A perfect fit for the jumbo job

Anil Kumble may not be as outspoken as Ravi Shastri, but he will bring the same dedication, determination and passion to the Indian team, as it looks to get to the top of the rankings in all three formats of the game.

Anil Kumble... the new Indian cricket coach.   -  PTI

Ravi Shastri (in pic with M. S. Dhoni) may not have got the job this time, but make no mistake, whenever Kumble or Dhoni or Kohli or anybody from the Indian team needs his advice he will go all out to help, for Indian cricket is his passion.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Anil Kumble’s appointment as the coach of the Indian team will help keep the decision-making of Indian cricket in an Indian’s hands. There is nothing wrong in having an outside perspective when there is not much talent available at home. But when there is really no need for an overseas hand to be at the helm of the Indian team, why look beyond our shores?

Firstly, it will simply be a professional assignment for the overseas coach without the depth of feeling that only somebody who has played for the country can have. Secondly, since there is so much international cricket being played, he will have pretty much zero idea of domestic talent, and so will not be able to have a say on who should be the replacements for out-of-form players.

Anil’s huge advantage will be that he will have his good friend and former team-mate Rahul Dravid, the coach of the junior India team, to guide him with regard to the emerging talent, the ones they should keep an eye on and who can soon go on to play for the senior team.

Some of the rubbish that has been written and said about earlier Indian coaches just suggests that we have still not got over the complex of foreigners. The allegation against Kapil Dev that all he did was to exhort the players to play with their hearts and nothing more is a whole lot of balderdash. I have sat with Kapil during a conditioning camp for the Indian team in Bangalore, where he explained the technical aspects of some of the Indian new-ball bowlers with the help of the computer analyst, and the way he brought out the various points was simply breathtaking. Even the new-ball bowlers listened with their jaws open, as Kapil drew the lines on the big screen with the help of the computer analyst and spoke about the flex in their knees, the delivery release point, the wrist position for different deliveries, the front arm push and such technical aspects that was just mind-blowing.

The problem is that when a player is as naturally talented as Kapil, there is the tendency to take the shortcut, and so people think that there is not much thought he puts into his cricket. This is exactly the kind of image that the West Indian cricketers have, where people like to think that their natural talent precludes them from thinking about the game. That is why when ordinary cricketers from England, Australia and New Zealand are thought to be good enough to impart cricketing know-how, the West Indians are never considered in the same league.

One has to spend only five minutes with the likes of Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Deryck Murray to name a few, to realise how much thought they put into their cricket and it was not just natural talent that got them to the exalted positions that they hold in the game. When one talks of fast bowling and fast bowlers known for their analysis of batsmen and how to dismiss them, names that crop up are Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner... They were not just fast, but they knew when to bowl which ball and to which batsman. That is what made them lethal.

I spent one season in the Indian dressing room when John Wright was the coach, and all he did was to say to the players pretty much what Kapil was accused of, that is to take pride in being fortunate enough to represent the country from among so many millions and so go out and give their best. There was hardly any tactical input seen to combat different opposition players. Wright may have been different in his earlier years, but this time, maybe, he was uncertain about his position because I was there as a consultant. This despite making it clear to him right at the beginning that I was not at all interested in his job, but was on board because of the request of the president of the Indian cricket board and the Indian captain. I didn’t want to upset the pecking order, so I stayed in the background and made myself available to the players whenever they wanted anything. Otherwise, I did my own thing since I have never been a ball-by-ball watcher of the game since my playing days.

It is good that the Cricket Advisory Committee (Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman) took their time before making the decision to appoint their former team-mate as the new India coach. It would have been a bit embarrassing for the Cricket Advisory Committee members to interview some of their seniors like Ravi Shastri, Pravin Amre and others, and then sit in judgement over them. However, at least due process was followed, unlike when Duncan Fletcher was appointed merely on the recommendation of Gary Kirsten.

Look at the disastrous results the Indian team had under Fletcher. While results can never be guaranteed, for a captain or a coach is only as good as the team, what was galling was the work ethic followed then. The team would come to the ground much later than it used to under Kirsten and do precious little cricket skills training. The team’s performances kept dipping and the only thing that improved was Fletcher’s own ability to give slip-catching practice, where he hardly missed a ball even if it didn’t go near the fielder.

The only conceivable reason why Fletcher wasn’t sacked earlier was because there would have been a question asked: if the coach can be dismissed, why not the captain, who was actually in charge of the team on the field. That there was nothing much wrong with the captain was seen as soon as Ravi took over as the team director. Ravi, like Kirsten and Wright before him, is one of those cricketers who maximised his abilities through sheer hard work. The thought he put into his cricket and the determination and dogged approach he brought to his own game were the qualities that the team needed. He is also a fearless person and does not take a backward step. These qualities effected the turnaround of the Indian team, making it compete hard against all opposition and do so well in limited-overs competitions too.

Ravi may not have got the job this time, but make no mistake, whenever Kumble or Dhoni or Kohli or anybody from the Indian team needs his advice he will go all out to help, for Indian cricket is his passion.

Anil Kumble is similar in many ways though he won’t be as outspoken as Ravi, but he will bring the same dedication, determination and passion to the Indian team, as it looks to get to the top of the rankings in all three formats of the game. They may not get there in a hurry, but it won’t be because of lack of trying.