“Heartiest welcome to @anilkumble1074 Sir. Look forward to your tenure with us. Great things in store for Indian Cricket with you,” Virat Kohli tweeted on June 23, 2016, the day Anil Kumble was appointed the head coach for a period of one year. Out of the list of 57 candidates, Kumble was the ‘Choosen One’ and his appointment was widely celebrated, and drew respectful tweets from the current Team India members. All, then, was well and the double Ks (Kohli and Kumble) seemed set for a successful partnership.
In numerous press conferences, the two praised each other’s skills and contribution to the country. There were plenty of similarities, a proven match-winner being one, and there was a visible hunger to take India to the top, at least when they took to the microphone. The partnership followed an expected script. Wins came by and a culture, discipline to be precise, was put in place. If you are late, give a fine; be ready for yoga and team bonding sessions when the weather doesn’t allow play (during the tour of West Indies) and, as numerous reports doing rounds suggest lengthy net sessions.
New Zealand came (to India), lost. England were next, but the result didn’t change. Bangladesh arrived, only to return disappointed. Australia signalled intent with a win in the opening Test, but returned without the trophy. Series after series, India, under Kohli and Kumble, were beginning to be recognised as ‘The Invincibles’. They were not putting a foot wrong and the bench was only getting stronger by the day. All, however, was happy till it lasted and before the ‘reservations with style’ began. Before the team arrived in England for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 title defence, The Indian Express reported about the possible tension in the Indian dressing room and the rift between Kohli and Kumble.
They were put to rest after the skipper’s straightforward response to a question at the presser, but more eyebrows were raised when Kohli went on to acknowledge batting coach Sanjay Bangar and throwdown expert but without a word on Kumble. The former India captain didn’t even come for a press conference. There have been numerous theories spamming Facebook and Twitter walls. “Kohli thinks he is bigger than the game,” read one. “Kohli’s ego came in the way,” followed next. “If you have to survive as coach, follow captain’s line,” was another strong suggestion. None have been proven yet but the mood is clearly not right as India land in West Indies, the country which was Kumble’s first assignment as coach. The team is without a coach on this occasion and there has been no Tweet from any player this time around. Everyone is tight-lipped, so is the skipper.
What example does this set for coaches to follow. Follow or exit? It’s my way or the way out? It’s safe to sit back in the comfort of an air-conditioner and think about all possibilities, but it will be silly to reach conclusions. Yes, the matter could have been handled in a far more mature manner. Kumble, India’s leading wicket-taker in Tests, deserved far more respect is what one would believe, but then it’s only Kumble we have heard. What about Kohli? What about the team? What about the management? What about Cricket Advisory Committee? As Aakash Chopra said to indianexpress.com, “we should not make villians before hearing both sides.”
A “Thank You” post by Kumble, with a long message, did create a sympathetic mood on social media, but the skipper is yet to react. The only reaction so far is Kohli deleting his welcome message tweet for Kumble. A matter as serious as this certainly can’t be put to rest with two posts on social media. A lot has transpired between those two updates and, borrowing lines from a popular TV anchor, the nation clearly wants to know.