Two aspects of Anil Kumble’s character that really defined the leg spinner during his playing days were his determination and aggression.
And these two aspects will again form the core of his coaching philosophy as he takes over as coach of the Indian cricket team -- the first Indian in 16 years.
There have been plenty of examples as to how Kumble the player and later the captain put the team’s cause before individual accolades.
On the most infamous tour of Australia in 2007-08, when Harbhajan Singh was accused of racially insulting Andrew Symonds, it was Kumble’s firefighting skills that saved the day.
In the same Sydney Test, where contentious umpiring and dubious catches broke the back of the Indian team as they slumped to a 122-run defeat, Kumble’s assertion that “only one team was playing with the spirit of the game”, won him many fans even in Australia.
In many ways this tour set a benchmark as far as his leadership abilities go. First, he persisted with the then inexperienced Ishant Sharma who went on to became an important member of the touring party as he tormented Ricky Ponting with unplayable deliveries.
Then, in the Perth Test, he sent in an out-of-form Virender Sehwag as opener. Though Sehwag did not contribute with the bat, he did snare two crucial wickets as India scripted a famous win. In the next Test at Adelaide, Sehwag reposed Kumble’s faith in him by scoring 63 and 151 in both the innings.
Cut to the present. Kumble’s appointment may work well for the current Test captain Virat Kohli. As a leader, Kohli has brought a winning mentality to the team. But on the occasions that he failed, Kohli looked clueless for ideas. Kumble’s inputs will be of great help especially when Kohli has an off-colour day as skipper.
Bowlers too will get special attention from Kumble. Test spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have had a rough IPL season and both have been struggling to find some rhythm. Kumble’s presence in the dugout may work wonders for both Jadeja and Ashwin. Jadeja, like Kumble, relies more on trajectory and variations in pace than turn to purchase his wickets. A leg-spinner’s inputs would be crucial to harness his potential.
Kumble’s biggest weapon while bowling was his accuracy and he used it to his advantage by varying his pace and length accordingly. A slight deviation was effective enough to bamboozle the batsmen.
Ashwin too can learn about just what it takes to pick wickets in adverse conditions.
Above else, his time as mentor to Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore will bode well for the future. His motivational skills came to the fore as Mumbai lifted the IPL Trophy twice, in 2013 and 2015. More than teaching basics to the top cricketers, Kumble’s role was that of a motivator.
This role will come in handy on the testing tour of West Indies that starts next month.