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Newsmaker: Anil Kumble

Taking a Jumbo leap

Dhruv Munjal  |  New Delhi 

Anil Kumble was always destined to be a coach. That he turned out to be India’s greatest bowler is a splendid bonus that we should gleefully embrace. But the studious brain, the fierce eyes and the contemplative face were always meant for just one thing: the master’s chair. Earlier this week, Kumble shrugged off competition from a host of candidates — including the now vengeful Ravi Shastri — to land the most prestigious job in Indian sport. Former Indian pacer Venkatesh Prasad later admitted that he would not have even bothered to apply for the post had he known that Kumble was also in the fray. Prasad — maybe like so many others who had thrown their hat in the ring — knew that with Kumble in the mix, his chances were scant. Kumble joins the Indian team at a crucial time: Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks poised to relinquish his duties as India’s one-day international and T20 captain much sooner that most would’ve expected, and Virat Kohli will lead a bunch of fledgling players in as many as 17 Test matches this season. Moreover, he faces the onerous task of reinventing the Indian bowling — a tedious assignment given that we’ve failed at solving this problem during the tenures of so many coaches past. It is no secret that Kohli shared a sparkling rapport with Shastri, Kumble’s predecessor. Kohli’s “all or nothing” philosophy found an impassioned believer in Shastri. Kohli expectedly thrived under the former all-rounder’s aegis, and the team played a brand of plucky, efficient cricket. The 45-year-old Kumble lacks the palpable, fervent desire of Shastri but more than makes up for it with a diligent mind that reads the game much quicker than most can fathom.

And, beneath somewhat placid demeanour is a unfaltering dedication to perseverance and competition — something that he displayed in abundance as a player and captain. Kumble’s quietude can help assuage Kohli’s brashness. A similar union worked so wonderfully in the case of Sourav Ganguly and Kiwi John Wright. Also, it would be ludicrous to think Kumble enters this hallowed territory with little experience. His role as mentor to Royal Challengers Bangalore and then Mumbai Indians in Indian Premier League means that he has enough man-management experience. The cricket acumen, of course, has never been in doubt. The immediate challenge before Kumble is to forge a Test team that can replicate its performances overseas. In the last few years, India has wretchedly struggled away from home, and the four-match series against the West Indies later this month will be a stellar test of how far this Kohli-led team can go. More important, Kumble must start looking for a replacement for Dhoni immediately. Often, the going away of a player with the magniloquent stature of Dhoni throws a team into disarray, and ideal replacements are troublesome to find. Just ask Adam Gilchrist and Australia. Here, India have got their hands on an able leader, and more importantly, an assiduous problem solver, one who can transform remarkable talents into world beaters. An intriguing year lies ahead.

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First Published: Thu, June 30 2016. 21:17 IST
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