Mentor with a huge difference

Kumble embraces new role with characteristic commitment

Anil Kumble

The attention he commanded on a balmy evening wasn’t surprising at all since he has won more matches for India than anyone else, a true legend of the game and a true gentleman. But Kumble approaching the nets in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s practice uniform indeed created a moment of surprise.

After all, as Chief Mentor of RCB, isn’t he expected to move around in a nifty suit, matching tie and well-polished shoes? The mention of posts like Chief Mentor, CEO etc can instantly create the image of a top technocrat, who walks around with an unmistakable air of authority, completely cut off from lesser mortals.

But then, Kumble has always defied convention. The Bangalorean didn’t adhere to a classic big turning leg break to purchase wickets but his weapons were subtle variations in speed, angle and a never-say-die attitude.

His playing days are certainly behind him, but in that surreal net session, Kumble proved that Chief Mentor is not a fancy post for him and he will be monitoring the progress of his team from very close quarters. With an intense competitor and veteran of many battles like Kumble around, the net session soon turned into a study class.

RCB bowlers and all-rounders, including Tillakaratne Dilshan, flocked around him for a piece of advice and Kumble guided them in all earnestness. RCB skipper Daniel Vettori was not far from the truth when he termed the presence of Kumble, even in a relatively passive role as Chief Mentor, with the team as a massive advantage.

“Anil’s presence is really important for me. He has led this team extremely well in the past. His knowledge of the conditions, the team, players and his overall expertise of the game is exceptional. So, from a personal point of view and team’s point of view, Anil’s presence will be immensely beneficial,” Vettori said.

Vettori, a canny man himself, admitted that Kumble will have a significant role to play in RCB’s campaign in the fourth edition of the IPL. “I want to get as much information as possible from him. The knowledge he has accumulated through his long association with cricket is immense; we will certainly want to tap it,” Vettori said.

The commitment he showed on the evening was simply mindboggling when he could have easily watched from the sidelines the players putting in the hard yards. But then that would have been a totally un-Kumble act.

Until last year, the former India captain had served the Royal Challengers on the field, with his command over leg-spin and as a leader of men. He took over midway through IPL II from Kevin Pietersen, and spearheaded a wonderful revival.

In 2009, RCB finished runners-up to Deccan Chargers. Last year, they lost in the semifinals but qualified for the Champions League by finishing third, and narrowly missed out in the Champions League semifinals. Now, Kumble has a different role to perform.

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