The Indian cricket board on Thursday made former skipper and spin great Anil Kumble the national coach for a one-year term, ending a 16-year tradition of giving foreigners the role.
The announcement suggested that an advisory committee of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman prevailed in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) decision to pick their former teammate from a 21-candidate shortlist, which included former cricketer Ravi Shastri.
The 45-year-old Kumble holds the Indian record for most Test and one-day international wickets — 619 and 334 respectively — but hardly has any coaching credentials.
He becomes the first home-grown coach after a string of foreign coaches since Kiwi John Wright’s appointment in 2000. The legendary Kapil Dev coached the team before Wright.
“It’s a huge responsibility, ready to take this role. Coaches come later, it’s always players first. Strategy will be to win,” said Kumble, who led India in 14 Tests.
India have a packed schedule of 13 Tests, which will help the cricket bosses assess how Kumble gels with young Test skipper Virat Kohli who had struck an excellent rapport with Shastri, the team’s director.
Shastri, who has been the sole head of the team since coach Duncan Fletcher of Zimbabwe left after the 2015 World Cup, was the early favourite. But it turned out to be a tight race once Kumble, with support from the cricket advisory committee tasked with selecting the coach, came into the picture.
BCCI chief Anurag Thakur said the board took “feedback” from everyone, suggesting officials had to find a middle path as Kohli has been reportedly keen on continuing the association with Shastri. The former all-rounder had guided the team to successive Test series wins, in Sri Lanka and against South Africa at home, besides overseeing India’s World T20 campaign.
But the final choice underlines the weight of the advisory panel, especially former skipper Ganguly who heads the Bengal unit and the board’s technical committee.
BCCI chief Thakur said his appointment will be for a year and reviewed after that.
The short stint is unprecedented because previous India coaches got at least a three-year term.
“As Kumble transforms himself from a great on the field to becoming a great coach, there is a transition period,” BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke said. “When we say transition, it has to be smooth. This is a professional appointment. As such, we have to cover all our bases.”
Regarded highly for his on-field acumen — he is also the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricket committee chairman — Kumble’s experience is restricted to being a mentor to Mumbai Indians, when they won both their IPL titles.
The BCCI, rather than the chief coach, will pick the support staff for the West Indies Test tour in the first week of July — a move seen as a signal for Kumble that he will have to work hard to establish himself.