The Kumble factor

The Indian cricket team should have been exuding confidence as it begins its title defence in the ICC Champions Trophy in England from June 1 to 18. It comes off a long and successful season at home, and in the normal course of things the buzz would be about India’s match against Pakistan at Birmingham on June 4, given how rarely the traditional rivals play each other these days. However, all is not right in the dressing room, and there is distracting speculation about an imminent change in leadership. It started with the Board of Control for Cricket in India calling for fresh applications for the head coach’s post since the incumbent, Anil Kumble’s one-year contract will end after the Champions Trophy. The BCCI clarified that Kumble would have a direct entry for the process, but the last-minute scramble, just as Virat Kohli’s men landed in England, raised questions. There had been enough time for the Board to take a call on the head coach, whether it meant retaining Kumble or opting for a new candidate. It did not come as a surprise, therefore, when leaks surfaced about Kumble seeking a higher pay package for the Indian players and support staff. Disgruntled BCCI officials painted Kumble as a man extracting his pound of flesh, and the anti-Kumble campaign was sharpened with suggestions that Kohli is not comfortable with his “overbearing” ways.

Such talk about differences between coach and skipper does nobody any good. Whatever be the nature of their alleged differences, the Kumble-Kohli combination has delivered excellent results. While there could be the odd difference of opinion, on the field it is entirely the captain’s call on how to guide the team. Last year in the West Indies, when Kohli preferred Rohit Sharma over Murali Vijay in the third Test at Gros Islet, Kumble backed his decision. Victory in the West Indies and a golden run at home against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia are a testament to Kumble’s and Kohli’s man-management skills and a validation of the talent within the ranks. The unsavoury tidbits planted in the media about Kumble are a terrible contrast to the can-do spirit with which he took charge as coach in June 2016. Now, the Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Kumble’s former team-mates Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman has an unenviable task. They have to sift through fresh applications, besides having to assess Kumble’s performance, and then take a call on who should be the head coach. Positions of authority in cricket teams usually have a four-year cycle coinciding with the World Cup. Ideally, the next head coach, be it Kumble or somebody else, should be given a contract till the 2019 World Cup in England. The focus must be on the demands of cricket.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 6:37:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-kumble-factor-on-the-decision-to-retain-him-as-coach-or-not/article18661644.ece

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