Kumble caught in BCCI-CoA crossfire

The head coach’s meeting with the panel on the salary issue appears to have rankled Board officials.

Anil Kumble’s one-year contract will conclude with the Champions Trophy, and yet, the timing of the press-release at the last minute was ill-advised.   -  V.V. Krishnan

Not-so-subtle efforts are on to undermine Anil Kumble within some BCCI circles. It started with leaks to the media about the remuneration-proposals India’s head coach submitted to the Committee of Administrators (CoA), both for the team and the coaching staff. The whisper campaigns that did the rounds were lathered with the word ‘greed’.

To make it worse, just as the Men in Blue embarked on the tour of England to defend their ICC Champions Trophy title, a BCCI press-release invited fresh applications for the head coach’s position, but with the caveat that the incumbent Kumble will have a direct entry.

Kumble’s one-year contract will conclude with the Champions Trophy, and yet, the timing of the press-release at the last minute was ill-advised.

The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), featuring Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman, had recommended a three-year term culminating in the 2019 World Cup when it picked him for the top job. But some leading officials felt that since the new coach had no experience of shepherding an international side, it was essential that he prove his credentials through an initial one-year tenure.

Fair point

It was a fair point, and the former India captain and cricketing legend has delivered the desired results. India won in the West Indies and emerged victorious while hosting New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia. And since Kumble’s contract was winding to a close, the CoA, headed by Vinod Rai, wanted a repeat of last-year’s selection process.

The BCCI officials could have stressed that since the incumbent has found consistent success, ideally, he should be persisted with, but the strange ways of the Board meant that a press-release with the following words was issued: “To ensure a fair and completely transparent process, a nominee of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) will oversee the entire process along with the Cricket Advisory Committee.”

There is talk that Kumble’s meeting with the CoA on the remuneration issue rankled a few BCCI officials. It is a travesty that Virat Kohli had to handle queries about Kumble’s tenure when he faced the media on arrival in London. The Indian skipper made politically correct statements, but his sense of unease could have been avoided if only the BCCI had sought to clear the air about Kumble’s position well in advance.

Kumble offered his blueprint on ideal salaries for the national players, the head coach and support-staff only after the CoA specifically sought his inputs. Kumble was asked and he responded professionally to the queries of the CoA, but the insinuation from a few disgruntled BCCI officials is that the head coach was acting like a trade-union man, was over-stepping his brief and quoting enormous figures.

The salaries proposed by Kumble were only recommendations and are not set in stone. These recommendations are open to negotiation, and it must be remembered that coaching the Indian team is a full-time, all-year job.

Just a template

He or she cannot be associated with any Indian Premier League team, cannot have media commitments like being a columnist, and it is only fair that the remuneration befits the position. The figure suggested by Kumble is a template not just for him but also for those who will eventually succeed him in the coming years or even next month!

The spin-doctors even suggested that Kumble sought a vote in the selection committee. That is far from true; he has not sought such an intervention. Except for one selection committee meeting, he has not sat in any, and is not privy to the way the selectors pick a squad.

One of India’s greatest match-winners has been boxed into a corner for eventually doing what the CoA had asked him to: come up with a set of recommendations on salaries for players and coaching staff!

This issue could have been handled with grace, but in the world of Indian cricket officialdom, there seems to be no concern for a team and its head coach hoping to successfully defend the Champions Trophy title.

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