Anil Kumble, the most illustrious of candidates, has been appointed India’s cricket coach. The Doubting Thomases won’t dare to show up as Kumble has been a gigantic achiever, perfect ambassador and a tough-as-teak character.
That said, even the biggest of names have failed as coaches and Kumble will need to be at his very best to enhance India’s cricketing credibility — overseas, more than home.
Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Team Director coincided with an obsession of winning at home and on tracks that suited the Indians far more than their opponents. Players, apart from the captain, kept emphasising that there was no harm in dishing out difficult wickets for the opposition. Some, like R Ashwin, while justifying the need for turners, brought up the fact that he got dropped in an overseas Test because the wicket was not conducive to spin.
Kumble must change this perception although India play only four of their next 17 Test matches abroad.
He played in an India team in the Sourav Ganguly-John Wright era that took pride in their away performances. In fact, being better tourists was at the heart of their objectives in 2000, and by 2005, when Wright and Ganguly exited their supervisory roles, India emerged as better overseas performers.
MS Dhoni is an all-time great captain of India, but unlike Ganguly’s team, his side was demolished abroad — 2011-12 and 2014-15 in Australia and 2011 and 2014 in England. Sure, he lacked bowling ammunition, but also lacked imagination.
Virat Kohli appears a better Test captain and with Kumble, the off-field strategist, better days in overseas tours are a possibility.
Kumble experienced his first overseas Test match win — at Leeds in 2002, a good 12 years after his 1990 Test debut. This statistic didn’t justify his standing in world cricket. But there were seven more before his last overseas tour in 2007-08.
Obviously, things got better.
Since India have yet to win a Test series in Australia and South Africa, Kumble has some unfinished business.