City Sunday

Can every captain think he is Imran Khan?


Anil Kumble — who quit as India cricket coach early this week — and skipper Virat Kohli are indulging in shadow boxing. Both had their say on the dressing room disputes, leaving the meaty parts between the lines. At the end of it all, the aggressive captain got what he wanted.

Frankly, few have any idea what exactly transpired between them and who did what behind the scenes. The picture will be a lot clearer after the appointment of the new coach prior to the Indian team leaving for a tour of Sri Lanka next month.

At least one former India player who is now a coach has objected to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) calling for fresh applications for the job.

He has a point. When the board rejected former Australia fast bowler Craig McDermott’s application for it having landed late, it cannot be asking for applications again unless it has any particular applicant in mind. Just as it asked Kumble to apply at the last minute.

What is not said openly or sourced properly points to Kumble being isolated and the team fully behind the captain. It is no surprise that the players know that the captain is the on-field boss and their future is linked to him as much as the selectors. The coach is like any elder at home, deserving all respect.

Going by the leaked information, it appears Kumble has lost the players’ respect after being accused of treating them like a headmaster disciplining students, whatever that may mean.

To say that the team did not know that Kumble was not joining them in the West Indies and that the players came to know that he had quit through telephone messages sounds strange. If true, it is sad that Kumble did not take formal leave of the team or didn’t get a decent farewell which he deserved.

An enterprising reporter found that Kohli has deleted his twitter post from his timeline, welcoming Kumble as coach — “Heartiest welcome to @anilkumble1074 Sir. Look forward to your tenure with us. Great things in store for Indian Cricket with you.”

All great things have to come to an end, but not the way they have, or allowed to so soon. Who should be blamed for the fiasco? Could one blame Kumble or Kohli. Or, is it the players ganging up? Could it be Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), Committee of Administrators (COA) or the Indian Cricket Board?

All should share the responsibility for not being able to either anticipate the gravity of the developing situation or for allowing it to simmer till it reached a point of no return. Looking at the sequence of events, it can safely be said that they have all botched it up.

Kumble and the legends in the CAC were shown the “mirror” by Kohli now. All the stalwarts were party to such shenanigans in the past when they got rid of coaches and captains. In one case, they went to the board President saying a former captain was a “bad influence in the dressing room”.

Can anyone in Kumble’s position continue, having been boxed into a corner when his differences with the captain have become public knowledge? Surely, the captain will not go, even if some players think both should continue.

Kumble took the initiative and tried to clarify the position, saying “though the BCCI attempted to resolve the misunderstandings between the captain and me, it was apparent that the partnership was untenable, and I, therefore, believe it is best for me to move on”.

The coach elaborated a little more — though weighing every word carefully: “Professionalism, discipline, commitment, honesty, complementary skills and diverse views are the key traits I bring to the table. These need to be valued for the partnership to be effective. I see the coach’s role akin to ‘holding a mirror’ to drive self-improvement in the team’s interest.”

Kohli looked unhappy when he, too, chose his words to say “Anil Bhai expressed his views. He’s taken a decision to step out. We all respect that decision”.

The relations between the two could not have been on the issue of selection of a player in a Test against Australia. One can count any number of incidents where the captain and coach differed and also the team management and the national selectors. Professional captains or coaches won’t fall out on one issue. There has to be something more serious if everyone failed to narrow the differences between the two to carry on in the interest of Indian cricket.

It is also not possible that the coach upbraiding some players could lead to such an ugly spat. It could only have been the last nail as Kohli said about the incident after the Champions Trophy.

Kohli tried to answer Kumble about the change-room culture: “We have created a culture over the past 3-4 years that whatever happens in changing room, we have tried to maintain the sanctity of change room throughout. For us that’s paramount.”

Kohli’s last line is cryptic: “I have respect for him as a cricketer”. This after hinting that he could have said many things in the 11 media conferences during the Champions Trophy.

Does it mean Kohli has no respect for Kumble as coach? If the captain now insists on a particular coach, will the CAC pander to his whims as he appears more powerful today.

Can every captain think he is Imran Khan? (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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