The recent appointment of Ravi Shastri as the head coach of the Indian Cricket Team and the success against Sri Lanka in the first test might have veneered the acrimonious exit of Anil Kumble from the coach’s position, but the controversial episode is bound to leave its mark on the coming times. This was not the first time when the relationship between the captain and coach got bitter and the latter had to bear the brunt of the same. The waspish tenure of Greg Chappel as the coach and his rift with Saurav Ganguly is well known. Chappel also rubbed his shoulders with other senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag who also described his stint as the coach in a bad light. Greg Chappel was touted by many as ‘high-headed’ and had an unpleasant relationship with many players. But the present case of Anil Kumble’s exit came as a ‘rude shock’ to the entire cricketing fraternity and lakhs of fans because Kumble is known for his polite and upright demeanor. The fact that Virat and Kumble both have shared dressing room place for Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) in the Indian Premier League makes it even more grappling.
The present day cricket with high-pressure situations and immaculate practice of skills, call for the somewhat limited role of a coach as a ‘teacher’ of skills. It has changed to that being more of mentoring and claiming a tough situation. It is also said that a coach could only help to a limited extent and it is finally up to the players to execute their skills on the ground. Imagine a coach teaching someone of Virat Kohli’s stature, how to bat. Thus, the team dynamics call for the players to be in a cordial relation with the coach and the coach should, in turn, contribute positively towards the team’s on-field success. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done well letting Anil Kumble leave and selecting Ravi Shastri in his place. Ravi Shastri is known to be captain Kohli’s favorite for the job.
Anil Kumble’s Selection as ‘Coach’
The selection of Anil Kumble as the ‘Coach’ was done on 23rd June 2016 after a strict perusal of all the applicants by the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising of cricketing legends Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. It is pertinent to point out that the institution of CAC for selecting coach was a welcome step, post the BCCI’s take over by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) which was appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The CoA had prudently shifted the onus of coach’s selection on CAC. It was a departure from the earlier regime of BCCI bosses (mostly politicians and businessmen) selecting a coach for the team upon their personal choice and not on cricketing merit. Amongst the names of probable candidates, the name of ‘Ravi Shastri’ also featured on top, but the CAC decided in favor of Anil Kumble after interviewing the candidates. This transparent procedure was adopted to wean away any allegations of nepotism upon the BCCI which was struggling to shrug off its image of the elitist club of crony-capitalists controlling India’s biggest sporting board. The Lodha Committee report exposed the blatant nexus of selected few applying ‘scratch my back style’ to with-hold power.
When the official announcement of Kumble’s selection was made, Virat Kohli was the first one to congratulate him. Virat had tweeted “Heartiest welcome to @anilkumble1074 Sir. Look forward to your tenure with us.” It was dubbed as a positive signal for the Indian cricket that the captain had proactively welcomed the new coach. Nobody could have predicted that what was being dubbed as a ‘dream-saga’ for the cricket to unfold would a year later turn into an utter mess. What is even more appalling is that the same tweet was removed by Virat Kohli from his Twitter Archives after Kumble mentioned ‘his reservations with the captain’ in his statement after tendering his resignation.
Anil Kumble’s Tenure as Coach
Usually when there is any sort of bitterness between the captain and coach, the team’s performance reflects the same on the field as well. The tense atmosphere in the dressing room translates into skewed skill application and tumbling display in the matches. The fact that Anil Kumble’s tenure as the head coach witnessed great success both in tests as well as limited overs cricket makes the duel even more startling. Kumble was the coach on the Indian cricket team from June 2016 till June 2017 till his one year contract expired. His tenure saw India defeating West Indies and New Zealand in the test series. It was followed by 4-0 whitewash of England in November-December home series. The fourth test series win came against Bangladesh with India stretching 19 test matches at unbeaten streak. Kumble’s desire to take the team to the top translated into excellent results with a 2-1 win against Australia which was achieved after the defeat in the opening test match of the series. India also got better against New Zealand and England in the limited overs match series under his tenure. The metaphorical zenith of his tenure was India finishing as the runners’ up in the Champions Trophy 2017, albeit poor show in the final against Pakistan. It is a pity that he announced his put down abruptly during a highly successful stint. The sparkling comeback of Cheteshwar Pujara into the test team and the mentorship of Kuldeep Yadav into successful debut are the highlights of his coaching tenure. His disciplined approach and confidence instilled in players’ ability are the hallmark of his cricketing style.
It is interesting that Anil Kumble’s style which nurtured players like Kuldeep Yadav into international players was seen by some of the players as ‘over-disciplined’. One of the main reasons that are being given for players’ unhappiness is his seriousness and great emphasis on planning. He tried to make players fall in line with his no-nonsense approach. It appears that few players are too inflated with international success to adjust to a hard working coach of Kumble’s stature.
The ‘Ravi Shastri’ Factor
The rift between the captain Virat Kohli and the head coach Anil Kumble is being attributed to the closeness of Virat with Ravi Shastri. Ravi Shastri had served as the Manager of the Indian team in the interregnum between Duncan Fletcher’s exit and the subsequent selection of Kumble as the head coach. The new Indian team coach Ravi Shastri had applied for the said post in June 2016 as well, but the CAC trio opted for Anil Kumble. It is being said that Virat Kohli wanted Ravi Shastri to be appointed as the coach last year as well, but the fact that Anil Kumble was in the race as well, blurred Shastri’s chances. The easy going and man-manager style of Ravi Shastri during his term as the manager of the team had touched nice vibes with the captain Virat and most of the players. It is interesting to mention that during Ravi Shastri’s tenure, he had the services of Sanjay Banger as the Batting Coach and Bharat Arun as the Bowling specialist coach. Bharat Arun’s term as the bowling coach was because of him. It is disappointing to note that after the replacement of Ravi Shastri with Anil Kumble, Bharat Arun was dropped as well from the post of bowling coach. However, with the recent appointment of Ravi Shastri as the head coach, Bharat Arun is back in the team as the bowling coach. It is pertinent to point out that during Kumble’s tenure, he doubled as the bowling coach as well. His workload was thus, more strenuous that Ravi Shastri’s managerial term with two specialist coaches to work with him.
The Final Falling Out
By over two months it was being reported by the media that things were not very good between the captain Virat and coach Anil Kumble. The rumor mills were churning things out fast like the one that Kumble was revealing the dressing room information to the journalists. But it was one of the Chinese tittle-tattle which has no basis with the truth. The resignation of Kumble came just after India’s loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final. The resignation letter came out in the form a statement of Anil Kumble depicting his side of the story. He thanked the CAC, BCCI and lakhs of fans for the confidence they have entrusted in him. He acknowledged the misunderstandings which were brewing between him and Virat. He also pointed out the truce efforts done by CAC to resolve the differences. He said that he thought off very highly of Virat and hoped the best for the team in future. His resignation revealed the deep ditch that had cropped up between him and Virat, and his resignation is being touted as his sacrifice for the betterment of Indian cricket.
The entire episode of his resignation was speculations and rumor-mongering of epic proportions. Though the media had rightly attributed the fallout to ego clash with Virat and Virat’s dominating style, what has escaped much thought was the entire mismanagement on the part of BCCI to avert this fallout. It is true that BCCI’s CAC tried to do patch work in the last moments to reconcile the unwelcome development, but these were like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. BCCI got periodic reports from the team’s managers about the dressing room atmosphere and it is unbelievable that BCCI did not have a clue about the soring relationship, even though the newspaper were filled with the same. The whole conundrum was handled very unprofessionally and it appeared that India’s favorite sport’s federation had no clue about what happens in the dressing room. After all, the gamut of administrators, selection committees, and managers are there for the betterment of the Indian cricket. Coach’s bitter working alliance with the captain is something that is too serious to ignore unless the money is all that the board considers important.
Virat-Shastri duo returns…
The resignation of Anil Kumble left a bad taste in the mouth of every ardent cricket fan in India. While some saw it as Kumble’s large headedness to leave before things become worse, others thought that Kumble left the team in the lounge with a surprise resignation. The thing that comes out of the sad development is that some one of Kumble’s stature (he is world’s third largest and India’s largest wicket-taker of all times) and sincerity deserved better send off than this unceremonious exit. The blame must be apportioned by Virat Kohli as well who did not reconcile to Kumble’s discipline. In India, captains have had differences with the coaches in the past as well, but in this case, the ramifications have been so glaring. The fact is that presently Virat Kohli is the best player in the team and stands far higher than most of his teammates on the field as well. With the retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket and senior players like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, etc. remaining out of the team accentuated Virat, primus inter pares (first among equals) position. He is now the captain of the Indian team in all the three forms of the game. Amongst his predecessors, Saurav Ganguly who is called to have been a dominating captain also had legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman with him in the team. With the supreme stature in the team, Virat’s preference of support staff would be of great credence in any selection. Ravi Shastri’s selection in place of Kumble confirms the hegemonic influence that Virat has on Indian cricket currently.
Virat Kohli who is presently Indian cricket’s brightest star has now been supported by Ravi Shastri as a coach with Bharat Arun back as the bowling specialist coach. The results have helped in reducing the blame put upon Virat for the fallout. India has recently won the second test against Sri Lanka clinching the test series. The combination of Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli is back with great results to show as well. Ravi Shastri’s manager style suits Virat’s dominance greatly as the former allows every player in the team to express himself on the field. It is pertinent to mention that during 2015 when India toured Sri Lanka and lost the first test at Galle, Ravi Shastri mentorship helped the team put up as a stunning comeback in the series. His motivational talk after the loss is credited with infusing the team with confidence and belief to perform under pressure conditions. It is hoped that duo of Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will be able to string great results for the Indian cricket and the team will attain great glories in times to come. It is said that nothing succeeds like success. If the partnership between Virat and Ravi Shastri sets new cricketing records, it would surely lessen if not completely wash away the stains of this undignified episode and entire furor surrounding it.