Anil Kumble was Team India coach for only a year, but during this relatively short period, he tried to put in place a framework for the long-term future of Indian cricket. A look at few of Kumble’s pet theories which he tried to implement during his stint.
Having a fast bowling pool: Pace bowling is a tough task, and injuries part and parcel of the job. That’s why Kumble wanted to have several pacemen from whom to choose for a particular game. During his tenure, Umesh Yadav improved by leaps and bounds, Ishant Sharma found better consistency, Mohammed Shami became a feared operator, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar a handful whenever called upon. In shorter formats, Jasprit Bumrah was a revelation.
Can’t pick and choose: Kumble insisted that players out with injury had to prove their fitness in a domestic game before returning to the squad. Many big stars of the Indian team did not like this diktat, but it set in place a proper system by which to judge match fitness of players.
Sorting the feeder line: Having a good rapport with his former Karnataka and India teammate Rahul Dravid worked in Kumble’s favour, as the national coach got expert advice on the kind of talent waiting in the wings. The likes of Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant are testimony to the close association of two of India’s biggest stalwarts reaping dividends.
Working with batsmen: Being a champion bowler does not mean Kumble did not have any insight into batting. He advised Ajinkya Rahane to modify his stance, and gave confidence to Cheteshwar Pujara – who had been publicly pulled up by skipper Virat Kohli for his slow strike rate. It was these two batsmen who turn around the series against Australia with their match-defining partnership in the second Test in Bangalore.
Always taking the aggressive option: During his playing days, Kumble was often described as a spinner with a fast bowler’s temperament. And he took this aggressive streak to his coaching stint as well. Whenever faced with a dilemma, he always went for the attacking option. It bore fruit spectacularly in the decider against Australia in Dharamsala. When skipper Kohli was ruled out, instead of including a batsman, Kumble gave a debut to chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and the latter repaid the faith in spades with a match-turning spell.
Pitching it right: India is used to winning at home, but there has always been a complaint that most of the victories came on tailor-made dust bowls. Before Kumble took over, South Africa — who had not lost an away series seemingly for ages – were vanquished on akharas. Despite the series triumph, it left a bitter taste in the mouth. Kumble decided that India were good enough to prevail on proper wickets, and proceeded to prove it in a long home season. India won 10 out of the 13 Tests, losing just one. It gave India added credibility.