Harbhajan Singh believes Virat Kohli's win-first mentality is in sync with Anil Kumble's approach
Senior off-spinner is full of praise for his former bowling partner and newly appointed coach of the Indian cricket team.
Having played with Anil Kumble for so many years, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has backed his appointment as Indian coach and opined that current Test skipper Virat Kohli would hugely benefit from the selection.
Speaking to PTI, the 35-year-old believed that Kohli’s positive attitude towards winning matches was right out of Kumble’s alley. He also hoped that the stalwart would contribute to the growth of modern-day Indian spinners into more complete bowlers.
Harbhajan said, “With no disrespect to anyone, Anil Kumble will forever remain India's greatest ever match-winner in Test cricket. And he will bring that hunger to win in this team also. Virat will get to learn a lot from the man himself. Virat doesn't believe in draws and neither did Anil bhai. He will be Virat's ideal friend, philosopher and guide.”
Asserting that the players would imbibe Kumble’s unflinching demeanor, the charismatic cricketer declared, “Unbelievable work ethic and discipline. And top it all, his ability to devise strategies against opposition batsmen.”
He added, “Let me tell you, under Anil bhai, boys will learn the art of winning Test matches on fourth and fifth day. He will change the misconception that Indian spinners need tailor-made wickets to win Tests at home.”
‘The Turbanator’ had worked closely with Kumble during the latter’s stint as Team Mentor of Mumbai Indians in the IPL and felt that enormous playing experience was enough to coach teams at the highest level.
Harbhajan noted, “Tell me what's the role of a coach? At this level, his role is to help the captain in devising strategy. In Mumbai Indians, he would speak to me and Lasith Malinga as we were the leaders in the bowling department. We would tell what we are planning and he would give us his feedback. And when you got that feedback, you knew that he had done his homework.”
Lauding Kumble’s tactical acumen, he recollected how the leg-spinner helped his fellow bowlers in taming the powerful Matthew Hayden in the 2004/05 home series against Australia. Though the Indian side which had won the previous Test series on home soil would go on to lose this one, the left-hander’s output was minimized.
Singh affirmed, “During the 2001 series, Hayden got 549 runs. With his reach, he was even sweeping deliveries well outside the off-stump. During the 2004-05 series, even though we lost 1-2, we had sorted Hayden out as he got less than 250 runs (244 runs in 8 innings). It was Anil bhai, who made me aware about the areas to bowl to Hayden. I got him out thrice, Anil bhai and (Murali) Kartik got him once for not many.”
Unlike contemporary wrist-spinner Shane Warne, Kumble‘s strengths were subtle changes of pace and an unerring accuracy. Harbhajan claimed, “You can replace Dictionary's Intelligence with Anil Kumble. His biggest asset as a bowler was ability to land the ball on seam. He could do it 95 out of 100 times. I don't think any Indian bowler has been as consistent about his length like him.”
During the early 2000s, there was massive competition between himself and Kumble for the spinner’s slot when India toured outside Asia. However, Harbhajan revealed that missing out did not deter Anil’s determination.
He enthused, “Often, there were times in overseas conditions, when a single spinner played and Anil bhai had to sit out because of team composition. I have never seen him get upset or lose his cool. His attitude in those time had been – If it benefits the team, he is game. That's what is being a perfect team man.”