Even before BCCI president Anurag Thakur made the official announcement, Anil Kumble had started trending on social media. The former India captain gazumped Ravi Shastri, jumping into the fray at the eleventh hour. In fact, Kumble became the favourite the moment he showed interest to become the new head coach of the Indian team. On Thursday at Dharamsala, Thakur confirmed his appointment.
Kumble doesn’t have any previous coaching experience at international or first-class level. His candidature was rejected at the BCCI’s initial scrutiny, because it didn’t meet the criteria mentioned in the advertisement for the position of the head coach. But the three great cricketers – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman – in the cricket board-appointed four-member committee (Sanjay Jagdale was the coordinator) wanted to look into the application of their former team-mate. And then, in Kolkata, Kumble hugely impressed the panel with his presentation that encapsulated his vision for Indian cricket.
Going purely by coaching pedigree, Tom Moody was miles ahead of others in the list of aspirants. The Australian was also fresh from guiding Sunrisers Hyderabad to the 2016 IPL title. But coaching the Indian cricket team has its unique demand as Duncan Fletcher’s failure would attest. It’s very important to understand the Indian culture and psyche, and communicate properly with the players. Playing credentials matter a lot here. Also, the job demands top man-management skills to deal with super egos. Shastri had the experience of managing the Indian dressing room for 20 months. But the committee wanted to move forward and the BCCI obliged.
The challenge for Kumble will be to take India to the next level. Over the past few years, the team seems to have become a little stagnant. India haven’t won a Test match outside the subcontinent for the last five years. They, in fact, lost 15. Limited-overs glory, too, has remained elusive since the 2013 Champions Trophy. Young cricketers made very little noise, forcing the selectors to dust off Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh before the World T20. Kumble’s generation of cricketers took massive pride in performing abroad.
So in search for overseas success, the committee felt Kumble will be the right man for the job.
The great leg-spinner’s stature as a player – India’s highest wicket-taker in Tests with 619 scalps – offsets his lack of top-class coaching experience. But the one-year contract suggests the cricket board wants him to serve an apprenticeship period. Fairly understandable. “(We hope) Kumble will be transforming himself from a great on the field to a great coach,” BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke said.
The new coach starts off with the four-Test series against West Indies, commencing next month. It’s not a very tough assignment by any standards. The Caribbean tour will allow him to know the players, and more importantly, strike a rapport with Virat Kohli. Thirteen home Tests to follow and the period will give Kumble the opportunity to bed in. Test cricket against New Zealand, England and Australia even on home patch will provide a fair assessment of his coaching skills. The ICC Champions Trophy in June next year will be a huge test. Results in the home Tests and Champions Trophy will decide if Kumble belongs; as a coach that is…