The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Whatmore lets cat out of bag!
- ‘Hello Niranjan...’

Calcutta: Somebody known to The Telegraph called Dav Whatmore around 7 pm on Saturday at the Peninsula Hotel. Without waiting for the caller to speak, Bangladesh’s outgoing coach chirpily said “hello Niranjan...”

He’d assumed the caller was Niranjan Shah, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary!

Whatmore quickly recovered, but let the proverbial cat out of the bag, strongly indicating that a line of communication had been established between him and the BCCI.

It couldn’t be confirmed, but earlier in the day, an office-bearer of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) probably introduced the Australian to two BCCI officials at the Shaheed Stadium.

That was a few hours after president (and Union minister) Sharad Pawar, vice-president Rajeev Shukla, chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty and Shah winged their way to Chittagong from Mumbai aboard a special flight.

They’ve gone on an invitation from the BCB and are scheduled to return on Sunday afternoon.

Shah, of course, chose to be discreet. “I’m available if Whatmore wants to meet me,” he declared, adding that the BCCI was “aware” of his keenness to become Greg Chappell’s full-time successor.

Yet, Shah suggested nobody would make any commitment as a seven-member special committee had been given the responsibility of selecting Team India’s next coach.

Headed by Pawar, the committee has three former captains — heavyweights Srinivas Venkatraghavan, Sunil Gavaskar and (interim cricket manager) Ravi Shastri. Shah, joint-secretary Mohinder Pandove and treasurer N. Srinivasan are the other members.

Incidentally, talking exclusively, Whatmore dismissed reports that somebody in the BCB had directed him to stay away from the Shahs. “I’m not aware of such a directive.”

Whatmore’s four-year contract with the BCB ended with the World Cup, but he agreed to stay on for the current tour by India.

Strangely, Shah maintained that the BCCI hadn’t exactly drawn up a list of candidates.

“There could eventually be three-four names… Right now, though, we don’t have a list… Things will be clear on June 4, when the special committee meets in Bangalore.”

Whatever, as first reported in these columns almost a week ago, Whatmore is the frontrunner.

However, some within the BCCI are in favour of bringing back New Zealander John Wright, who worked with the Rahul Dravids from November 2000 till April 2005.

Given that Shastri is wearing two hats, he may be the one to arrange an informal meeting between a couple of the BCCI officials and Whatmore.

But Shastri, too, played it safe.

“First, let me meet Mr Pawar and the others,” he pointed out, on returning to the team hotel.

Meanwhile, speaking to newspersons after stumps on Day II, centurion Sachin Tendulkar made the following comment: “I have no idea about the June 4 meeting… We hope our inputs are considered… We also hope it’s going to be a unanimous decision…”

Two years ago, in the lead-up to Chappell’s appointment, quite a few players favoured somebody younger (and less high-profile), like Tom Moody.

Among other things, though, Moody’s “inferior presentation” cleared the way for Chappell.

Had he been available, Moody would definitely have stood out as the BCCI’s No. 1 choice this time.

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