'Modern captains face more challenges' - Kumble
Former India captain Anil Kumble believes that adjusting to different leadership styles in the split-captaincy format is not difficult for players in current times. Taking questions after delivering the seventh Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, Kumble was of the opinion that constant adjustment to different formats and teams helps players get accustomed to various captaincy styles.
India went with a split-captaincy format in December 2014, when MS Dhoni announced his retirement from Test cricket after the Melbourne Test against Australia and Virat Kohli was handed the Test captaincy. Dhoni, however, continues to lead India in the limited-overs formats.
"I don't think it's difficult for players to adjust from one captain's temperament to another. Perhaps in my case it was already forced because I had already decided to give up playing one-day cricket and Dhoni was the captain of the one-day formats, "Kumble said. "And now that Dhoni has retired, Virat is the captain in Test cricket.
"I don't think for players, it's a difficult job. Players are constantly adjusting from one team to the other and from one format to the other. In an IPL format, the same team-mates become opposition players and sometimes the opposition players become team-mates.
"So there's constant adjustment, but once you have played with the two captains, obviously the two should have played quite a number of matches to become captain, so you know their personalities and getting adjusted to their way of thinking or doing things, I don't see it an issue. And South Africa have gone an additional way with a captain for each format, so perhaps that's the way things may happen. You may, at some point of time, have an exclusive specialist T20 team which will be very different from a Test team or a one-day team."
Kumble also said that the difference in personalities between Dhoni and Kohli and the varying degrees of aggression between the two captains was not a major factor for the side.
"The bottom line is you need to be attacking. That's the word I would like to use. Aggression, I think, is a bit of a misplaced word and the way it comes across… as long as you are aggressive, as long as the intent is to win games, whether it's 20 overs, 50 overs, four-day, five-day, I think the personality comes across," he said. "Yes, individually, emotionally each one is perhaps different from the other but overall as a team I don't see that as a major factor because Dhoni was leading India in the last 5-6 years, so in that sense, it shouldn't be a problem in changing to a Virat style of captaincy."
In his lecture, Kumble, who took over as Test captain in November 2007, said that he believed modern captains face more challenges than their predecessors. He felt that they need to have a statesman-like approach to the game in the face of issues that can suddenly arise, particularly when a team is on tour.
Drawing on his experience as captain of the Indian Test team on the controversial Australia tour of 2007-08, Kumble said he found himself playing the role of "diplomat, a bridge between the players and the cricket board and the face of Indian opposition in Australia" following the Monkeygate scandal during the Sydney Test.
"During my tenure, I realised that in addition to the job description mentioned earlier, a captain also had to be prepared for the unexpected. The second-most important job could suddenly become the most important as I discovered in Australia during the incident called as Monkeygate," Kumble said.
"This was an aspect of a captain's job that didn't exist when I began my career. In fact, as a player for 17 years, I hadn't been called by any match referee but perhaps visited the referee after every match as captain.
"As the controversy raged, I received a message from Bishen Singh Bedi. As a captain, he wrote, 'take a decision you will be proud of when you look back on this'. That is a uniquely Indian take on the job and Bedi's simple words were inspiring. In Fact, it's a motto that should be pasted on to the kit bags of all international captains. The modern captain faces more challenges than his predecessor did. Issues arise, specially when a team is on tour, that require a statesman-like approach and captains must keep the bigger picture in mind. It's important to carry the team on such occasions."
When asked about the controversy later, Kumble said that the suggestions of the senior players - Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag - were helpful, but felt the matter could possibly have been resolved by a chat between him and Australia captain Ricky Ponting.
"I was blessed to have players around me who were all greats and their suggestions were valuable," he said. "As a captain, it's my duty and my responsibility to protect my player and my team and that's all I did. There were times when I think it could have been resolved with, perhaps, just the two captains sitting and sorting it out."