Former skipper Anil Kumble took charge as the Indian cricket team’s head coach on Wednesday, exhorting his players to always show fighting spirit.
India’s most successful Test and one-day bowler met Test skipper Virat Kohli and the rest of the squad assembled at Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium for a brief camp. Kumble’s first assignment will be the tour of West Indies where India will play four Tests and two warm-up games during their seven-week stay starting on July 6.
“I have been a player and captain, so I know the roles. I’ll share my experience with the players. One thing I will definitely do, win or lose, the fighting spirit will always be there.”
Kumble leads the team to the Caribbean, where his courage on the field came through on the 2002 tour. With his face heavily bandaged after a Merv Dillon bouncer had struck him while batting and fractured the jaw, he still bowled and dismissed Brian Lara before flying home for surgery.
Kumble’s one-year term will see India largely play Tests, as many as 17 of them, starting with the four in the Caribbean. He pointed out that only four in the current squad have played Tests in the region. Kohli made his debut on the previous tour in 2011; pacer Ishant Sharma made a strong comeback to claim the player-of-the-series award after the visitors won the three-game series 1-0.
Leg spinner Amit Mishra and opening batsman Murali Vijay were also part of the MS Dhoni-led 2011 side.
“Only four players have been to West Indies with India and a couple with the A team. (But) there is experience in the team. West Indies is always a tough team at home, although a lot of changes have happened and they are stronger in the shorter formats. And West Indies pitches are not what they used to be (not as lively).”
No bowling coach
The team will be travelling without a bowling coach after the BCCI announced only the batting (Sanjay Bangar) and fielding (Abhay Sharma) assistant coaches. Kumble said he would be hands-on in that department to start with.
“At this point, I thought I can get close to the bowlers. We are considering options, but I would like to observe how it is shaping up. It is a strategy I can be part of.”
Kohli and Kumble’s predecessor, team director Ravi Shastri, have both stressed on the value of having a strong bowling unit to play aggressively and aim for victory in each game.
“(For) fast bowling coach, there are considerations of taking someone. I feel that in this area (bowling), I can contribute.”
Although Twenty20 has been the flavour of the season, Kumble said there were no doubts about the value the young side attaches to playing Tests. “Talking to the players, I realise how much important Test cricket is to them.”
Kumble, who quit playing in 2008, said the big difference between the team he played in and the current bunch was the fitness. “The fielding, of course. That probably stands out. They are young, and the average age is 25-26. But Virat has played close to 40 Tests and Ishant 60. When I retired, I played with those who went on to become great players. It is nice to be part of this journey again.”
Kumble said he had a long chat with limited-overs skipper Dhoni as well and played down the controversy over Shastri not being chosen as head coach after being an early favourite.
“He did a wonderful job. It is not about Ravi or Anil, it’s about the players, it’s about the team. We all want the Indian team to do well, perform. I’m part of the journey now, and he was part of the journey.
“It could be someone else tomorrow. It’s not permanent. We all want Indian cricket to do well.”