Can Anil Kumble do justice to his new role?
Ever since Ravi Shastri’s term as the Team Director ended after the 2016 T20 World Cup, India became a revolving door for its next head coach. The cricket fraternity waited with bated breath as the number of applicants trimmed from 57 to 21 and then to the conjectured 2, Ravi Shastri and Anil Kumble, a final, two-way tussle.
Anil Kumble was largely speculated to be the forerunner in the chase of the very prestigious and remunerative post. And the widespread speculations bore evidence when the BCCI announced the results today. The appointment of the head coach has been stamped for the next 1 year, a duration revealed by Anurag Thakur in the press conference at Dharamsala. Indian cricket is now in the hands of a legendary player.
No bowler in the history of Indian cricket won India more Test matches than Anil Kumble. His prodigious strength to bear pain was seen in 2002 in Antigua when he bandaged his fractured jaw to bowl a brilliant spell. Kumble’s leadership of the Royal Challengers Bangalore was significant in getting them to the IPL finals in 2009 after an upsetting first season. His resume has all the impactful features which would impress an employer. Noteworthy performance, great determination and fine leadership qualities. However, his resume remains conspicuous of his previous work experience – his stint as a coach.
According to the media reports, Anil Kumble gave the longest and the best presentation to win the coveted post. He had the most convincing reply to the primary concern: “How will he help the team win overseas?" But, again, the track record holds more importance than the presentation. The left arm spinner has no coaching credentials, none at all.
A unanimous decision to select Kumble
It was thus unanimously decided by the selection committee to appoint Kumble as the head coach for only a year, so that the star player can get some time to transform himself as a coach. We really do hope Kumble performs well in his one year tenure, but the bitter tales from the past, of not just cricket but other sports too, do not assure a good coach out of a good player.
Diego Maradona, arguably the best player to play the sport, was also one of the most unsuccessful coaches. After a rough coaching career which notably includes Argentina’s 4-0 loss to the Germans in the Quarter Finals, Maradona was sacked. Similar records can be traced from NBA. Magic Johson was a stalwart of his sport. But with his coaching came a ten game losing streak which compelled the point guard to quit.
And cricket, too, has shown that a star player doesn’t always make for a great coach. Kapil Dev, whose success as an all-rounder needs no statistical backing, could not replicate his feats as a coach. Sachin Tendulkar, in his autobiography, ‘playing it my way’, described the former captain’s coaching as “disappointing”. During the former captain’s stint as a coach, India were whitewashed against Australia, while South Africa got the better of us at home. That was the first time in 12 years that India were beaten at home.
Not that Anil Kumble will be a successor to the unsuccessful coaches. But it is seen that he never lasted too long to battle the challenges. He has done some work and been out, some more work and been out again. He very abruptly put down his papers as the chairman of the NCA, in the resignation for which he was quoted thus: "I had a three-year vision, a holistic approach for the NCA that was not in alignment with the rest of the committee. It didn't make sense to me to just be a figurehead in this kind of a situation. So I thought it was better that somebody else take over.”
His associated with the Royal Challengers as a mentor wasn’t of a decently long period either. He resigned to join the Mumbai Indians in 2013. Kumble said he quit RCB “to take up a new assignment based on an opportunity that my company, Tenvic has been offered."
And in 2015, we saw him big goodbye to the Mumbai Indians quite early.
A missed chance for Shastri?
Ravi Shastri, on the other hand, functioned effectively as Team India’s head coach at an uncertain time. Profile wise he worked as the team director from late 2014 to early 2016, during which both the short and long versions of the World Cup were played. During his tenure. India didn’t win either of the World Cups but definitely showed an upward curve by reaching the Semi-finals on both occasions.
Given his very recent stint with the team, Shastri has a better understanding of the team and its players. He gelled well with Test Captain Virat Kohli and such a bond with Anil Kumble may require a considerable amount of time. Though the two played together for the Royal Challengers, much time has passed for the association to hold any significance at present. Thus, the anecdote evidence that Virat Kohli was voting for Shastri wasn’t surprising.
The wisdom of the three greatest pillars of Indian Cricket - Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, cannot go wrong with what is right for the Indian Team. But one thing is certain, Anil Kumble will have to face a couple of challenges to certify his designation.
Can he improve India’s overseas record in Test Matches? Can he build an equation with the players? Will his coaching be instrumental in winning us the West Indies tour? Can he make a mark in the Champions Trophy 2017 with the defending champions? Too many questions and only 365 days. Time will tell.