Anil Kumble will be India's new head coach for the next one year. Having played with and against him over the years, I can say with some authority that he'll be a fighter and won't give up irrespective of the situation.
Anil Kumble (third from right) celebrates the wicket of Michael Vaughan with teammates on Day Three of the third Test between India and England at the Oval in London in 2007. Pic/AFP
You think of Kumble and the image of him bowling with a fractured jaw comes to mind immediately. Those who know him also know that he's always been a man with strong views and he won't be shy to express the same in the dressing room too. His achievements from his playing days would automatically ensure immense respect from the young team, which is imperative for a new entrant in any dressing room.
The days of having a coach that is extremely hands-on and does everything on his own are history, for we live in the day and age of specialised coaching. John Wright used to be the batting, bowling, fielding coach and also the chief tactician but that's not the case anymore. The role of the head coach comes with the luxury of appointing specialised coaches of his choice and that'll be Kumble's topmost priority.
Eventually, he'll be as good as the coaching staff he chooses. His primary role will be to outline the broad strategy and keeping the flock together. Anyone who has played cricket with Kumble will tell you that he's been a master strategist, for all his wickets came courtesy a lot of planning. In any case, I strongly feel that bowlers tend to strategise better than batsmen.
Quest for excellence
All his life Kumble did just one thing — challenged conventional wisdom and proved people wrong. People said that since he couldn't turn the ball as much as other leg-spinners, he would fade away quickly. But he proved that perseverance and accuracy can make up for the lack of turn and drift. Then naysayers said that he's a home-track bully and that led him to reinvent his style in the latter half of his career.
Kumble has always been driven with the quest to become better and if he could inculcate the same in the Indian team, this outfit will become the best team in the world. With Kumble at the helm, there will be no scope for mediocrity to survive or thrive, for he'll either force them to improve or show them the door. Also, he'll always make sure that players, especially the captain, views the other side of the coin too. While he would never be at loggerheads with the captain, he wouldn't be a yes-man either.
One year term?
While no one can dispute Kumble's credentials as a player, there is nothing that we know of his coaching abilities. Does he have the temperament to swallow elementary errors to maintain a healthy atmosphere? Does he speak in the language that everybody understands, for some would need an arm around their shoulder and some would need their screws tightened up. Will he be a great man-manager because that is going to be his primary responsibility? Since there is nothing concrete to answer these questions, it's only prudent to tread carefully.
I don't think that a one-year term is because they (BCCI) are unsure; it's to give Kumble time too. For all we know, he might want to relinquish this responsibility after 12 months. BCCI has picked the best player amongst the candidates. Let's hope that he also turns out to be as good a coach as he was a player.
The writer is a former India Test opener