CHENNAI: As the selection panel ended the process for selecting India’s support staff, Vikram Rathour has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Sanjay Bangar as batting coach.
There aren’t going to be other changes. Bharathi Arun and R Sridhar are set for a two-year extension as bowling and fielding coaches. The former may be elevated to assistant coach, a title he held in 2015-2016.
MSK Prasad & Co have been interviewing candidates over three days. While there were some high-profile names, Shastri’s preference to have Indians has ruled out Jonathan Trott, Mark Ramprakash, Thilan Samaraweera and Jonty Rhodes.
On Tuesday, the three incumbents were interviewed via Skype. It was learnt that Bangar was grilled on India’s batting performances overseas, about the dip in the performances of Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul, and the failure to identify a No 4 in ODIs, which proved to be an Achilles Heel for India at the World Cup.
While the selectors are likely to consult with captain Virat Kohli and Shastri before making the announcement, it is understood that Bangar’s time may come to an end after the West Indies tour. Bangar enjoys good rapport with the captain, but Shastri is unlikely to meddle if selectors have an alternate in mind.
Amol Muzumdar made an impressive presentation, but sources indicated that the 50-year-old Rathour — who played six Tests and seven ODIs in the mid 90s — has made a strong case for his inclusion. In fact, NCA head of cricket Rahul Dravid had even recommended the former Punjab opener as a batting coach for the academy. Rathour was a part of the selection panel from 2012-2016, and also coached Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in Ranji Trophy.
Sridhar, Arun to stay
Rhodes was expected to give competition to Sridhar. But sources revealed that the Hyderabad native made a data-driven presentation, highlighting India’s vast improvement in slip-catching and ground-fielding. In the World Cup, India had a catching rate of 91 per cent, best among all teams.
While Rhodes too had extensive plans, Sridhar’s impressive work with Yuzvendra Chahal, Cheteshwar Pujara and Jasprit Bumrah, and developing a good slip cordon have titled the balance in his favour. Chahal, for instance, was seen as a liability as he had suffered six fractures during his India career. But he’s improved drastically over the last year. Similarly, Pujara has overcome knee surgeries to turn into a reliable close-in fielder. “The biggest takeaway from his presentation was that he’s promised to turn Rishabh Pant into a world-class wicketkeeper in two years,” the source added.
Even with regards to Arun, the bowling coach seems to have only presented the performance of the bowling unit under his tenure, and is understood to have devoted much of his time improving the bench strength. Apart from having Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Arun has also developed the likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. On the spin front, there is an embarrassment of riches. The selectors reckon he is the best man to take the attack forward.
For the team manager’s position, the chances of Sunil Subramaniam continuing remains a 50-50 possibility with the interviews set to take place on Thursday. Nitin Patel and Soham Desai may be appointed as the team’s physio and trainer.