Having taken the decision to advertise for the post of head coach, the attempt was to avoid a switch while the Champions Trophy was underway. We felt that while the team was preparing for the Champions Trophy 2017, an ongoing process would undermine the position of the coach and divert the team’s focus towards speculations in the media. It would have created further acrimony. So we decided to announce the new appointment in the fortnight’s gap between the tournament getting over and the team leaving for West Indies. The call for applications’ timeline was decided accordingly.

In my conversations with the captain and team management, it was conveyed that Anil Kumble was too much of a disciplinarian and hence the team members were not too happy with him. I had spoken to Virat Kohli on the issue and he did mention that the younger members of the team felt intimidated by the way he worked with them.

Newspaper articles and viewpoints in the media kept appearing to the effect that Indian cricket has become captive to ‘superstar’ culture or that now players (read captain) will be deciding who the coach should be. It is not the first time that teams around the world perceived dissonance in the dressing room. Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lankan team coach when it won the 1996 World Cup, and who has handled other international teams, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in a two-decade coaching career (he was also the coach of the India U-19 team led by Kohli which won the U-19 World Cup in 2008), says:

“A successful coach is a good man-manager. You need to develop a healthy environment in the dressing room. You should give them good space and the players should have the freedom to express themselves. Of course, you have to have the tactical acumen and technical know-how to point out their shortcomings and address them in a diligent manner.

He further added: “Captains are powerful in every country and it is not just India. In India, you have to understand that these cricketers are superstars and they are treated that way... So the man willing to take up the responsibility of Indian coach has to understand the system and manage it.”

All in all, I am also of the opinion that a coach can only be a friend, philosopher and tactical guide. It is ultimately the team and the captain who have to play the game, and it is on their performance that the team’s fortune rests. After all, how many of us remember the team coach from when ‘Kapil’s Devils’ won the World Cup in 1983?

The comforting factor for the CoA was that coach selection had been done in 2016 by the CAC, which comprised luminaries like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. They were towering personalities and were best suited to speak to the captain, players and the coach on how to go about the process in the future. In fact, when I met Tendulkar in Birmingham during the first match between India and Pakistan on 4 June 2017, I discussed with him in detail the awkward predicament in which we all had been placed. Apprising him of my conversation with the captain, I impressed upon him the fact that legends like him and other members of the CAC could bring about a rapprochement between the captain and the coach, and that maybe if it came from stalwarts like them, it could have the desired effect.

Tendulkar had seen the media reports and was conscious of the disquiet that was bothering everyone. He mentioned that the CAC would speak to Kumble and Kohli and ascertain the nature of the dissonance, if any, and factor it into the decision it would take in choosing the new coach.

Meanwhile, Rahul Johri and Amitabh Choudhary had a chat with the coach and captain. They felt that the differences were fairly severe and maybe it was only the CAC that would be best suited to have a thorough discussion with both of them. Soon, the CAC met in London and interacted with the two separately, in a bid to resolve the issue. After deliberations over three days, they decided to recommend Kumble’s reappointment as the head coach.


While the decision of the CAC was still being conveyed, we received a bolt from the blue that Kumble had decided to step down as head coach. His Twitter message said the following:

This was vintage Kumble—mature, diplomatic and a thoroughbred professional. A legend in his own right, he has been a strategist on the ground with an outstanding work ethic. It is probably these instincts in his psyche that motivated him to step aside. As the elder statesman and the more mature member, he seemed to have taken this decision after he got to know that some team members had misgivings about his approach as a coach.

In a report published by The Times of India on 22 June 2017, Ganguly expressed helplessness in resolving the spat between the coach and the captain, and is quoted to have said: ‘He (Anil Kumble) took the decision (to move on) at the very last moment... All I can say is that it was Kumble’s personal decision to quit the post. We could not do much about it.’

We had long conversations with Kumble after he had returned from the UK. He was obviously upset about the manner in which the entire episode had panned out. He felt he had been unfairly treated and a captain or team should not be given so much importance. It was the duty of the coach to bring discipline and professionalism into the team and as a senior, his views should have been respected by the players. He was disappointed that we had given such importance to following process, and that, in view of the team’s performance over the previous year, he deserved an extension.

I explained to him that considering the fact that even his earlier selection in 2016 had followed a process, and that his one-year contract had no extension clause, we were bound to follow process, even for his reappointment. And that is exactly what was done. However, dissonance in the dressing room is not healthy for any team and since he, as the senior member, had decided to step aside, we respected his decision.

It is indeed very prudent of captain Kohli to have maintained a dignified silence. Any utterance from him would have set off a fusillade of opinions. Kumble, on his part, too, kept to himself and did not go public on any issue that had transpired. That was the most mature and dignified manner of dealing with a situation which could have become unpleasant for all parties involved. Many interpretations of the differences between the two have emerged. Many people have very authoritatively claimed to be privy to viewpoints of the captain and the coach. Suffice it to say that each of them has been built on strands of information that were gathered from third-party sources.

Published with permission from Not Just A Nightwatchman: My Innings in the BCCI by Vinod RaiRupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd.