Captain will be in charge of the team: Kumble

Captain will be in charge of the team: Kumble

New coach's main focus on bowlers

Captain will be in charge of the team: Kumble

There aren’t many examples of great players making great coaches. Blame it on high hopes or their overbearing personality on the team they are in-charge of, results on the field have often belied expectations. Pele, Diego Maradona, Magic Johnson and closer home Kapil Dev and Greg Chappell, who all donned coaching hats after their distinguished playing careers, have all failed to manage even half the success they did as players.

Anil Kumble, India’s greatest match-winning bowler and only the third on the list of the highest Test-wicket takers, also comes with great expectations riding on him. Reams of print and several minutes of prime time on TVs have been spent, hailing the former India captain’s appointment as the coach of the Indian team and discussing what a big difference he can make to the young and exciting side.

Kumble, who has been entrusted with the task of shaping India’s fortunes for the next one year, is well aware of the challenges ahead of him. Making it clear that the captain was the “in-charge” of the team, the former ace leg-spinner sent out a clear message that there were no multiple power centres pulling the team in different directions. Officially addressing the media for the first time after taking over as the Head Coach of the team on the opening day of the week-long preparatory camp here on Wednesday, Kumble discussed a range of issues at length. Excerpts. 

What will be your approach as the coach?
It will be the same approach (as I had as a player). It is the captain who is in charge. As a coach, all I do is organise preparations and give informed inputs to the captain and the players, and include all the players. It's not about just the 11 who are to play. It's not like I played in every team I was part of, I was dropped. I was not chosen for a tour. So I understand being the most important player to being dropped. I understand all of that. I understand that communication at that point is critical. As a coach I would like to pick the phone and say ‘listen, you are still part of the team.’ That is what I will look to do. Hopefully I will succeed in at least telling players who are dropped that they are still part of the system. That's something I'll look forward to do.

Captaincy came late to you. How much of those experiences will you take into this job?
I think when I was a player, I always felt that you are captain of your own bowling. That’s something which I would like to incultate as well. Especially the bowling group. It is just that the mindset, and whatever needs to be done. And the experiences that I have had as a captain or as a player will certainly help in sharing those experiences. As I mentioned, it is a different role and I certainly understand the role of a coach, the role of staying in the background and it is the captain who takes all the calls on the field. Yes, captaincy came certainly pretty late in my career. I looked at that as a challenge, as a great honour. And this probably is the greatest honour that you can have, to be back in the dressing room, again amongst all the players. It is indeed a great privilege and an honour. And I know the responsibility and the expectations.

First interaction with the team today, how did it go?
Today was just a welcome meeting. I spoke of how much of a privilege it is to be again part of the Indian team that I can share my experiences with them. In the next 5-6 days, there will be a lot of interactions. The start was good and very welcoming. I also spoke to MS (Dhoni) after he came back from Zimbabwe and although it was only on the phone, I have spoken at length to him, so really looking forward to working with both MS and Virat (Kohli).

Was the dressing room experience any different now to how it was when you were a player?
It’s a bit too early for me. It’s nice... Obviously you know the roles and boundaries as a coach. Other than that it’s no different. All of us want Indian cricket to be doing really well, and these are exciting times. I feel privileged to be a part of that journey, and in whatever way I can help Indian cricket achieve that. It was no different walking into a meeting room with the entire team, although the faces were different. I’ve played with some of them; I’ve mentored a couple of them in various capacities.

Is there anything unique about this team compared to the one you left in 2008?
The fielding of course, I didn’t add to that when I retired (laughs). I think that’s what stands out. They are all young, the average age is 25-26 and they’ve already had experience of playing at the highest level. Virat has played close to 40 Tests, Ishant has played 60 and he’s only 27-28, so there is experience and there’s youth. It’s nice to see that mix. It’s nice to come back into that setup. When I retired, I played with a lot of people who went on to become great players, and it was nice that I had that privilege. Now there’s a journey which we can embark on where some of them can become great players. It’s nice to be a part of the journey. The exuberance and fitness levels have gone drastically up and that’s something I’m excited about.

Why no bowling coach now?
At this point in time, I thought I can get closer to the bowlers, for a start. Yes, we are considering options, I don’t want to say that because this is my first trip as coach with the team and I’d like to observe and try and see how the team is shaping up and at this point in time, I thought that with the bowlers, it is the strategy that I can certainly play a part of. That’s something which I am looking at, trying to get closer to the bowlers, understanding what their needs are and then looking at probably bringing in -- if  you are looking at a fast bowling coach. There are considerations that I am thinking of but at this point, I don’t know if it will be possible to take someone to the West Indies but if that doesn’t happen, then certainly I am keen to look at the bowlers. I feel that that is certainly an area where I can contribute a lot more.

West Indies tour right at the start... You played there with a broken jaw and the feeling is that you will bring that killer instinct to team India as well.

That will be my effort, to prepare as well as possible. Whatever problems and challenges there might be on the field, keep all that in mind and prepare is what I plan to do. I believe this team is very talented and whatever we want to see from the team on the ground, I will also share my experience. One thing I will definitely say is, win or lose, the fighting spirit will always be there.

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