The last couple of months have been interesting for Indian cricket.
The IPL finished and after a short break, a limited-overs series comprising 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is in Zimbabwe took place. MS Dhoni led an inexperienced side, most of whom were playing their first few games for India. India lost a sole T20I by 1 run, but apart from that, it was a relatively successful tour for the youngsters who had their first taste of international cricket.
Anil Kumble’s Bright New Era for India
Immediately after the series came the big saga of picking the next Indian coach. India haven’t had a full time coach since Duncan Fletcher left towards the end of 2014 and in the mean time, for the past 18 months, Ravi Shastri took up a “Team Director” role and has done a pretty good job of it. India reached the semi-finals before losing to the eventual winners in both the 2015 World Cup and 2016 World T2o, won a Test series in Sri Lanka for the first time in decades, and humbled South Africa 3-0 in the Test series last year. All in all, it is fair to say that Ravi Shastri had a relatively successful tenure as a “Team Director” during his 18 months at the helm.
There were quite a few big names who put their names forward to be the next Indian Coach including Stuart Law, Sandeep Patil, Tom Moody and Lalchand Rajput. However, the two big names in the fray who had a literal head-to-head with each other were Anil Kumble and Ravi Shastri.
A three man committee of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were supposedly the people responsible of shortlisting the candidates and picking a suitable name. They eventually picked Anil Kumble and this didn’t bode well with Shastri and he had a public spat with Ganguly, in particular. This became quite a serious issue and it looks like it has toned down a little bit, for now.
West Indies Tour
Coming to the actual point of it all now – Anil Kumble, India’s new coach is set to take his team for the tour of West Indies. The tour comprises four Tests and Virat Kohli will be leading India in a major overseas tour (excluding tours within the subcontinent) as a full time Test captain for the first time. There is no denying that India’s performances in Tests overseas in the last 4-5 years have been nothing short of average.
With the odd exception of a few Tests like the ones in Lord’s in 2014, India’s performances have been disappointing. This will be the biggest challenge for Kohli and Kumble, and to be fair, touring the West Indies isn’t the toughest tour, at the moment. After this series, India will play 13 Tests at home in the next 12 months, including three vs. New Zealand, four vs. Australia and five vs. England.
The Team’s Opinion
Anil Kumble’s impact has already been felt and quite a few players have spoken quite highly of him, already. Opener Murali Vijay said, “He’s [Kumble’s] been an unbelievable cricketer for the Indian team. We are really looking forward to sharing some quality time with him… I couldn’t spend a lot of time with him then. But I’ve been a great fan of him as a youngster, who isn’t?! It is a great opportunity for us to talk to him about cricket, his thought processes and learn from that and move forward. I think it is going to be a great time for us.”
Captain Virat Kohli also has already voiced his appreciation. He said, “It is fair to say the two share an emotional connect. “100 per cent there is emotional connect. For me, it doesn’t matter where the coach is from. What matters is how he treats the players, makes them feel comfortable and how much he can provide to the players. These are the factors that you look for if you are assigning a head coach. Anil Bhai has all three in abundance. He understands the players. There is huge respect for him because of what he has done for country and because of him being Test captain. We have all looked up to him, so there’s always that respect. He understands that, and he makes everyone feel comfortable. I think the combination has settled in beautifully,” explained the skipper.
Kumble was asked about this whole saga in his first press conference. “I was the first one to call Ravi after I was chosen as head coach,” Kumble said. “He did a wonderful job with the Indian team. It is not about Anil or Ravi, it is not about the head coach. It is about the players, it is about the team. And from my point of view, whether it is me or Ravi or any Indian, we all want the Indian team to do well. We all want the Indian team to perform at its best. We all believe that there is potential for the Indian team to be the best in all three formats.
“And If I’m part of the journey, that’s all I have to say. He congratulated me. I told him it’s a fantastic team, a young team that we have. It could be someone else tomorrow [in place of me]. I’m not permanent in this role. I have an opportunity to make a difference. I have an opportunity to be part of the journey and if I can be part of the journey where we see Indian cricket rise to where we all want it to be, then I think it’s wonderful. I feel privileged, like I already mentioned. And an honour again to be a part of the team.”
This is going to be an interesting year for Indian cricket and as always, expectations are sky high. The Kumble-Kohli partnership promises a lot, and we can only wait and see if it lives up to its hype.