It seems Anil Kumble’s old dressing room mates did the job for him. Kumble, who did not even feature in the original shortlisted 21, was on Thursday named national coach of the Indian cricket team.
With Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar as members of the crucial cricket advisory committee, Kumble had the edge over Ravi Shastri despite the latter getting full support from captain Virat Kohli.
Ganguly, it is has been reliably learnt, played the most important hand in Kumble’s ascendancy as the Indian cricket board ended a 16-year tradition of appointing foreigners as national coaches.
The first pointers to this effect came to light in the manner in which the committee led by Ganguly and tasked with selecting the coach asked the BCCI to include Kumble’s name in the list which was pruned from 57 applicants down to 21.
Both Shastri and Kumble were included among the ten-odd candidates who were interviewed for the post by the advisory panel. That the BCCI was forced to revise its own criteria of selection by stating that the panel was free to even pick someone who did not meet the conditions suggests that Kumble was included as an afterthought. After all, the nine conditions in the criteria had been listed only after some consideration before the ad for the coach was put out.
Ganguly in fact flew into Dharamsala on Thursday morning along with BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke, giving him an opportunity to present the case of the advisory committee.
Once there, Ganguly also had a closed door meeting with the BCCI president Anurag Thakur.
The announcement on Thursday showed that the BCCI was willing to make exceptions by diluting its norms for Kumble has no experience as a coach and absolutely no formal credentials.
The race for the man to succeed Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher, who left after the 2015 World Cup in Australia and Zimbabwe, was put on hold as Ravi Shastri, named the team director with overall control, struck an excellent rapport with young Test captain, Kohli. The pair agreed both on an aggressive approach to the game with victory the only target and had formed a good team.
Although Shastri was the early favourite after responding to the BCCI’s advertisement for the job, it turned out to be a tight race once Kumble, with support from the cricket advisory committee tasked with selecting the coach, came into the picture.
Thakur told a news conference that the panel gave a “few names” and Kumble’s was chosen from it. Thakur said that “all stakeholders” were consulted before coming to the decision and also fixing the one-year term for Kumble.
His mates may well have pushed him in but it remains to be seen just how Kumble delivers on their confidence.