When it comes to matters of communication, the BCCI can be described as uncommunicative. So secretive are the affairs of the world's richest cricket body and their hard-nosed officials that they could put governments to shame.
And when they do intend to communicate, this is what they come up with: "In culmination of the discussions among all the office bearers of BCCI over the last couple of weeks, the BCCI has decided to avail the services of former India captain, Mr Ravi Shastri, to oversee and guide the Indian cricket team for the forthcoming one-day series against England. Mr Duncan Fletcher will continue as head coach while Ravi Shastri will be the overall in-charge of cricket affairs of the Indian team."
This is an excerpt from the BCCI's media release. So Shastri will "oversee and guide" the team during the limited-overs leg of the England tour. Fair enough. Now, here's the confounding part: Fletcher will continue as head coach while Shastri will be the "overall in-charge of cricket affairs". Does it mean that he will be the super head coach? Does it imply that Fletcher, who has guided this team (albeit with limited success) and England (with distinction) in a coaching career spanning more than 15 years, will report to the
BCCI's yes man, one with no formal coaching experience?
What is the BCCI trying to prove here? Can't it give its employee, who reportedly makes $30,000 a month, marching orders pronto? Why all this drama? And why Shastri?
Of late, everyone in the BCCI is familiar with the idiom 'in the doldrums'. Well, when your president is admonished by an authority as powerful as the Supreme Court, you ought to be worried. Now, the team's fortunes mirror its parent body. Either way, the powers-that-be look towards two men: either Shastri or Sunil Gavaskar. This time, it's Shastri's turn.
From taking over the reins of the team after a disastrous World Cup campaign (2007) to being the BCCI's representative on the commentary panel; from joining the IPL governing council to being a highly-paid consultant; from agreeing to be on the BCCI-appointed panel to probe alleged wrongdoings in the IPL to unabashedly praising the likes of Sharad Pawar and N Srinivasan at every possible opportunity, Shastri has done it all. And you bet he is yearning for more.
Moments after England hit the final nail in the coffin at The Oval, Shastri waxed eloquent: "It's not the end of the world. It's the end of the series". Earlier on the tour, he cajoled and sweet-talked Srinivasan to such an extent that the usually straight-faced cement baron let out a hearty smile. He actually called the BCCI's president-in-abeyance an "out-and-out sportsman" on air.
Srinivasan, who oddly enough is the ICC chairman, used the air time to speak of his plans for the world body. For once, Shastri did more of the listening. There was not one question on the investigation being monitored by the Supreme Court; not one question on the allegations of corruption either.
Much like Gavaskar, Shastri has positioned himself as an independent observer with unquestioned integrity. That he is on the payroll of the BCCI — how much he pockets is not known but it's believed to be in the region of Rs 5 crore — is, perhaps, just a coincidence. Shastri loves to play the myriad roles of employee, arbitrator, critic, accuser, commentator, administrator and, in times of deep crises like now, angel rescuer. Like a powered paraglider, he motors between these roles with effortless ease, shirking off one garb and putting on another.
Yes, Shastri shares a fine, informal relationship with the players, but does that mean he must call the shots in the presence of Fletcher and Dhoni? Or is it that the short-term job suits him well? Get the house in (supposed) order and leave. Why is the BCCI shying away from bigger problems? Like that of MS Dhoni's future as Test captain. And that of Fletcher as head coach?
Interestingly, the BCCI has given a break to bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penny. Both will not be around during the one-day series. Instead, Sanjay Bangar, the former India all-rounder, and Bharat Arun, the former India fast bowler who has worked wonders with the Under-19 boys for some years now, will join the team as assistant coaches. R Sridhar will be fielding coach. Just what the doctor ordered? Ask Shastri.