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Right man for a big task

June 25, 2016 01:51 am | Updated November 17, 2021 04:45 am IST

Anil Kumble’s appointment as coach of the Indian men’s cricket team has evoked all-round cheer. The former India captain, one of cricket’s greatest bowlers with 956 international wickets, comes to the job with an established reputation and a dignity that’s been a second skin to him throughout. This helped him secure the post ahead of formidable competitors such as Ravi Shastri, who until recently was the Indian team’s director. The 45-year-old Kumble does not have the formal coaching experience that the Board of Control for Cricket in India had sought for the coach’s position. Yet, the sheer force of his personality and his level-headedness, reflected in his presentation of a blueprint for Indian cricket, tilted the scales in his favour. There has been the odd whisper of an old boys’ club being at work, as the Cricket Advisory Committee that picked Kumble featured former team-mates Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman. But their credentials too are impossible to fault, and such trash talk is best ignored. Kumble’s past passes scrutiny — it is adjustment to his new role as coach that will be closely watched now. He is aware that guiding an international side is not for the faint-hearted, and he returns to the Indian dressing room at a time of transition and with two skippers, Virat Kohli in Tests and M.S. Dhoni in limited-overs cricket.

India has a long season of 17 Tests ahead, with four in the West Indies and the rest at home. It is an ideal setting for Kumble’s initial one-year contract, while he trains his eyes on the 2019 World Cup. Over the next few months, he can revive his old ties with both Dhoni and Kohli, reveal his vision for the team, and most importantly assist the squad in acquiring a sense of permanence. In Tests, for instance, only Kohli, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and R. Ashwin have cemented their slots. In one-day and Twenty20 internationals, Kumble may have to hold Kohli’s hand as Dhoni gets closer to retirement. Great cricketers walk in with a halo but their boots can get soiled in the rough and tumble of coaching international teams. Kapil Dev’s and Greg Chappell’s coaching stints did not trigger the same awe as their playing days did. Kumble should also effectively answer the ‘conflict of interest’ queries that shadow his sports training and consulting company Tenvic. He has declared that it will be addressed before he formally takes charge. Now his strength is his reputation, but a year down the line it will be the Indian team’s performance that will determine the way he is judged as the coach.

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