Anil Kumble, one of the finest players India has produced, suddenly finds himself cornered.
His working style was questioned by players he is working with (or at least by captain Virat Kohli, according to Kumble) and his relationship with the skipper deteriorated to such an extent that Kumble had to step down.
Since there isn’t an apparent need for Kumble to fabricate any part of his statement and with IPL chairman and BCCI functionary Rajeev Shukla admitting the board tried to mediate between the two with little success, it’s safe to say Kumble fell out of favour one year after his appointment as India coach.
Only the BCCI is in the know of what fractured the relationship between Kohli and Kumble. Will they let us know?— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) June 20, 2017
Many believe this move reflects poorly on the Indian cricketing establishment for allowing a stalwart like Kumble to be treated in such a manner.
That sentiment is true but there is a bigger factor in play here. And that is the supremacy of the captain in the scheme of things.
Ever since Sourav Ganguly became the captain of the team in 2000 and worked alongside John Wright, the issue of captain-coach dynamics and skirmishes have cropped up every now and then. And invariably, it’s the captain who prevails.
In 2002, Wright got so riled up by opening batsman Virender Sehwag’s habit of getting out to “silly shots” after being set, he grabbed him by the collar at The Oval after another such dismissal which shook the dressing room.
A personal apology from Wright was sought and according to Shukla, then the team manager and currently the IPL chairman, it was provided to Sehwag.
After Wright, the next big appointment in Indian cricket was Greg Chappell in 2005.
He failed to gel with Ganguly spectacularly which ended in the batsman going out of the team before returning and Chappell resigning after a disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign.
Two former players who were made coach of the team and didn’t have any reported ‘incidents’ with players were Duncan Fletcher and Ravi Shastri.
It should not surprise anyone that both of them allowed the players to take the lead and were happy to provide a supporting role, whenever they were asked to.
The case of Shastri is particularly intriguing.
The team director enjoyed a great rapport with Kohli in particular and the skipper strongly supported his candidature when the BCCI was conducting interviews for the post of head coach last year.
But Kumble impressed the committee comprising Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly that was looking at the candidates. So the Kohli-Shastri relation that was working well on a personal level wasn’t allowed to continue and a tough task master like Kumble was roped in. And one year later, we are back to square one.
India were thrashed in the Champions Trophy final and there are a few question marks over some personnel in the team.
While Kohli is the undisputed leader of the pack, the brouhaha over the captain-coach relation has consumed more time and energy than necessary.
Having said that, it is inevitable that if there is a falling out between captain and coach, the captain will have his way.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) June 20, 2017
In Indian cricket, there is no one bigger than a captain who delivers as a leader and player. Kohli is that man and everything else revolves around it.
Whether or not Kumble rubbed a few players the wrong way in pursuit of collective excellence becomes less relevant after a point.
If there is friction in the dressing room, there can only be one losing party.
Maybe all of this could have been avoided last year itself if someone like a Shastri, who apparently enjoys the complete support of Kohli, had been allowed to continue.
Whether Shatsri would have pushed the players as hard as Kumble is a smaller issue when you look at the big picture. Because now, the high-profile committee that selected Kumble as coach loses relevance.
And the team is in an awkward space where they have lost a big final in spectacular fashion and a legendary spinner turned coach has left unceremoniously.
Hopefully, lessons have been learnt and those calling the shots remember that in the long run, there is only one voice that counts as far as the team is concerned.
Any attempt to tinker with that mechanism, and without conviction from the highest authorities in the board, will only end up in a scenario we are witnessing now.
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