May 2002, India is playing the West Indies in a test match at Antigua. Anil Kumble comes out to bat with the score at 235-5 after the fall of Rahul Dravid’s wicket. The West Indies bowler Merv Dillon is on fire and bowls a deadly bouncer which knocks of Anil Kumble. Kumble’s jaw is broken and Dillon has done some serious damage on India’s best bowler. It surely could have ended his participation in the game.
Indian innings finishes with the final score being 513/9. The West Indies come out to bat. Any other bowler would have probably not taken the field after sustaining a blow that Kumble had sustained in the Indian innings. But Anil Kumble was a fighter throughout his career and he always gave more than 100% on the cricket field throughout his career. With his entire face damaged, Kumble bowled 14 overs in the West Indian innings and got the wicket of Brian Lara, one of the best ever batsmen to have played the game. The image of Kumble bowling with a broken jaw became a symbol of courage in Indian cricket and that image can never be removed from the minds of any fan of Indian cricket.
Anil Kumble was a champion as a player, a fine gentleman, and an outstanding professional throughout his career. He is India’s highest wicket taker in both Tests and in ODIs and in fact in Test cricket, only Shane Warne and Muttaiah Muralitharan have taken more wickets than Kumble. Nicknamed as Jumbo, Kumble will always be remembered as one of India’s greatest ever match winners. There’s no doubt about that.
As a captain, he also backed his players and the way he handled the situation after the 2008 Sydney test fiasco was really admirable. After retirement, Kumble entered the field of administration.
As the President of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), Kumble and team did an outstanding job and their biggest achievement was that they took cricket outside the capital city Bengaluru. Tier 2 cities like Shivamogga, Hubballi, and Mysuru were given priority and they all hosted Ranji matches. The M Chinnaswamy stadium was planned to be an all seater stadium during this period. It was due to their outstanding administration that Karnataka team was able to sweep all the titles for 2 consecutive years and the likes of KL Rahul and Karun Nair emerged as solid players.
In June 2016, Anil Kumble was named as the coach of the Indian team on the recommendation of the Cricket Advisory committee of the BCCI which included former cricketers Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman. Kumble personally went and gave the interview. He was the unanimous choice and was given a one year contract.
Within this one year, Indian team has had remarkable amount of success. India has been able to emerge as the top ranked team in Test cricket. The performance in the ODIs and T20s has been good as well. To any person who follows Indian cricket, it is clear that Kumble has done a good job as the coach of the Indian team and deserves an automatic extension as the coach of the Indian team. However the way the BCCI has treated him is just unacceptable.
Kumble is one of the greatest players Indian cricket has ever seen and he has done a good job as a coach. He deserves an extension and appreciation from the BCCI. But the BCCI has done a pathetic thing by calling for fresh applications for the post.
Now the BCCI is reportedly miffed with Kumble for demanding a pay hike in the salaries of the players in the team. As soon as the news that Kumble wouldn’t be getting an automatic extension came into the picture, the same time, the stories of an alleged rift between Captain Virat Kohli and Coach Anil Kumble also surfaced within the media. Apparently, Kohli is not happy with Kumble’s approach and a lot of senior players are unhappy with Kumble’s schoolmaster like approach.
Kohli is apparently unhappy that Kumble picked Kuldeep Yadav in the team for the 4th test match against Australia despite his objection. Certain members of the team were apparently happier working with Ravi Shastri. If these claims as reported in the media are indeed true, then what Ramachandra Guha, a person whose views I have always opposed is true? Indian cricket is being let down by the superstars and the superstar syndrome.
With due respect to Mr. Shastri, he is not comparable with Anil Kumble in any aspect. He is not what the doctor ordered and he is a person who believes that all three results are possible. He didn’t even have the courtesy to personally attend the interview when the selection of the coach was being made which was the reason why Sourav Ganguly was miffed with Shastri’s attitude. You can’t give an interview on Skype for such an important post and expect to be picked. When Indian cricket was in deep trouble in 2000 when the match fixing saga had threatened to destroy the image of the game, it was because of professionals and gentlemen like Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble, Srinath, Tendulkar, and Laxman, that Indian cricket fan was able to trust his team. These guys are professionals and Mr. Shastri is definitely not in their league.
I’m not convinced by the media’s narrative which states that senior players are unhappy with Kumble because many senior players have backed him so far. Also, I’m not sure as to how serious the Kohli-Kumble tiff is because former cricketers like Ganguly and Gavaskar have downplayed the issue to a large extent. Both Kumble and Kohli are passionate about cricket and there might have been a difference of opinion but a rift to such an extent that the captain wants the coach out? That in my opinion is not very likely and it was glad to see that Kohli denied the rift altogether on the eve of the Champions Trophy match between India and Pakistan.
Moreover, former players like Farookh Engineer and Harbhajan Singh have backed Anil Kumble and believe that he is the best man for the job.
Harbhajan has rightly described Kumble as a strict, hardworking person and that is how a coach should be. Ravi Shastri and Duncan Fletcher before him were not proactive enough. In fact the practice of the coach participating actively in team selection had been stopped after the exit of Gary Kirsten. Fletcher was outside India for most parts and the captain had complete authority. This definitely would have changed and changed for the better under Kumble. Perhaps the captain was not pleased with Kumble interfering?
In fact, majority of the people are of the impression that Indian team can’t get a better coach than Anil Kumble. The recent Cricinfo poll is an indication of this fact.
If Anil Kumble is removed and replaced by someone else, it won’t be a loss to him because he has the talent to adapt to some other role. The whole reason that he took up the responsibility of being the coach was to help Indian cricket and in his one year time, he has achieved with a significant amount of success. That alone should be enough for him to get a second term. If he is removed, it will be a loss to Indian cricket because Kumble is a very unique package that one can have in a coach. Hope that sanity prevails.