Anil Kumble vs Virat Kohli: Why coaches must accept their relative unimportance in a captain's game

Shyam B, Jun, 02 2017

There have recently been rumours of tension between Anil Kumble, the Indian cricket coach, and the players, notably Virat Kohli. This may be a planted story but my comments below are on the assumption that there is some truth in it.

In my view there are three possible causes of this conflict. The first is money- the root of evil. The second is misunderstanding the role of coach and captain in different team games. The third is generational change in India.

Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli. AP

Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli. AP

On the issue of money, Kumble is wrong. His contract (Rs 6.25 crore per year) is greater than Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Ravichandran Ashwin’s. Although players get paid an additional amount per game , I doubt their total compensation from BCCI would exceed Kumble’s. Under no circumstance is he more valuable than these three. The previous coach, Ravi Shastri, received a similar compensation to cover for the opportunity cost of not commentating, but there are many coaches including Sanjay Bangar, Lalchand Rajput, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Mike Hussey who would probably put their hands up for this job and possibly do it at a lower cost.

The increment (Rs 1 crore) he is asking for is equal to the entire fixed contract of KL Rahul who was India’s star batsman in the last India-Australia Test series. If there is any dissent within the India team on the size of Kumble’s compensation, I can see very good reasons for it. You could argue that Indian players are getting a lot of sponsorships but these are a function of market demand - they are not salary packages from the BCCI.

Fighting for higher payments for first class players instead of himself would be a better battle for Kumble . My understanding is that Ranji players not playing IPL make Rs 10-12 lakh and their payments are received very late. State Associations should give Ranji and U21 players contracts with BCCI/IPL funds. There is a Gujarati saying “If there is no water in the well then how will it come to the trough”? The well must have water and Ranji/Hazare/Mushtaqs are the wells from which Indian and IPL teams drink.

Secondly, cricket is not a conventional team game like football or rugby. It is the summation of individual efforts by specialists. Players like Sunil Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen, who have been called selfish have had glorious careers. At the end of the day if Dale Steyn or Malcolm Marshall is bowling, your team spirit does not count as much as skill. It is different in games like rugby or football, which are so dependent on team members passing to each other.

Here a coach is needed like a conductor to orchestrate proceedings. In summary, cricket is a sum of individual achievements. Games like football are decided by the sum of team achievements. Even in football though there is a role for the prima donna as exemplified by Cristiano Ronaldo. One cannot complain about him hogging the ball because he can actually do more with it than anybody else other than Lionel Messi. Therefore the coach’s role in cricket is more to motivate and manage rather than orchestrate. Cricket’s decisions are made on field by the captain and not off field by an observer (coach). There is plenty of time in between deliveries for the captain to consult with team members and adjust tactics.

Lastly the current Indian team like ‘young India’ is different in terms of attitude from previous generations. Whereas the old guard had respect for seniority the younger generation wants to challenge the status quo. Even his worst enemy cannot accuse Virat Kohli of being a good listener. So the idea that he will listen to a retired Test match specialist especially in the One Day International or T20 arena is doomed. He will simply assume he knows more. With someone like Ajinkya Rahane, Kumble’s assertive style could still be managed but not with an ‘alpha’ personality like Virat Kohli.

While Kumble is an all-time great of Indian cricket, he has to accept his relative unimportance in a captain’s game and decide whether or not this would work for him. If he can play the role of motivator he has a lot more to offer Indian cricket, but as a coach he needs to step back and give the on-field captain the space to lead. Great players in cricket have seldom made great coaches because of their relentless focus on self-improvement. It is the average and above average players like John Wright and Gary Kirsten who have been more successful.

Published Date: Jun 02, 2017 | Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017

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