Kumble’s appointment is inspired

Anil Kumble will demand nothing less than 100% effort, but he will be generous to those who give their best and fall short on occasions.

Greg Chappell with Anil Kumble.   -  PTI

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Anil Kumble must have learnt the wisdom of those words early, for his indomitable will was his greatest asset during his cricket career. He was the heart to Rahul Dravid’s soul of the Indian teams in which they played with such distinction.

If they had been blessed to have been surrounded by other selfless individuals whose only aim was to serve the team, the Indian teams in which they played would have been impossible to beat.

Kumble will bring these same assets to the role as coach. His is an inspired choice.

I liked the look of Anil before I met him and was not disappointed when I got to know him. What you saw was what you got.

There was never any fuss with Anil. He prepared himself well and never relented on the field until the job was done. He would spend himself in the pursuit of success for the team and was always distressed if the team had not given its all.

He was also one of the few who was prepared to speak up if he felt it was needed. No one dared to challenge him.

On the tour of the West Indies in 2006, Kumble and Dravid were the rocks on which the success of a rare Test series victory oversees was hewn. The first three Tests were drawn and then India won a hard-fought, low-scoring game in Jamaica.

It was Kumble’s batting as much as his bowling that assisted Dravid to conjure a competitive score in the first innings and then, when the game was there to be won, he was the bowler who delivered when it counted. His indomitable spirit was there for all to see.

Anil was never one to blow his own trumpet, but no one ever needed to be told that he was giving the team everything that he had. Whether with the bat or the ball or in the field, Anil competed with a tenacity that few Indian players have surpassed.

I remember seeing Kumble come off the field when India was bowling and noticed that his first port of call was the computer analyst’s station. Because I didn’t see him as someone who stressed over technical issues I was intrigued as to what he was doing each time he went to the computer.

When I asked him what his purpose was, he said that he wanted to know two things; his bowling speed and where he was hitting the pads in relation to the knee-roll.

The speed at which he operated best in India was around 83-85 kph and if he was hitting the knee-roll he was bowling the right length. If he was hitting above the roll, he was bowling too short and if he hit too far below the roll, he was too full.

Nothing if not simple!

On another occasion, I asked Anil to speak to the bowling group about what the key issues were for him in his success at the international level. He never once mentioned technique; he talked about effort, belief in his ability and the importance of not giving up, no matter how hopeless the cause may have looked.

Importantly, he talked about preparing well.

Kumble will demand the same commitment from the teams that he coaches. He will demand nothing less than 100% effort, but he will be generous to those who give their best and fall short on occasions.

Virat Kohli is lucky to have a man of Anil’s undoubted strengths as his ally. It will be a powerful partnership that I expect will serve India well.

Anil has been around long enough to know that the captain is the critical component of any cricket team and that the coach’s role is to support the captain to take the load off him to allow for personal preparation time in the lead up to games, but then take a back-seat once the game begins.

The coach/captain role in cricket is very different from other sports where the coach is the obvious leader. In cricket it is a joint venture off the field, but on the field, the captain must be the boss and must be seen as the boss by his players or his authority will be undermined.

Anil knows this and will work closely with and support Virat without undermining him. Virat on the other hand will continue to be a good role model for his group as he works hard on all aspects of his game.

Indian cricket has never reached the heights that it should because it has relied too much on natural ability and flair rather than diligent preparation. Too often in the past, Indian teams have tried to take short-cuts rather than work hard so any success has been fleeting.

It was something that I was appointed to change, but it needed key players, not least of all the captain, to buy-in and lead by example. Sadly, this didn’t happen until Dravid was appointed and the next 12 months brought some consistent success because of the change at the top.

This has rarely happened in India’s cricket history.

Pataudi, Dravid and Kumble are the exceptions. They tried to lead by example, but failed because they either didn’t have enough talent or didn’t get the support they needed from key individuals.

This will only be one of a number of challenges for the Kohli/Kumble partnership, but the greatest asset that Kumble has is that he has a captain who has a robust self-belief, is courageous and who will lead by example in all areas.

One of the biggest challenges will be how they manage the fitness of their fast bowlers. This has been a problem for all countries in recent times as the amount of international cricket has increased and fast bowlers have fallen by the wayside at an alarming rate.

It won’t get any easier any time soon for India with the amount of Test cricket that they are committed to in the near future. To overcome this will take a huge commitment from all levels of cricket in India and will need to be supported by the administration.

Unless fast bowlers are prepared properly for the workload demanded at the highest level before they get there, they will break down.

The level of expectation that has greeted Kumble’s appointment borders on unrealistic so, unless he gets the support of all of the key stakeholders, it may prove to be too much even for his indomitable spirit.