yuvraj), to the point where the absurd notion of reinstating Tendulkar occasionally surfaces. A gently declining genius is at best a sentimental selection.

Indeed, in a vaguely sensible world, selectors chairman Vengsarkar should courteously tap older men on their shoulders Laxman 32, Dravid 34, Tendulkar 34 in April, Ganguly 35 in July, Kumble 36 and hint that their respective curtains, at varying speeds, have begun their slow motion fall.

Form, not age, should determine selection, but failures are scrutinised more harshly at their ages. After a while there is no time left to say "I'll be back."

The excellence of these men should never become obscured by average last days. They are not done yet, some have more life left than others, but quietly their skills are fading till eventually only defiance will remain.

We hold great affection for these men, but we must not indulge them. When five of them go, India will be bereft.

In a vaguely sensible world, India would also be ready.

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