Kumble: Win or lose, the fighting spirit will always be there

India's new coach Anil Kumble outlined his aims for the Indian team after assuming charge ahead of its Test tour of West Indies.

Anil Kumble said he was honoured to be back in the dressing room.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Anil Kumble’s progress to the media hall at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Wednesday, was a touch laboured. It was understandable as the venue, a second home to him right through his chequered career, was agog with well-wishers, old acquaintances besides the obvious media contingent waiting for his press-conference.

There were handshakes all around, a few pats on the back, even a bouquet, too, before Kumble took centre-stage and handled the press corps and their queries with clarity and emphatic lines. The Indian cricket team’s latest coach, bolstered by his reputation as one of the game’s legends, underlined his vision for the squad, on the opening day of the preparatory camp that suffered a wet-start thanks to steady rains.

Excerpts:

A coaching-start in the Caribbean

Last time when we went to the West Indies, we won the series, so we will take that confidence with us. This Indian team has played very well in Test cricket. In the camp, I am just trying to get used to the players. Probably because of the rain, practice will be a problem but I believe this is a very good chance for us to win. We will go there to win the series.

Of bowling with a broken jaw in the West Indies serving as an inspiration

That will be my effort, to prepare as well as possible. Whatever problems and challenges there might be on the field, keep all that in mind and prepare is what I plan to do. Whatever is the support group, the coaching staff and the rest of the support, our belief is that our job is to work in the background. Those who will be in the forefront will be the players, the captain. I firmly believe that the player that I was and the coach that I am, I fully understand both the roles and the responsibilities. I believe this team is very talented and whatever we want to see from the team on the ground, I will also share my experience. One thing I will definitely say is, win or lose, the fighting spirit will always be there.

The take-away from his late-captaincy

When I was a player, I always felt that you are captain of your own bowling. That’s something which I would like to inculcate as well.Especially the bowling group, it is important that all of them believe that they are leaders, which they are. It is just that the mindset, and whatever needs to be done. And the experiences that I have had as a captain or as a player will certainly help in sharing those experiences. As I mentioned, it is a different role and I certainly understand the role of a coach, the role of staying in the background and it is the captain who takes all the calls on the field. I will only assist him in giving him whatever necessary information that is in terms of strategy, be it preparation. So that’s all I can help with, and with all the experiences that I have had as a captain and as a player. Yes, captaincy came certainly pretty late in my career. I looked at that as a challenge, as a great honour. And this probably is the greatest honour that you can have, to be back in the dressing room, again amongst all the players. It is indeed a great privilege and an honour. And I know the responsibility and the expectations. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those people — it has been overwhelming in the last three to four days. I have certainly understood the expectations that are on an Indian coach and I will try hard to live up to that. I can certainly vouch that whatever it takes to prepare the team, I will in my own way try and do that.

Absence of a bowling coach

At this point in time, I thought I can get close to the bowlers, for a start. Yes, we are considering options, I don’t want to say that because this is my first trip as coach with the team and I would like to observe and try and see how the team is shaping up and at this point in time, I thought that with the bowlers, it is the strategy that I can certainly play a part of and that’s something which I am looking at, trying to get closer to the bowlers, understanding what their needs are and then looking at probably bringing in, if you are looking at a fast bowling coach I think is what you are trying to say — there are considerations that I am thinking of but at this point, I don’t know if it will be possible to take someone to the West Indies but if that doesn’t happen, then certainly I am keen to look at the bowlers. I feel that that is certainly an area where I can contribute a lot more.

Prepared for the West Indian pitches?

Yes. That is what we are trying to address here in the camp. It’s only four players who have been to the West Indies with the Indian team. A couple of them have been on ‘A’ tours to the West Indies. The last time that India played, like I mentioned, we had a successful series, we won 1-0 in a three-Test match series and I think Ishant (Sharma) was the Man of the Series. So there is experience. He will be the leader to take the bowling attack. Virat (Kohli) has already played there, Murali Vijay did well on that tour, Amit Mishra has played. So there is experience in this team, who have the experience of conditions. And I have been there before, so I will bring in that as well. West Indies is always a tough team at home and yes, changes have happened in the West Indies set-up. They are more formidable in the shorter formats but conditions of what my experiences have been from previous tours, it is not dissimilar to the Indian conditions. The pitches are much slower unlike in the 80s, what I have heard West Indies pitches were. In that sense, it will be very similar and the team is pretty geared to meet up with whatever challenges come up.

Maiden interaction with the team

Today was just a welcome meeting. Like I am talking to you all now, I spoke of how much of a privilege it is to be again part of the Indian team, that I can share my experiences with them. In the next five to six days, there will be a lot of interactions. The start was good and very welcoming. I also spoke to MS (Dhoni) after he came back from Zimbabwe and although it was only on the phone, I have spoken at length to him, so really looking forward to working with both MS and Virat.

A return to the dressing room after eight years

It’s a bit too early for me. It’s nice, I guess no different. Obviously you know the roles and boundaries as coach. Other than that it’s no different. All of us want Indian cricket to be doing really well, and these are exciting times. I feel privileged to be a part of that journey, and in whatever way I can help Indian cricket achieve that. It was no different walking into a meeting room with the entire team, although the faces were different. I have played with some of them; I have mentored a couple of them in various capacities. To be back in the changing room is always special.

Coaching in different formats

This year we will be playing a lot of Tests, so we are focused on formulating strategies for the longest format. We have seven Tests coming up (immediately), so we are focused on that. Yes, we are thinking about ODIs and T20Is, but for now, the mindset is to do well in Test cricket.

The team now and the one he retired from in 2008

The fielding of course, I didn’t add to that when I retired (laughs). I think that’s what stands out. They are all young, the average age is 25-26 and they have already had the experience of playing at the highest level. Virat has played close to 40 (41) Tests, Ishant has played 60 (68) and he’s only 27-28, so there is experience and there is youth. It’s nice to see that mix. It’s nice to come back into that setup. When I retired, I played with a lot of people who went on to become great players, and it was nice that I had that privilege. Now there’s a journey which we can embark on where some of them can become great players, and they are in the making of great players. It’s nice to be a part of the journey. The exuberance and fitness levels have gone drastically upwards and that’s something I am excited about.

Dealing with a young group

The fortunate thing is I have been close to the game in various capacities. I have been part of the ICC, so I know what the future is. What is it that the youngsters are looking at. I have been a part of the IPL, I have travelled with the youngsters. I have kids who are teenagers. So I understand the pressures of being a parent and also the current generation. In terms of cricket, I am sure I am close to the game, the modern game. And I am sure I can blend my experiences in putting across to youngster of today. I think I can do that. I think the communication that needs to be given to a youngster today, I think I can do that.

Coaching goals and time-lines

Coaching module will be the same. I am talking about the journey. Whatever is the one year, there are 17 Tests, in this whatever my experience, I am honoured that I have an opportunity here. This is what I look at. I don’t think of what will happen after one year. When I was the captain too, I didn't think about if I will be captain after one year. We will try to win all the series. There will be some hard moments and I am sure we will come out of those.

The coach's prescription

It is the captain who is in charge. As a coach, all I do is organise preparations and give informed inputs to the captain and the players, and include all the players. It is not about just the 11 who are to play. It's not like I played in every team I was part of, I was dropped. I was not chosen for a tour. So I understand about being the most important player to being dropped. I understand all of that. I understand that communication at that point is critical. As a coach I would like to pick the phone and say listen, you are still part of the team. That is what I will look to do. Hopefully I will succeed in at least telling players who are dropped that they are still part of the system. That's something I will look forward to do.

>Kumble: It is not about Anil or Ravi

(As appeared in sportstar.thehindu.com on June 29, 2016)