With less than 24 hours to go for the Antigua Test, Indian cricket fans are excited. It’s not just the beginning of a Test series, it also heralds the dawn of a new era of the Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble combine.
One man who will keep an eye on the duo is Kapil Dev, the legendary India allrounder. Kapil, the last high-profiled home-bred India coach (1999-2000) before Kumble made a surprise dash last month, has a word of caution though: “Don’t expect too much from Kumble as he is just a coach. Remember, it’s the team that has to play, to win or lose, so why put pressure on Kumble? Having known him for so many years, all I can say is that Kumble will be very methodical but will give Virat the space and the freedom he needs as captain.”
Kapil also finds the term ‘coach’ a bit exaggerated, telling Hindustan Times, “A good coach is someone who can manage the players. Kumble can work strategies session-to-session or day-to-day but it will be his ability to motivate and inspire players with his experience and achievements that can unite this team and make it better. You will have to give the two (captain Kohli and coach Kumble) time because only when the team will go through a crisis or a bad session will their real character be revealed.”
And if it’s Antigua, Kumble won’t have to say much as Indian players would remember how he bowled 14 overs with a fractured and bandaged jaw in the 2002 Test, getting Brian Lara’s wicket too. “India hasn’t seen a bigger contributor in cricket than Kumble,” said Kapil, adding, “Yes, when he first came into international cricket in early 90s, I didn’t expect him to be so successful but he improved every day and learned from early setbacks. As coach, he needs to absorb bad days yet allow the players credit for good days.”
Kapil also favoured India to win the series handsomely, putting the onus on bowlers. “This isn’t the same West Indies where faster bowlers ruled. I was following the scores of practice games and saw Indian spinners pick up wickets. Maybe, it’s the Kumble effect already because in recent years we have seen Indian spinners struggling on overseas tours and I have a feeling leg spinner Amit Mishra will be feeling a lot more confident with one of the greatest leg spinners guiding him,” said Kapil.