Why Anil Kumble was picked over Ravi Shastri as India’s head coach

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Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble, on Thursday, was named by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as Team India’s head coach for a year. Kumble will take charge from India’s upcoming four-Test series in the West Indies in July-August.

Kumble was selected by the BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) that included Indian legends Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Former BCCI secretary and cricketer Sanjay Jagdale was the co-ordinator of the committee.

BCCI had thrown open the door for applications in June and had received 57 applications. The list of applicants had then been reduced to 21. After the shortlist, the candidates were interviewed by the CAC and asked to make presentations for the post of India’s head coach. Apart from Kumble, there were other high-profile candidates like former Team Director Ravi Shastri, Pravin Amre, Lalchand Rajput, Tom Moody, Stuart Law and Andy Moles.

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KumbleThe race for the head coach reportedly boiled down to a race between Shastri and Kumble. While Shastri had a successful stint as Team Director of Team India for 18 months, Kumble had no international experience in coaching.

Shastri had had taken over as the team’s director of cricket in 2014 after India lost 1-3 in Tests to England. Under him, the Indian team won the ODI series in England, reached the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup in 2015, won their first Test series in Sri Lanka 2-1 after 22 years and climbed to the Number 1 position in the Test rankings, after dethroning South Africa 3-0 in a series at home.

So then why did BCCI pick Anil Kumble over Ravi Shastri? Firstpost‘s cricket experts enlist the various reasons that could have been behind this massive decision:

Cricket writer Chetan Narula believes Anil Kumble’s vast playing experience more than makes up for his lack of prior coaching experience. More importantly, he has always been deemed as one of the most aggressive players of his generation and an immaculate leader. It was a pity he only got a short stint as Indian captain. So now as coach, maybe we will see those certified leadership qualities coming to the fore. He is someone who will provide a calm yet confident presence in the Indian dressing room that is full of young cricketers.

Sports analyst Anand Datla on the appointment: Kumble is young and brings a fresh perspective to the cricket team. His willingness to learn and adapt will be useful as the team works across three different formats. Another big plus for Kumble is his ability to connect with the current generation of players, considering he has either played with or mentored several of them over the past few years.

Kumble’s resilience is well known, and as head coach, it will help him fill the team with the resourcefulness needed to do well from the trenches. The desire is clearly to emerge as the top-ranked Test nation and win the World Cup in 2019 — the team can use Kumble’s burning passion to get the team to this destination.

Tristan Lavalette,  sports journalist from Australia, believes the decision was a no-brainer. This was the choice in front of India: A cool, calm operator or an unpredictable firebrand. I choose the former every time. Both are influential figures in Indian cricket, but Kumble oozes composure and has the requisite characteristics India need right now to solidify themselves as a powerhouse across the formats. Ever pugnacious, Shastri would have been a gamble and there was just too much risk involved in hiring him. Kumble is the safe and smart selection.

Srinath Sripath, freelance sports writer, credits their previous roles in Indian cricket as the deciding factor. For over four years now, Kumble has been the Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, the body that makes key policy recommendations on the game to the Council’s Directors. An interesting aspect in this is Ravi Shastri’s presence as the Media Representative. These appointments alone explain the subtle difference between these two experienced candidates vying to become India’s next coach. While Kumble has held various, diverse roles over the years, from being the President of the KSCA, overseeing the National Cricket Academy as its Chairman and mentoring the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Shastri, before being India’s Team Director, has largely traveled around the world in his role in broadcasting media. In addition, Kohli’s aggressive, win-at-all-costs approach will find the perfect complement in Kumble’s calm, level-headedness and tactical prudence.

Kumble has been given the term for a year, his first challenge is an away tour, against West Indies. India will be the favourites but what follows might help him ease into the role as India have a long home season ahead with New Zealand, England and Australia visiting for lengthy tours.

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