Indian cricket has often looked to Australia to show the way --- be it providing the cutting edge to the team, establishing a national academy or appointing a professional coach, as it did for the first time in 2000 by roping in New Zealand’s John Wright.
Whatever protracted deliberations that preceded Anil Kumble’s appointment as chief coach, there was a touch of Australia to the process. The Aussie board had picked ex-player Darren Lehmann three years ago after the failure of South Africa’s Mickey Arthur.
It was Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher’s inability to boost the side on the 2014 tour of England that forced BCCI to bring on board Ravi Shastri as team director. It showed the emphasis has shifted to man management as the technical aspects are handled by specialist coaches.
Once Kumble put his name forward, it became clear Shastri, who had the backing of Test skipper Virat Kohli, had stiff competition.
It was clear the cricket advisory committee, comprising Kumble’s former teammates Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, finally had a say. Although he lacked coaching credentials, there is no question that the stature of only the second bowler ever to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings would count.
As he arrived for the BCCI meetings with secretary Ajay Shirke on Thursday, Ganguly had his familiar smile in place, but there was still work to do on the chief coach’s front.
With transparency the watchword, the BCCI officials have treaded cautiously.
“It’s not about Indian or foreign coach,” president Anurag Thakur told a news conference. “It’s about who is the best for Indian cricket. India deserves the best, and I think we have it in Kumble.”
Kumble will have to deal with 13 Tests, starting with the series in the West Indies in July-August. He will have to establish a rapport with Kohli, whom he also mentored at the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The former India spinner has had his share of administrative experience. The most challenging one, as president of the Karnataka unit for three years, didn’t go as expected and he and ex-India pacer Javagal Srinath chose to step down in the end.
But Kumble can draw upon his fighting qualities as a player to make an impact. On the 2002 West Indies tour, he bowled with his fractured jaw bandaged after being struck by a Mervyn Dillon bouncer.
As skipper on the eventful Australia tour of 2007-8, he held the side together following the Monkeygate scandal involving spin partner Harbhajan Singh.
His task begins when the team assembles before leaving for West Indies in the first week of July. With the BCCI deciding to appoint the support staff by itself, Kumble won’t have a say on the personnel.