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 praise
s 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.