August 20, 2010

The importance of Kumble

To deal with fame, complacency and laziness, young cricketers need to be willing themselves, and the BCCI proactive. The likes of Anil Kumble can help, and corporate India may have solutions to offer

Anil Kumble wants to work with India's young talent and help in grooming and preparing them for life as cricketers. A better person could not be found, and a more crying need could not have been identified in Indian cricket. While it is a cricketer with skills who takes the field, the person within the athlete walks along too; sometimes as a shadow, sometimes even as a cloak. In the long run, while skill is important, attitude is supreme.

Kumble was a man possessed of considerable skill himself, but as a competitor he was awesome. His skill made him a very good cricketer, and his attitude propelled that skill towards making him a legend in Indian cricket. It is such qualities that Indian cricket and the young men who symbolise it need a dose of, because currently there is an epidemic going around.

Fine young cricketers are dropping off the radar, either unable to cope with fame and its attendant pressures or being satiated too soon. Kumble doesn't possess a wand, he is not an alchemist. And anyway, work ethic cannot be enforced or injected. It has to grow within. But hopefully Kumble can remind them of the path they need to be on. In truth they know of it, or at any rate they should, but a little nudge wouldn't be a bad idea.

Once the bosses of Indian cricket take time off from looking into finances - important but not the core aspect of the game - maybe they can start looking at players. It is not identifying talented players that is the main issue, it is what to do with them once they are identified that seems a little more difficult and will require sensitive handling. India's problem, then, lies not so much in unearthing talent as in maintaining it.

RP Singh and Sreesanth are wonderful vehicles that spend more time in the garage than on the road. Yuvraj Singh is a thoroughbred in danger of wandering off the track. These are not talents that a team can lose. If they hit the basement button, there has to be somebody to stop them. Hopefully Kumble can guide them. But eventually India's young cricketers must feel the need to be competitive and world-class from within, and do what it takes. In recent times I have met a couple of overseas cricketers and an Indian great, who without prompting offered the word "lazy" as a descriptor for some of our young bowlers.

My fear is that for the first couple of years excellence stays relevant and then for some it seems to demand too much time, become too much of an effort. The low-hanging fruit seems too enticing

So either the BCCI could take a laissez faire approach and say that if some of the younger brigade project the wrong attitude they are probably the wrong people for the side anyway. Or they could take a serious look at the attrition levels in Indian cricket. It has disappointed me that more hasn't been done in that regard.

The core of what Kumble will come up with will necessarily have to do with how to cope with success. It can lead to many things, some beautiful, some dangerous. It can spur you on to excellence or it can lead to complacence. My fear is that for the first couple of years, excellence stays relevant and then for some it seems to demand too much time, become too much of an effort. The low-hanging fruit seems too enticing.

It would be too difficult to expect the coach to handle such matters, which is why many have been advocating a senior person, not necessarily a cricketer, as a permanent manager; not someone who guarantees a vote and gets an expense account but a real professional, who players can open their hearts to.

People within the cricket system tend to mock those who reside outside. They often prefer the narrow confines of their world and prevent fresh thought from knocking at the door. My wife and I earn a living talking to corporate India about lessons from sport. The greater need, I am convinced, is for the best of corporate India to offer lessons in excellence to our young cricketers. Kumble's plan should be a starting point.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on August 23, 2010, 21:12 GMT

    Harsha, It is good to have Kumble coaching the youngsters in near future. But right now India needs to prepare for the World cup in six months. We need coaching camps for fast bowlers and for spin bowlers, almost innediately.What is BCCI doing about it? Indian bowling is bordering on attrocious. Get working on Ashwin, Murli Kartik, Ojha and Harbhajan in spin and on Ishant, Mithun, Unadkat, Zaheer, Nehra and P.Kumar in pace bowling. India needs 2 spin bowlers & 3 steady pace bowlers who can all bowl under 4 runs/over. This needs fast action and hard work. Zaheer is physically unfit as is Harbhajan.As you rightly say the Indian cricketers are the least fit of all cricketing nations. The reason appears to be diet, very little focus on exercise and hard playing surfaces. These aspects also need addressing. We too many arm chair critics & commentors but little action ever happens from the responsible groups - BCCI + Indian Selection team. Less Talk & More Action is the need of the day.

  • Jon on August 23, 2010, 12:38 GMT

    Henchart, the reason 1/2 these guys weren't hired (at least for the Aussie ones) is that we have a dedicated accreditation pathway for coaches here. Coaches start at Level 1, move to level 2 and then if looking to coach at a higher level need to do level 3. This program has been running for a long time so we have a multitude of qualified coaches through all the feeder ranks into first class cricket. Hence, many look overseas.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2010, 16:32 GMT

    Harsha, this is a very gud article which points where India is lagging. Even though India is at the top of the charts, we never had the confidence to say India will win a particular match whoever the opponent might be. Because no one knows when a lad will play good cricket. They are not even confident that they can make the country proud. I feel winning is not important but how confident we play is important. When Australia was at the top of the charts, the entire world is sure that they will win every match as they showed the confidence and in turn good performance . But sadly that is not the case with Indian side. I don't know whether humble Kumble is apt for the job or not but somebody is definitely and desperately needed for the team to boost their confidence, to enlighten them that they are right for the job and last but not the least that to make them to stay on the ground after the stardom and the money.

  • Sanket on August 22, 2010, 14:24 GMT

    In the last 3 ODIs India has slipped to two huge and embarrassing defeats. The youngsters, with the exception of Raina, seem to be in no great excitement to play for India. Two months of IPL gives them more money than all other forms of cricket put together and hence, they do not seem to have the mind to exert themselves.

    Dropping one of them is not the solution as the new players have the same attitude.

  • Senthil on August 22, 2010, 6:28 GMT

    Harsha, I am not that excited by getting Kumble to guide Dhoni's team. They are opposite characters. Both have great work ethics and all that, but Kumble cannot keep his team happy. Look at how much anger he vented constantly at the last edition of the IPL. Was it warranted? On the other hand, look at how Dhoni coaxes great performances out of his team without putting any pressure on them. Look at how happy CSK look on any given day and RCB look like they are fighting some itch all the time. Kumble needs to be careful he doesn't turn the screws too much by being some kind of over zealous "disciplinarian", and end up hurting Dhoni's plans of maintaining enthusiasm amongst the players. I'm also not sure about corporate approaches needing to make a dent on sport. In the corporate world you can be part of an infinitely big team that can hide your flaws. In sport, you'd be mercilessly exposed.

  • Karthik on August 21, 2010, 18:28 GMT

    Very good article and who better than Harsha to write about someone like Kumble. I loved the lines "RP Singh and Sreesanth are wonderful vehicles that spend more time in the garage than on the road. Yuvraj Singh is a thoroughbred in danger of wandering off the track."

  • Dummy4 on August 21, 2010, 18:04 GMT

    I have had the personal honour of meeting Anil Kumble. What a fine gentleman he is in the classic mould. They dont make people like him anymore.

  • Janani on August 21, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    I loved the line - 'If they hit the basement button, there has to be somebody to stop them'. But Yuvraj has already hit that an we need someone who can bring him back ASAP. And Sreesanth, he has the talent but he first needs to have self-control to even listen to others.

  • Srikanth on August 21, 2010, 16:58 GMT

    Harsha has missed out some points that Kumble can teach world cricket, not just Indian cricket - those of leadership, respect and professionalism. He made Vijay Mallya realize that a captain need not be a "glamorous batsman". But alas for Indian cricket, the BCCI did not (and still doesn't) understand this. As a result, Kumble became the captain only after every Tom, Dick and Harry got the chance. I bet Australia will appreciate his talents sooner than BCCI does, just like they did with Harsha

  • Amahl on August 21, 2010, 16:17 GMT

    Harsha, your articles always draw my eye for if they were perhaps read by the BCCI, Indian cricket would be in a considerably better position. There is no doubt that India possesses talent beyond what many can imagine yet very few are able to truly convert that talent into something more material. By having those who have be around the team now, Kumble for instance, younger players receive guidance from someone who has been through the same system and subjected to the same adulation as they have knowing the ins and outs of playing cricket for India and succeeding in his role. I can only hope that the younger players, particularly most of the bowlers as well as Rohit Sharma, and yes, Yuvraj Singh (who can no longer be considered a 'youngster' but could do with a bit of a sermon from someone he has respect for and is familiar with) listen to Kumble, fix their laid back, complacent attitudes and prove to the cricketing world that they can make India a much stronger cricketing nation.

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