What Anil Kumble brings on the table as head coach

Anyone, who was closely following ‘the great coach hunt’ of BCCI, knew that the final battle was between Ravi Shastri and Anil Kumble. By picking Anil Kumble over Ravi Shastri, BCCI has cleared two things. First, that the Indian cricket is aiming to be the number one in the purest form of cricket i.e. Test cricket and; second, by giving just one year contract to Kumble, BCCI has made sure that the stature of Kumble would not get him longer run and he needs to prove his worth in next one year to get a contract extension.

There is huge hue and cry over why only one year contract was given to Anil Kumble and not a full contract of 3-4 years like many previous coaches were given. Amid all this hue and cry, we must not forget that however great a player Kumble was, he has no prior coaching experience and many greats of the game, in past, have failed in their coaching stints. One year seems too less to prove someone’s worth as coach but India is set to play 17 test matches along with few ODIs and an all-important ICC Champions Trophy in coming year and that is good enough number of matches to assess the performance of any coach. Considering other sports like football, where more than one manager is sacked within a year if they fail to deliver the desired result, one year is good enough for Anil Kumble to prove his worth.

Kumble is an icon of international cricket. His 619 Test wickets and match winning spells are the testimony to his greatness, his personal description will be full of adjectives of praises but the pertinent question is what will he bring on the table as head coach of Team India.

One thing that is certain with the arrival of Anil Kumble is that he will bring with him the art of putting heart and soul in the game. His grit, determination, and never say die attitude is sure to rub off on the Indian players.

There is a new found aggression and spunk in Team India for which credit should go to Virat Kohli but very often Ravi Shastri is credited for it. There is a fixation in media over new aggressive Team India but aggression never wins you matches, it may inspire some players like Virat Kohli to perform at their best even in pressure cooker situation created by aggressive brand of cricket but most of the Indian players or players from any other country are likely to fail in this kind of situation as they can’t tolerate the heat generated by aggressiveness.

Kumble will keep these young and super-charged Indian players in check and keep them level headed. He will pass on his art of putting heart and soul in the game, art of being gritty to this new breed of Indian cricketers, which is more likely to win matches for India than the aggression. We don’t have to look back beyond 2008 to know how grit and determination makes a team win matches from impossible situations. Remember the famous Perth Test match, after that infamous Test at Sydney in 2008. Remember the frayed tempers that Sydney Test saw, remember the contempt that the Aussies had shown to the Indians but Indian players remained determined under captaincy of Kumble and  the ‘Gritty Indians’ beat the ‘Aggressive Aussies’ in the conditions (fastest Perth pitch) that was not supposed to help Indians and halted the 16 match winning streak of the Aussies.

Another aspect of Indian cricket that needs an immediate fix is bowling in Test matches. Fast bowlers are wayward most of the times. They don’t stick to a set line and length and don’t bowl to the set field and who better than Kumble to guide them. Bowling at same line and length and bowling according to the set field is an art that Kumble mastered and did it day in and day out for Team India.

Indian spinners have also struggled to get any purchase out of the pitch in overseas conditions and again who better than Anil Kumble to guide them on how to make best of their limited abilities and the limiting conditions. Remember when Kumble arrived at international cricket, he didn’t have vicious turn like Warne or Muralitharan. He was considered a bowler with limited abilities but still he went on to take 619 Test wickets. It displays he knows how to turn one’s limitation into one’s asset and will pass on that secret to the Indian bowlers who find it hard to be successful in overseas conditions.

Another thing that Kumble can pass on is his winning mentality and the secret of performing better as a team in overseas conditions as he was a part of India’s best touring side that, between 2003 and 2008, challenged world’s best teams in their den and created a sound base for India to be the number one ranked Test team which India eventually achieved in 2009.

Modern day coaching is more about man management than about imparting skills and, Kumble, in the past, has shown that he stands by his players and gives them the confidence to perform at their best at the international arena. Everyone knows how Kumble had brought Sehwag back in team India, even when selectors were not so keen to give him a chance but Kumble’s faith paid off and Sehwag won many matches for India after coming back in the team at the insistence of Kumble. Similarly, Kumble made sure that the team and BCCI stand right behind Harbhajan Singh after the “Monkeygate” incident in 2008. He has a proven track record in man management that will come handy when he takes over as India’s head coach in the coming tour of the West Indies.

Indian cricket has a history of success when coach works silently behind the curtains like John Wright or Gary Kirsten did. Captain-coach combination of Kohli and Kumble can become this generation’s combination of Ganguly and John Wright where one is expressive, passionate and takes the world head on whereas the other is not in love with the camera and works silently behind the curtains. Kumble will be the perfect foil for current Test captain Virat Kohli.

Under John Wright and Ganguly, India learnt how to challenge world’s best teams, under Gary Kirsten and Dhoni, India learnt how to be champions of the world, under Kumble and Kohli, maybe, India will learn how to be a dominant champion team for much longer times like West Indies was in the 1980s or Australia in late the 1990s and 2000s.


India’s tour of Zimbabwe : Dhoni’s pride at stake

Team India doesn’t have an off season. They play cricket throughout the year and on most occasions stakes are high, in such scenario, Dhoni on most occasions, at toss, utters three magical word: “Team is unchanged”. Dhoni can’t be blamed for not testing bench strength as high stakes throughout the year don’t provide him luxury of testing bench strength.

Tours like that of Zimbabwe give Team India chance to test bench strength. Most of the regular players are given rest and others’ are given chance to prove their mettle. This tour is no different. However an exception has been made this time, Dhoni is travelling to Zimbabwe for the first time since 2005.

Zimbabwe might be low ranked team but when it come to playing determined and passionate cricket, they are no less than any top team. India’s inexperienced team may find the tour not as easy as they expected.

For young players, it is going to be tough tour. Good performances in this tour may not earn them a regular spot in Team India but a bad series against Zimbabwe might shut the door of Team India for them as Indian players are expected to do better against teams like Zimbabwe whereas a bad performance against Zimbabwe is seen as the fact that player is not cut out for international cricket.

Dhoni, earlier, in his many press conferences has said that India, now a days, dont produce readymade cricketers who come and fit in international cricket, especially the bowlers. This tour is full of yougsters who have made their name in donestic cricket and IPL. It is the time for these young players to prove their captain wrong and show to the captain and the world that they have capability and skill to take world by storm.

Biggest stake in this tour is of Dhoni. People have started writing his cricketing obituary. Large section of media, cricket experts and ex-players are gunning for Dhoni’s head. It’s not that Dhoni’s captaincy skill has drastically deteriorated. He is still the same but his batting has lost some of the sheen. He is still fit, always puts price on his wicket and is among best wicketkeepers that world has seen. So question is why then everyone is gunning for his head. Answer to this question is simple , the soon to be captain, Virat Kohli, is in form of his life for last two years. He is a run machine, a winner and arguably best batsmen of this generation. His form with bat has put him at numero uno position and on the other hand Dhoni’s not so good season with bat has burdened and shackled him. Cries of removing Dhoni as captain has more to do with his not so good performance with bat than with his captaincy skill.

If Dhoni fails to perform with bat in this tour than his removal from captaincy is all but certain. Dhoni has to realise that his best place to bat in ODIs is at number 4. He has to forgo his role as finisher and has to become a run accumulator, which he is definitely capable of. It will work in India’s favour as India will get to try different players as finisher and by the time Dhoni decides to hang his boot, a replacement finisher would be ready. India will also get a better no.4 player in Dhoni which will give team India the balance that is lacking for past few years. Dhoni’s pride is at stake in this tour because a man who has won so many matches for India both as captain and as batsman is being forced out of team and to salvage his pride Dhoni has to move at no. 4 if he fails to do so this might be last series that we see Dhoni as captain of team India.

Muhammad Ali : The Greatest Ever


Who was Muhammad Ali and was the boxing only reason for the love he got from all over the world ?? Answer is straight forward “No”. Muhammad Ali was known as “Cassius Marcellus Clay” the name which was given to him by his family. He took up boxing at the age of 12 and there is interesting story behind it.

When he was 12, his bicycle was stolen and when he went to report to police about his stolen bicycle, he told a police officer he was going to “whup” the culprit. The police officer was Joe Martin and he suggested him to learn to box before he challenged the thief. His boxing career took off from there which ended with three heavyweight championship and one olympic medal but what gave him popularity was his unflinching self belief, his showmanship and his outspoken support for civil rights.

At the age of 18, in 1960, he was selected in the US boxing team for the Rome Olympics. He was unwilling to go because of his fear of flying and there is a story that he bought a second-hand parachute and wore it on the flight to beat his fear of flying. The journey was worth taking as he beat Zbigniew Pietrzykowski to become the Olympic light-heavyweight champion.

He received a hero’s welcome when the team returned to New York but the reality of the discrimination in US society hit him when he was refused a table in a restaurant. This incident made him fierce supporter of civil rights.

Clay not only wanted to box out opponents but also wanted to box out racism that was plaguing America in 1960s. Clay involved himself with a group that was rooting for separate black development.Clay converted to Islam in these circumstances and became Muhammad Ali. In his opinion Cassius Clay was his “slave name” that needed to be abandoned.

Ernie Terrell referred to Ali by the birth-name Clay during the build-up to their world championship fight in 1967. Muhammad Ali gave him a 15-round battering and during the bout, Ali screamed in Terrell’s face: “What’s my name, Uncle Tom?”

Many of such acts were seen as Ali supporting and promoting religious fanaticism in already divided US society.

On April 28, 1967, time in which United States was at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” He was banned from boxing for three years.

Few days after his return, Ali fought in the “Fight of the Century” on March 8 1971 against Joe Frazier and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional career.

Ali got his revenge three years later and beat Frazier and later George Foreman in Zaire in the fight called as “Rumble in the Jungle” and reclaimed his Heavyweight Championship. His match against Foreman is worth watching for his tactic called as “rope-a-dope”, where he was seen on ropes for first seven rounds soaking puches of Foreman and at the end of the eighth round he jumped out of his defensive shell and sent Foreman packing with knock-out punch.

A year later, Ali was up against Frazier for a third time in a fight called as “Thrilla in Manila”, in one of the most brutal bout. As per Ali himself it was the closest he had come to death in the ring. Ali came triump again when Frazier’s corner stopped the fight after 14 rounds.

In Las Vegas in February 1978, he lost his title to Leon Spinks, who was 12 years his junior. In the return fight in New Orleans eight months later drew a world record gate, with millions more watching on television. This time Ali won the world title for a third time at the age of 36.In his professional career, he won 56 fights, 37 by way of knockout, and lost 5.

Muhammad Ali was a showman in the ring, he teased and taunted his opponents. His self belief was construed by many as overconfidence. Muhammad Ali, early in his professional career, also started correctly predicting the round of victory. Once he correctly predicted round of victory for 7 times out of 8. In February 1962, he beat Don Warner in four rather than the five predicted by him, he later said that he finished the fight in four because Warner had not shaken hand.

He also became crowd favourite for his “I am greatest” claim and following it with magnificent performances. His humility after retirement impressed everyone. Later he was seen as a man who was ready to do anything for world peace and for an egalitarian society. He was a hero for world and particularly for large numbers of black people. His life had ups and downs but he was never down. He lived like a fighter and died like a fighter.

RIP The Greatest Ever