There is something instructive about the images that TV news channels use to accompany discussions around prospective coaches. Rahul Dravid chose not to be in the fray, but whenever his name comes up we don't see him square-cutting the winning runs in Adelaide or negotiating a tough morning on a damp Headingley pitch. We see him in unrecognisable training kits with more sponsor names than team identity, coaching IPL teams.
When Anil Kumble's name came up, and was eventually finalised, the visual most used on TV was him bowling with a broken jaw in the West Indies. It's an image which, in a summary and populist kind of way, at once tells you why he is the right man to be involved with Indian cricket and at the same time raises a question or two. He was a brave cricketer who made the most of his self-admittedly limited talent; he played his cricket with aggression but also with respect and integrity; when his body began to give up on him he quietly retired, sparing the selectors the tough call and not for one moment coming in the way of a more deserving youngster.
Yet the TV channels didn't show any image of his coaching a cricket side because, well, by all public accounts, Kumble had never shown any intention to coach at such a high level, let alone actually coach a team. He didn't fulfil the BCCI criterion of having "successfully coached a cricket team of any of the member countries of the ICC, at the first class or at the international level". Kumble's coaching experience is limited to mentoring Mumbai Indians, a job he resigned from to "pursue other interests around cricket".
The BCCI, for all its claims of new-found transparency, wouldn't say why it felt - or why its advisory committee of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman felt - that Kumble was the right man for the job, superseding others who were - at least on paper - better qualified for the job. While the BCCI's advertisement made it clear when a requirement was not mandatory - for instance, it clarified that speaking Indian languages was preferred but not necessary - the demand of prior coaching experience continued using the word "should".
By all accounts, Kumble's application took the BCCI by surprise. There has been no denial of reports that Kumble's name didn't feature in the pruned list of 21 candidates forwarded to the advisory committee. The trepidation from the board's side is apparent in how it has given Kumble just a one-year term, waiting to see how he performs before committing to him for a longer duration. Which is fair.
It is unfair, however, on Kumble that the BCCI officials chose to not speak about his coaching prospects, relying instead on his legendary status as a player. For there can be a lot to recommend Kumble by. His commitment, as Sanjay Manjrekar tweeted, will be absolute. He won't, as Aakash Chopra has said, settle for mediocrity. Harsha Bhogle has drawn on his experience of Kumble the player to say he is a born leader.
India's last two captain-coach pairs have seemingly failed to challenge each other. MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher were both similar in nature: pragmatic, relying on outlasting the opposition through defence. Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri were both gung-ho; they don't just want to attack, they want to be seen as attacking. There have been many times when you wondered just how different it would have been if Shastri had asked Dhoni not to give up on the bowlers as quickly as he used to with defensive fields; what might have been if there had been a Shastri in the dressing room asking him to declare earlier in Wellington, or reassuring him that they had nothing to lose going for the target in Dominica.
Similarly you wondered if a more pragmatic voice might have helped India draw the Test in Adelaide when they continued to attack even when it was clear the only option left was to draw, notwithstanding that attacking had brought them close in the first place. That voice of experience might have challenged Kohli's lust for a magic move on debut as Test captain in selecting a green legspinner in Karn Sharma with no real credentials in first-class cricket.
Now, though, there could be a better mix. Kohli attacking, but only after having his moves and philosophies challenged by Kumble, who always showed a solid and even temperament as a player. Disagreeing respectfully has always been a more fertile ground for ideas than leaders who always agree with each other. Kumble will be no yes-man.
Kumble is also the idol of India's biggest match-winner in Tests, R Ashwin. Taking Ashwin to the next level, perhaps in limited-overs cricket, where all fingerspinners are struggling, might just become Kumble's personal project. Kumble's presentation, reportedly, had plans for every series over the next three years as per the current FTP.
Most importantly, though, perhaps the biggest discredit to Kumble is done by the coach advertisement itself. It is no secret that the role of a coach at the highest level has changed from the days of John Wright and Bob Woolmer. Teams have become richer, there is enough money to hire specialist coaches who will look after the biomechanics. India even have a specialist who travels with the team just to give the batsmen throwdowns in the nets.
Experience and certificates are not what make a head coach nowadays. What India need Kumble to be is a manager, a tactician and a leader. Somebody who enables the players to give their best. The role of the coach now is more about giving the team a direction, not throwdowns. To advise more on field placements than the position of the front foot. To create and maintain an atmosphere in the dressing room that is conducive to achieving the best results.
If Kumble has been given one year to prove himself, he should be given the freedom to choose his own specialist coaches and analysts. As Kumble said immediately after the appointment, he is only too aware of the pressure on the coach of being accountable for a team's performance. No matter how he might have been appointed, Kumble won't shy away from that accountability.