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Can Kumble co-exist with Dhoni?

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Anil_Kumble_India_cricketBefore I get to Kumble’s appointment, a word on Ravi Shastri. Shastri came in at a difficult time and, as players acknowledge, with his support staff changed the work-ethic and team-culture for good. He mingled well with Dhoni in that he backed the players he believed in and inspired them to success. His pep talks are probably a thing of legend in the Indian dressing room. This outspoken Mumbaikar’s tenure as Team Director was more than satisfactory.

Anil Kumble, meanwhile, is a good appointment. His astuteness, calmness and knowledge of the contemporary game seem to have worked in his favour. Moreover, his passion and aggressive mindset augurs well with India’s quest of being No. 1 in Test cricket.

I thought Tom Moody would have made a good coach as well, especially in a dressing room in want of fresh ideas. Moody’s been working closely with Indian cricket for years now, plus he has quality international coaching experience.

That said, elite cricket teams don't need ‘coaching’ as much as they need ‘mentoring’. Only time will tell whether Kumble, a super cricketer and relentless fighter, can make a super ‘coach’.

Of what we’ve been hearing in the cricketing circles, the vision for Indian cricket that Kumble presented turned the tables in his favour.

Now while I would like to believe that Jumbo will mix well with a similarly open-minded Kohli, the Test skipper, I wonder if the case will be same with Dhoni, the limited-overs captain.

 

Jumbo may have the greatest of visions, but very little of it will materialise as long as MS stays at the helm. That the legend from Ranchi is the boss of his team is well known - fresh ideas aren't welcome in his kingdom if he doesn't approve of them. Kumble will need to accept a more subdued role in that case. And that won't be easy.

Indian Test side is developing nicely. And if handled with care, it will start producing results away from home in an year or two.

It is the limited overs squad (the ODI squad, to be specific) that needs to be worried about. There are a few areas where India find themselves deficient.

To begin with, in the greater interest of Indian cricket, MS Dhoni needs to clarify how long he thinks he’ll last/wants to last in international cricket. I hope he's already communicated his position to top BCCI officials, at the very least.

While he’s still one of the best skippers/keepers around, his batting has clearly taken a beating and is showing very few encouraging signs. Whether someone commands an Indian cap solely on outstanding leadership is up for debate.

The power-hitting-oriented game that modern cricket has become requires solid candidates at Nos 4, 5, 6 and 7 - all of which are unresolved quandaries for India.

The next two ODI biggies are to be played in England (ICC's Champions Trophy in 2017 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019) - a place where limited overs pitches hardly resemble their five-day decks these days. This means that 350 will be the gold-standard of winning scores in both tournaments lest the ICC brings about yet another wave of rule changes.

Our end overs batting is in pretty bad shape. Hardik Pandya came in as a breath of fresh air and left as promptly. I thought he should have been backed a little more. He’s India’s best answer to England’s Ben Stokes or Australia's Mitchell Marsh.

The 1-4 loss in the ODI series in Australia exemplified all that is wrong with this India. The extra kick wasn't coming after the 40th over - causing India to fall short by 20-30 runs each time despite batting exquisitely for the most part.

Not too long ago, the world mocked England for being behind the world game. And not too long from now, India might attract similar digs.

Besides death batting, another issue Kumble will face is the management of his quicks. India play unbelievable amount of cricket round the year. Once a great talent is spotted in India, it is made sure that every semblance of life is squeezed out of him.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Mohit Sharma suffered the same fate. The restless manner in which Jasprit Bumrah is playing cricket, the same is bound to happen to him as well.

This just can't work well for India in the long-term. There is no such thing as fitness monitoring in India. With Kumble being a bowler himself, I hope this aspect is taken care of - an aspect which has been notoriously overlooked by previous managements.

Here's wishing Anil Kumble a fruitful tenure - hope he's able to leave the team in better shape than he's receiving it in.

 

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