The first ODI against the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday would have marked a full one year as head coach of the Indian team for Anil Kumble. But, that was not to be as the legendary former India captain stepped down from the post at the end of his one-year contract.
The rumours of a rift between Virat Kohli and Kumble started to surface at the beginning of ICC Champions Trophy. But all seemed well in the Indian dressing room as the players, as well as the support staffs, wore a no-nonsense attitude both on and of the field. It was supposed that the Kohli-Kumble combination will go on working together for the sake of Indian Cricket. By the end of the Champions Trophy though, Kumble looked lonely in the dressing room and it was obvious that something was amiss.
The manner in which Kumble had to step down despite showing his interest in preparing the road map for Indian Cricket shows that all is not well between him and captain Kohli. After Kumble’s clarifications for the reasons for him stepping down, it is clear that things were indeed broken.
The legend of Kumble the cricketer can not be debated. He is the third highest wicket-taker in world cricket. He played the role of a father-figure to some of the young Indian players in the current Indian team as well. Players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh have played with him, and now were playing under his coaching.
The question now arises: doesn’t a legend like Kumble deserve a better treatment than the manner in which current skipper Kohli has expressed his reservations against him to the Board of Control for Cricket in India?
It is completely possible that Kumble is an overbearing personality in the dressing room, as some reports have suggested. But Kumble is also the greatest match winner India has ever have. You can’t question his commitment to Indian cricket. And India’s success during his tenure as the coach of the national team is undoubtedly very attractive. Beating West Indies and Sri Lanka on their own turf, defeating Australia, England and New Zealand and becoming the finalist of an ICC event like Champions Trophy is not a matter of joke.
For his stature in world cricket, and particularly in Indian cricket, Kumble deserved better respect from the players. Kohli may have considered Kumble as a tough task-master and a disciplinarian. This was more a clash of his personal ego against a player who has played 403 international games for India. But is there any logic behind this dispute? Kohli, who is considered the face of Indian Cricket right now, should have underplayed if there is any rift within the team for the sake of the nation, especially as the team is playing pretty well these days. Fans love Kohli. But the way the things have turned out, he is partially responsible for sections of the media painting Kumble as the next Greg Chappell.
While Kohli is an inspiring leader and the right man to take Indian cricket forward, we have seen on more than one occasions that, tactically, he has a lot to learn. And Kumble was the right person to supervise him. It is no secret that Kohli preferred somebody like former team director Ravi Shastri. Kohli and Shastri got along very well. They both had similar mindsets and the latter was more a fun-loving ‘boss’. Kumble was equally aggressive in terms of the approach towards cricket and it is a pity that Kohli could not bury his differences with his coach.
While much has been said about the spat itself, little has been said about how great a loss this is for the Indian side that is to play a five-match ODI series and a Twenty20 match with West Indies. If Kohli and Co are to be believed, Kumble’s tactics were not so friendly, but according to the statistics, the former head coach’s methods have been highly yielding and dead-sharp effective for India. Not only did team statistics improve under his guidance, but some players have ripened into fine cricketers, while others have honed their already-impressive skills, under Kumble’s watch.
One of the biggest beneficiaries during Kumble’s reign was none other than Captain Kohli, who not only scored more than 1,500 runs but also maintained a steady average of 65.35. It is not just Virat Kohli who benefitted during Kumble’s reign, other players such as Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin shot up on the rankings table, all thanks to the former Indian leg-spinner’s valuable inputs.
The manner in which the whole affair was handled by BCCI and Kohli, and the treatment meted out to a cricketing legend, makes one hang his head in shame. By expressing his displeasure at not wanting Kumble as a coach, Kohli has only set a bad precedent and wanted to assert his superstar status and be in complete control of the Indian dressing room.
The BCCI is playing into Kohli’s hands by allowing him to have his way rather than stamp its authority and tell Kohli and Co to get on with the game. Whether this is good or bad for Indian cricket, only time will tell.