Former Test captain Anil Kumble was on Thursday named the new head coach of India for a one-year period, taking over the reins of one of the most high-profile sides in world cricket.
The highest Indian Test wicket-taker, Kumble, 45, is known for his work ethic and never-say-die attitude — attributes that tipped the scale in his favour during a tough selection process.
The Indian team, ranked number two in Tests, enjoys the adulation of millions of cricket crazy fans ensuring high TV viewership that in turn translates into lucrative profits for the board.
“After doing discussions with various stakeholders we have selected Anil Kumble for a period of one year,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Anurag Thakur told reporters in the northern town of Dharamsala.
The spin great was chosen from a list of 57 applicants received by the BCCI which was later pruned and placed in front of an advisory panel.
Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman were among the panel members involved in selecting Kumble as coach.
“This is the first time we have gone through an elaborate process… interviews (were conducted) by cricketing legends,” BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke said.
Asked why Kumble was given only a one-year contract, Shirke replied: “Anil Kumble is now transforming himself from being (a) great on the cricketing field to becoming the great coach that we expect him to be.”
Kumble did not fulfil the BCCI’s stated criteria of “having coached an international side”, yet he managed to sneak past many prominent Indian and foreign candidates.
Former team director Ravi Shastri, who was performing coaching duties for the team under a stop-gap arrangement after Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher’s exit in 2015, was also in the frame for the coach’s role.
The month-long process for selecting the coach culminated during the penultimate day of an ongoing BCCI conclave in Dharamsala.
– ‘Great honour’ –
“It’s a great honour to be back again in the Indian dressing room in a different role and in a different capacity,” Kumble told reporters after his appointment.
“It’s a huge responsibility, I have always put my hand up for challenges and I am ready to take up this role,” he added.
Kumble has a tough road ahead as India look to a gruelling season of cricket, including hosting top sides like New Zealand, England and Australia.
His first coaching assignment will be India’s upcoming tour of the West Indies in July where the team will play four Tests.
“Kumble is an outstanding choice as coach of India. The expectations from him will be huge,” popular cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle wrote on Twitter.
Kumble has previously served as the president of his state association in Karnataka and headed BCCI’s technical committee. He is currently the chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) cricket committee.
“Jumbo”, as he was fondly called during his playing days for his bowling prowess, has mentored Indian Premier League sides such as the Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The leg-spinner bagged 619 Test wickets in 132 matches and is only the second bowler in cricket history after England’s Jim Laker to have taken all 10 in a Test innings.
One of the most enduring memories of the leg-spinner dates to the Antigua Test in 2002 when he bowled despite a broken jaw to help the Indian team salvage a draw against the West Indies.
The gutsy cricketer, who became the fourth Indian to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2015, even has a Test century to his credit during his 18-year illustrious career.
Kumble captained the India Test side for just over a year after replacing Rahul Dravid in 2007. He led India in 14 Tests, winning three, losing five and drawing the remaining six.