The middle month of 2017 has proven to be quite action-packed for the BCCI and Indian Cricket in general.
June 2017 started with captain Virat Kohli vehemently denying any rift between him and Anil Kumble. The middle of June was consumed by India’s unsuccessful title defence in the Champions Trophy culminating in a complete capitulation against Pakistan to lose by the biggest run-margin in any ICC tournament final.
By end of June came Anil Kumble’s resignation, just when everyone was beginning to think both Kumble and Kohli might have buried the hatchet. So there were indeed some differences between the coach and captain contrary to what Kohli had claimed.
And there was still time left for Kohli’s men to nonchalantly embark on yet another mundane away series to the West Indies without a head coach, being “supervised” by General Manager of Operations.
A lot to digest in a month’s time!
The biggest talking point, of course, was the differences between Kohli and Kumble ultimately leading to Kumble’s resignation. The BCCI was indeed responsible for the laughable manner in which they handled this entire saga.
So there are a lot of things that the people responsible for running cricket in India can infer and learn from this unpleasant situation.
Handling the Era of Modern Day Cricketers
Today’s modern generation is confidant, ambitious and knows exactly what it wants or does not want. At the same time it can come across as upfront, aggressive and less inclined to tolerate constant patronizing. India’s current cricketers belong to this generation.
The words “overbearing” and “hard task-master” were associated with Kumble as a coach. So it was only natural that these modern-day cricketers grew tired of the continuous hand-holding approach by Kumble. It is similar to the recent phenomenon of asking executives to leave as “they don’t fit in to a company’s culture anymore” irrespective of their performance. Hence it is futile to blame the players or even Kumble for what happened; it is just the complexities of human nature.
The BCCI, however, needs to adapt to these changing times and under these circumstances has to be careful about giving too much power to the players. This is where Ram Guha’s resignation letter comes into significance. One of the reasons of his resignation was the veto power being enjoyed by the senior cricketers on selection of commentators and coaches. The BCCI has to rein in these modern-day cricketers and communicate it to them in no uncertain words where they should not interfere.
Effectiveness of Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC)
The BCCI asked Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar to come together to form the CAC so that their shrewd cricketing brains can improve Indian Cricket. So it is only natural that most of their decisions will have a direct impact on the domestic and international cricketers.
Anil Kumble’s appointment as head coach over Ravi Shastri came as a surprise to most people. But the results that followed must not have been of any surprise to the three members of the CAC. That is exactly what the CAC is there for. With their vast experience, they have a foresight that no one else is privy to. Unfortunately, even the CAC could not envisage the personality clashes that would happen between the coach and captain. The CAC will be of no use if most of its decisions are vetoed by the senior players or the captain.
The CAC again finds itself searching for a new head coach. The BCCI has said the captain will have no say in selection of new coach. This statement makes no sense as after the coach is selected, the captain will have all the say whether he remains as coach or not. Hence it is essential that there is some process of communication and understanding between the CAC and the captain.
Continuation of Philosophy set by Kumble
Under Kumble’s reign, Indian cricket seemed to be following a methodical thought-process. The injured cricketers were being asked to play in domestic matches before making a comeback into the international team. The workload of fast bowlers was being managed effectively with timely rests – probably the first time ever in Indian cricket. Kumble himself was keenly involved in improving lots of peripheral issues like the salary structure prompting Harbhajan Singh to write to him about improving payment structure of domestic cricketers. Everything was suddenly looking credible.
Under Kumble’s command, Chesteshwar Pujara, who was going through a slump midway into 2016, finished the recently concluded season as the most prolific of Test batsmen. The “Test specialists” were promoted to the Grade A contract with other senior players like captain Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, etc.
Test series at home were played on sporting pitches equally testing both batsmen and bowlers, unlike the square-turners being dished out in the earlier series. And yet India came off winning 10 of the 13 Tests played at home becoming the no. 1 Test nation in the process.
Hence it is important that whoever succeeds Kumble as head coach takes a note of all these developments and improvements, and picks up from where the legendary leg-spinner has left off.
Opportunity to blood youngsters
So far under Kohli’s captaincy, there seems to be a bit of reluctance in giving a chance to the youngsters. Agreed, these are still early days of his leadership stint. The Kohli-Kumble differences reportedly first began before the fourth Test against Australia in March. Both had a disagreement over the inclusion of young Kuldeep Yadav in the playing eleven. Kumble wanted to play him while Kohli did not. Eventually, Yadav made his debut and that move proved to be a masterstroke.
Even Rahul Dravid recently stated that India needs to look beyond Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni leading up to the 2019 World Cup. Dravid is not usually known to make such statements and so when someone as well-respected as him speaks out, it is essential that his opinion is taken into consideration.
The men in blue have already lost the opportunity to include youngsters like Rishabh Pant into the line-up in the ongoing series against the West Indies by playing both Yuvraj and Dhoni together. When MS Dhoni was captain, he took a tough call to drop some experienced but clearly ageing cricketers from the ODI team to give room for youngsters like Kohli himself. Kohli will need to follow the similar approach and if the time comes, may have to take a similar call on Yuvraj and Dhoni. The ODI team has some very tricky riddles about overall team balance to solve before the World Cup in England and a good way to start solving them would be the captain and coach consciously blooding youngsters and giving them enough experience.
With the captain orchestrating Anil Kumble’s ouster, the pressure will be on Kohli and co. to perform and their every move will be scrutinized through the prism of Kumble’s stint. It will be interesting to see how Kohli and the new coach guide the ODI team towards the 2019 World Cup.