On 23 June 2016, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed 45-year-old former Indian Test Captain Anil Kumble as Head Coach of the Indian Cricket Team for the next 12 months.
In what was perhaps the most keenly followed Coach selection, Anil Kumble beat a strong list of 57 experienced contenders from India and overseas, all of whom had thrown in their hats. It finally boiled down to a choice between him and former test player, Ravi Shastri.
The Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, which was responsible for recommending the final choices, were unanimous in their recommendation of Anil Kumble. The same was accepted and confirmed by BCCI Chief Anurag Thakur on 23 June when the Board met in Dharamsala.
The selection was not without controversy, with Ravi Shastri publicly accusing Sourav Ganguly of disrespecting him by not attending his selection interview which was conducted over Skype. Sourav later clarified that his prior commitments had already been informed to BCCI and since the scheduled interview was delayed, he had to excuse himself.
New Coach – New Beginning
Indian cricket is in transition where the old order, dominated by the dashing wicket-keeper Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is beginning to make way for the new aggressive successor, Virat Kohli.
This is a crucial period for Indian cricket which needs to preserve its legacy, earned the hard way under the aggressive and charismatic captaincy of Sourav Ganguly that saw Indian cricket team emerge as world-beaters.
It was a golden era that produced the ‘Fab Five’ of world cricket – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and of course, Sourav Ganguly. Three of them are now playing important roles as part of the Cricket Advisory Committee.
When Sourav passed on the captaincy baton to MS Dhoni there was a concern whether Dhoni would be able to fill ‘Dada’s’ shoes. But Dhoni came good and continued to build upon what the ‘Fab Five’ had collectively laid. And he led by example, pretty much like his predecessor.
The time has now come for Dhoni to begin the process of handing the baton to the younger brigade led by the aggressive Virat Kohli, and he doesn’t come alone. There’s a hungry pack of young blood out there, all vying to take Indian cricket to a new level, and this is going to take the best out of the captain and coach to nurture their aggression towards optimizing performance.
It’s a challenge which needs the captain and the coach to work together in keeping the team’s motivation and performance at peak levels when it matters most. This is where the equation between a young and ambitious Virat Kohli and a mature and calm Anil Kumble will come into play.
Sourav, Tendulkar and Laxman have played alongside Anil Kumble and know that he possesses a fine cricketing mind. His career record speaks for itself. Anil Kumble just happens to be best suited to take over the challenging job as Head Coach of the Indian team.
His record speaks
Kumble happens to be the third most successful bowler in test cricket history, having scalped 619 wickets spread over 132 test matches. The highest wicket taker is Muttiah Muralitharan with 800 wickets and is followed by Shane Warne who bagged 708 wickets. In 1996, Wisden named Kumble as one of their Top 5 cricketers of the year.
That’s no mean achievement for someone who earned the nickname ‘Jumbo’. Not being a great turner, Kumble built a reputation for reading the pitch well and using his pace and bounce to confuse and beat the best of batsmen. Behind the gentle smile lies a smart strategic mind that has honed its cricketing skills over the years.
His never-say-die spirit was in ample display when he was struck by a bouncer from Merv Dillon in a test match against the West Indies in 2002. Despite fracturing a jaw, a bandaged Kumble was soon back on the pitch bowling as though it were just another day.
So can all this experience translate into an inspiring Coach?
It seems so. Besides captaining India in 14 tests, Kumble has been an effective team mentor to Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, where he was able to share his experience with both young and experienced cricketers, from India and overseas, and he succeeded in earning their respect.
He has started off his new assignment as Head Coach on a positive note, striking an immediate chord with Virat Kohli and his young team. Kumble has a clear plan for each cricketer and has defined his vision for the next 12 months.
His coaching skills will be put to test when India take on the West Indies in the first of four tests, starting 21 July, in the West Indies. With Pakistan currently in third position in ICC Rankings, the outcome of these four tests will be crucial for India in holding on to its second spot in rankings.
Another factor that will play a role in determining rankings is the current 4-Test series being played between England and Pakistan. So Kumble will have to bring out the best from all players and go for the kill, if India is to hold on to its second spot and perhaps aim for the top spot in coming time.
Anil Kumble has been through it all and his experience will be crucial during the gruelling series in West Indies. Soon after, India take on New Zealand in India with a 3-Test series that begins in the third week of September. So Kumble has his task cut out before him and has ample opportunity to test his strategies going forward.
Schedule for the forthcoming India-West Indies Test Series
1st Test: 21 July (Thurs) – 25 July (Mon); Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua
2nd Test: 30 July (Sat) – 03 August (Wed); Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica
3rd Test: 09 August (Tue) – 13 August (Sat); Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, Gros Islet
4th Test: 18 August (Thurs) – 22 August (Mon); Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad