There is something disconcerting about recent reports which hint at some sort of rift between captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble in the current Indian cricket set-up.
Kumble’s tenure as coach has been an unqualified success. India have won every Test series played under him and only lost one single match. It was almost taken for granted that he would be given an extension once his one-year contract ended after the Champions Trophy.
The can of worms was opened when the Board of Control for Cricket in India put out a notice asking for applications for the new team coach. Cue speculation and rumours. The BCCI tried to douse the fire by saying they were following due process, a point which received backing from Kohli. Unnamed sources put it down to Kumble being targetted for his part in leading a campaign for hikes in payments for players and support staff.
The bombshell dropped on Monday when a report claimed that Kumble had fallen out of favour with the players in the team for his “overbearing attitude”. Another report on Tuesday went further and stated that senior players, led by captain Kohli, were unhappy with Kumble’s methods, preferring previous team director Ravi Shastri. Reportedly, Kohli was unhappy with Kumble’s decision to choose Kuldeep Yadav in the fourth India-Australia Test at Dharamsala.
But it doesn’t make sense. In the last 11 months or so since he has been appointed, senior Indian players have been vocal in their praise about their coach. Here are a few:
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- “I think it was a great call on Jinks’ [Ajinkya Rahane] and Anil bhai’s part”: Kohli said about Kuldeep Yadav’s inclusion for the Test in Dharamsala in March 2017. As mentioned earlier, recent reports stated that the Indian captain wasn’t happy with the left-arm wrist spinner’s inclusion. His post-match comments, however, do not indicate that.
- “Discussing with [Sanjay] Bangar and coach Anil Kumble, who have a great knowledge about bowling, has helped me in last 10 months”: Umesh Yadav in April 2017.
- “Anil Bhai coming into play channelled it [my aggression] much better in terms of his experience”: Kohli again, speaking before the India-Australia series, in February 2017.
- “The small tips I get from him [Kumble] have made a huge difference to my bowling. Whenever something was going wrong, Anil bhai supported me mentally”: Amit Mishra in October 2016.
- “It’s been great having Anil bhai around. Of course, he is a great legend. He is so well educated and obviously has a sharp brain. He has great cricketing intelligence as well, so you obviously learn a lot from him”: Shikhar Dhawan in September 2016.
- “My partnership with Kumble is a match made in heaven”: Ravichandran Ashwin showers praise on his coach, in September 2016.
- “He has brought in a lot of meticulousness among the group. He has provided me with a lot of confidence and a lot of responsibility”: Mishra again, during India’s tour of West Indies in July 2016.
- “He is someone who is very inspiring with the way he’s played his cricket… he’s trying to inspire people to try and take up the challenge which is lying in front of you, and react to those challenges. He will always be there for you as a mentor and coach”: Rohit Sharma called Kumble an “inspiring” figure after the former leg-spinner’s appointment in July 2016.
These are quotes on record from some of Indian cricket’s most high-profile players, all praising Kumble publicly. From the outside looking in, the spirit within the team has been remarkably good. Amidst the entire DRS-gate drama that plagued the India-Australia series and the bad blood between the India and Australia camps, Kohli and Kumble put up a united front.
In fact, there was even talk about elevating Kumble from his current role as coach to team director in March this year.
That begs an important question: What is happening? As William Shakespeare would put it, something is rotten in the state of the BCCI.
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