Off the field, the dressing room is where a cricketer gets to know his mates the best.
And that might work in Anil Kumble’s favour as the BCCI hunts for the next India coach. Among those seeking the cricket world’s most stressful but prestigious job, Kumble is the most well known to the advisory committee trio of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has handed to the committee a trimmed list of 21 names -- down from 57 candidates -- as a prolonged drama plays out over the new coach. The team has been without a coach since ICC World Twenty20 ended in the first week of April.
The other names doing the rounds are Ravi Shastri, Sandeep Patil, Vikram Rathour, Pravin Amre, Venkatesh Prasad, Lalchand Rajput, Stuart Law and Tom Moody.
Starting Tuesday, some of the candidates – through video conferences and presentations – have shared with the panel their vision for Team India. Sources say Kumble argued his case well in front of his former teammates.
More of a manager
To begin with, an India coach has to be more of a manager than a technical person. He has big egos to handle, has to keep up the team morale and stage interventions when required. Only a person who commands the respect or awe in the dressing room can deliver the goods -- Kumble has that stature. In terms of on-field achievements, too, the 45-year-old is way ahead of the pack.
The oft-cited argument that a great cricketer necessarily doesn’t make a great captain or coach is unlikely to hold with an advisory committee that has Ganguly as a member.
Throughout his career, Ganguly, one of India’s most successful captains, favoured proven big names. Having captained Kumble and also played under him, Ganguly knows why rivals feared the bowler’s attitude more than the spin he could extract on a wearing surface.
His recommendation alone would not be enough but will certainly count for something.
There are many other factors that give Kumble an edge. He brings with him a sense of controlled aggression that will especially come in handy overseas with a team in transition under Virat Kohli.
Given a second term as ICC cricket committee chairman in May, Kumble has a well-rounded view of the game and its administration.
Having quit as the Mumbai Indians mentor and all the positions held with the franchise owner the Reliance group, Kumble doesn’t have any major conflict of interest issues to contend with.
His stint with Mumbai Indians, during which the team won the IPL twice, should boost his credentials as someone who knows the formula of success in shorter formats – an area India have been found lacking in recent days.
The Shastri spin
Shastri is hugely popular with the team and apparently enjoys Kohli’s support as well. He has been outspoken about the team’s needs and defended it in troubled times but hasn’t delivered where it matters the most -- ICC events.
The big factor that may work against the former India team director is that he has been tried with just above average success.
If reports of Kumble being the front-runner are true, a last-minute veto of the advisory panel recommendations is the only way Shastri can stay in contention.
At present, it looks unlikely but nothing is impossible in the quick-moving world of the BCCI.