TURMOIL Kumble withdraws from race to remain India coach after Kohli opposes his extension
LONDON: Anil Kumble’s most influential friends in Indian cricket could not ensure a second term for him as head coach. Sourav Ganguly, who once saw the back of Greg Chappell, succumbed to the wishes of the mercurial Virat Kohli, whose allergy for Kumble was no more a secret.
It was Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, the holy trinity of Indian cricket, who had chosen their former teammate as head coach in June 2016. Kumble was a late entrant in the race for coach but edged out hot favourite Ravi Shastri after acrimonious backroom drama.
When the Indian team flew off to the West Indies from Heathrow Tuesday morning, one man was missing from the party. Kumble chose to stay back in London and attend an ICC cricket committee meeting. For him, national duties were over.
After keeping the media in the lurch for days, the BCCI first confirmed Kumble’s resignation through Twitter and then sent an email to media houses late on Tuesday evening placing on record Kumble’s “immense contribution that enabled India become the No. 1 Test side”.
The BCCI said batting coach Sanjay Bangar and bowling coach R. Sridhar would work as stop-gap coaches in the Caribbean. India play their first ODI at Port of Spain on June 23.
In the presence of a dominating Kohli, Kumble’s absence should see a happier dressing room. If India’s Champions Trophy run was making headlines last week, the Anil Kumble saga was not far behind. Kohli’s cold relationship with Kumble was in the open as captain and coach hardly interacted.
Kohli openly praised Bangar and a support staff (Raghu), who throws balls at the nets, but never mentioned Kumble. The defeat against Pakistan in the final probably smashed any chance of reconciliation.
During the early stages of the Champions Trophy, Kohli had denied a rift with Kumble and flayed the media for speculating on dressing room atmosphere.
Behind the scenes Kohli was lobbying hard to get Kumble out. A senior BCCI official told HT during the semifinal versus Bangladesh that Kohli and some senior players had complained about Kumble’s rigid style of functioning and the captain wanted Kumble’s one-year-term to end with Champions Trophy.
Former cricket star Farokh Engineer, famous for his flamboyance during his heyday, told HT in a telephonic conversation that the Indian team “needed a man manager and not a coach.”
“It is sad to see Kumble go but this definition of head coach must be changed. It should be called a cricket manager, a person who will be like a father figure,” said Engineer.
As Ganguly’s Cricket Advisory Committee drew a blank, Kumble decided to step down. Any person with an iota of self-respect would hate to continue for another two weeks in a vitiated dressing room. Kumble’s exit thus didn’t come as a shock.
BCCI officials said differences between coach and an adamant captain were “irreparable”. The CAC, that once elected Kumble with much fanfare, surrendered to Kohli’s wishes as Board officials had no option but to let the former captain bow out.
Clearly, there was no trust left between captain and coach. Ganguly had said the team is “ultimately the captain’s baby” and thus could not contradict Kohli’s wishes. In a system that notoriously backs player power Ganguly had ousted Chappell in 2007.
The “process” to name a new coach will take a new turn. Virender Sehwag, Tom Moody, Richard Pybus, Lalchand Rajput and Dodda Ganesh are the ‘official’ aspirants.
But don’t rule out Kohli’s favourite, Ravi Shastri. He could well make a backdoor entry. Anything is possible in Indian cricket.