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Kumble's captaincy a breath of fresh air

No one can judge a leader by just watching him in one match. It is difficult to judge and comment upon the qualities of leadership even when someone has led a team for many years, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2007 20:29 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Pradeep Magazine
Hindustan Times

I must confess that the idea of Anil Kumble as a leader of men had never appealed to me. He appeared too obsessed with his own craft and his body language always seemed to carry the message: Mind your own business.

On field too, his expression of unhappiness whenever a fielder would slacken while he was bowling somehow gave the impression that he was like a schoolmaster, who would get irritated at the slightest act of perceived indiscipline. These were not qualities you would want in a leader trying to get the best from a bunch of temperamental yet talented youngsters.

The man himself, like any cricketer of his talent, had felt that he has never been given the recognition that his outstanding achievements deserved. He has never been the face of consumer products, never been a favourite of the advertising world and has always been spoken of with respect generally reserved for sombre, well-meaning patriarchs who are there and yet not there.

And then at 37, an age when a sportsman is thinking of beginning a new life away from the field, Kumble was suddenly asked to captain India. It must have been an unexpected honour that, all of a sudden, must have made him feel younger by years - in mind and body.

"What is this fuss all about?" was a reaction typical of a man who had reached a stage in his career where being cynical of life around you may not be unjustified.

I must confess I was way off the mark.

No one can judge a leader by just watching him in one match. It is difficult to judge and comment upon the qualities of leadership even when someone has led a team for many years. Results are not always the best barometer of passing a verdict on a captain. There are so many variables that fetch a positive or a negative result, so one victory cannot make Kumble a great or a poor leader.

At the same time, what one saw of Kumble at Kotla was not what one had expected him to be.

He must have smiled in the five days of the Test match more than he has done in his entire career. There was never an expression of displeasure on his face, even when things were not going in his team's favour. He was willing to listen to a suggestion but never gave the impression that uncertainty was dogging him. Here was a man who was not averse to giving a hearing to a senior or a junior, yet firm enough to do what, in the end, he himself believed should be done.

He appeared self-assured and calm but not arrogant. In his press conference he came across as a man who knows what he is talking about and also someone who is decisive and full of self-belief.

There will be much tougher days ahead, especially in Australia, and one is not sure whether he would be able to maintain the same kind of equanimity in adverse situations. Pressure is known to break the best and can bring out the worst in them.

But on the evidence of what one saw in the Kotla Test, Kumble came across as a breath of fresh air, someone who even appeared to be a born leader. Maybe India needed to have a man like him at the helm much earlier so that he could have had a longer reign.

First Published: Nov 29, 2007 19:27 IST