It’s no way to treat a legend

What happened to Anil Kumble was sad, very sad indeed. No top player will want to throw his hat in the ring after what happened to the Indian cricket legend.

Parting ways... India skipper Virat Kohli fell out with coach Anil Kumble over the latter’s style of functioning. “While it is important to take the players’ point of view, they can’t be dictating who the coach should be,” writes the columnist, Sunil Gavaskar.   -  REUTERS

Cricket coaches are having problems it seems. First, Anil Kumble indicated that he wasn’t desirous of continuing as Indian cricket team’s coach after being informed by the BCCI that captain Virat Kohli had reservations about his style of functioning. A few days later, after the Champions Trophy, Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, also decided to put in his papers. He said that the appointment of Asanka Gurusinha as the cricket manager and the public criticism by the Sri Lanka Board president about the slow over-rate that led to the acting captain missing through suspension two of the crucial league games of the Champions Trophy were unwarranted.

While the details of Ford’s resignation will come through in the next few days, Kumble’s resignation, particularly after the Indian team’s performance since he took over as coach, is mind-boggling.

The CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) had reposed its confidence in Anil Kumble, and frankly they would have had a lot of explaining to do if they had not reappointed him as the Indian team’s coach. Then the BCCI stepped in and informed Kumble that Virat Kohli had reservations about his style of coaching. So Kumble did the only thing he could have and walked away with his head held high.

Kumble could have also stuck around, but in an atmosphere where the skipper and maybe others in the team did not like his method of operating it would have been a tense situation every single hour. While Kumble, in his letter, has expressed that he was not aware of the skipper’s feelings about his coaching style until the BCCI informed him, Kohli has chosen not to elaborate. He just said that dressing room matters should be left in the dressing room and not brought in the public domain.

This, of course, is absolutely correct and is something that has been followed for decades and not just the last few years, as the Indian skipper suggests. However, there is no explanation from anybody about how a dressing room situation came into the open that led to Kumble not accepting another year as the coach. Kohli, in his statement to the media, said glowing things about Kumble as a player but nothing about his performance as a coach. So that was a dead give-away: he didn’t want to say much about that aspect.

Be that as it may, since Kumble has walked away from the job, it is time to leave the past behind and look at the future. Indian cricket is in the cusp of greatness, with a captain who is going to be recognised as one of the best batsmen seen in the game and a team brimming with talent. Frankly, with such talent available, the team doesn’t need a coach. It needs someone who can be like the elder brother who the players can relate to and confide in about their problems and be certain that these will be confidential and addressed sooner than later. The players need a manager who will keep them in check if things get out of hand, especially on overseas tours, and rein them in so that they are always in a position to perform to their best every single day they don the India colours.

What the BCCI will be looking to do is to set up a system where there is proper evaluation of the coach’s performance. While it is important to take the players’ point of view, they can’t be dictating who the coach should be. If that is the case, then the coach will make sure that he stays away from disciplining the players so that he can keep his job.

The coach’s job should never be dependent on the players’ views, for they would always seek coaches who will listen to them rather than the other way around. One of the reasons why legends don’t stay for long as coaches, especially in India, is because the current players become uncomfortable with the attention that the legend gets, while they sometimes get ignored. Thus the leaks to the media about the coach and his methods, which make the coach’s position untenable, as Kumble found out and mentioned in his letter.

What happened to Anil Kumble was sad, very sad indeed. The Indian cricket legend was humiliated to say the least. No top player will want to throw his hat in the ring after what happened to Kumble. It is clear that the Indian players want people who sit back and do nothing rather than go-getters who get results.