We were all surprised a few weeks back when BCCI posted ads to invite applications for the post of Team India’s head coach. After Anil Kumble’s immensely successful stint, there was no reason for BCCI to try and fix something that wasn’t broken.
After Kumble’s clarifications last night for the reasons for him stepping down, we know things were indeed broken — shattered really — in the worst possible way.
The rumours of a rift between Kohli and Kumble started to surface at the beginning of ICC Champions Trophy. But Kumble appeared to be going about his job in his usual mild-mannered way and after clarifications from Kohli and BCCI, all seemed well in the Indian dressing room.
By the end of the Champions Trophy though, Kumble looked lonely and forlorn in the dressing room and we knew something was amiss. In many ways, watching 'Jumbo' like this was sadder than the loss in final to Pakistan.
It is completely possible that Kumble is an overbearing personality in the dressing room, as some reports have suggested. It is also possible that he is a bad coach. But Kumble is also the greatest match winner India has ever produced. You may question his ways, but you can’t question his commitment to Indian cricket.
One of the more memorable moments of the 2011 World Cup win was to see Kumble in the dressing room, holding the trophy aloft. Kumble had retired three years ago but the team acknowledged the contribution of a stalwart like him in reaching the top.
Fans love Kohli for the way he admires, idolises and respects Sachin Tendulkar and other Indian cricket legends. I am sure Kohli would be the last person to have any bad feelings or disrespect for Kumble, but the way the things have turned out, he is partially responsible for sections of the media painting Kumble as the next Greg Chappell.
While Kohli is an inspiring leader and the right man to take Indian cricket forward, we have seen on more than one occasions that, tactically, he has a lot to learn. In a way, he is like a young and flamboyant CEO of a startup with great abilities and a clear vision but needs 'adult supervision' from a board of directors when he is faltering. People like Kumble and MS Dhoni provided that adult supervision for him. Kohli should be thankful to have them around.
Kohli was on the brink during the Test series against Australia. The rigours of a hectic season and a feisty, well-prepared Australian unit were taking a toll on his captaincy and batting. When Kohli had to sit out for the last Test, Kumble and Ajinkya Rahane decided to play Kuldeep Yadav, a move that turned out to be a masterstroke.
It is believed that Kohli wasn’t happy with Kuldeep’s selection and was seething at the coach for going against his wish. The dignified response would have been to put his hand up, say, “Mea culpa”, and thank the veteran coach for doing the right thing and teaching him a lesson. Egos shouldn’t be allowed to grow bigger than the team.
The manner in which the whole affair was handled by BCCI and Kohli, and the treatment meted out to a cricketing legend, makes one hang his head in shame. Leaks, false assumptions and hollow assurances kept doing the rounds for several weeks. Kumble, true to his reputation, maintained a dignified posture through all of this.
We had thanked Kumble when he retired from the game in 2008. Almost 10 years later, we must thank him again, albeit with sadness in our hearts at not being able to give him the respect he deserves.
Perhaps this routinely extreme, rhetoric-filled Indian cricket establishment doesn’t deserve a gentleman like Kumble. He was used to letting his topspin, and not excessive words, speak for him. Apparently, your work doesn’t speak for you anymore in the BCCI.
While some may now accuse Kumble of trying to take the high moral ground by speaking out on the reasons for his exit, there is nothing undignified in speaking the truth. He has just passed on the reasons provided to him by BCCI. He too has a professional reputation to uphold. Kumble’s statement will at least set the record straight on this whole saga and stop the rumour mills from spinning, something the BCCI should have tried to do much earlier.
I hope BCCI somehow manages to find a better role for Kumble. He is too valuable an asset to let go. We must remember that people like Rahul Dravid and Kumble can earn handsomely with a media contract. If they are willing to do the hard yards of coaching with an intention of giving something back to Indian cricket, we must learn to show our gratitude.