A flare-up in the dressing room immediately after the Champions Trophy final may have been the last act of Anil Kumble's tumultuous final weeks as India coach. According to insiders, Kumble, who stepped down as coach on Tuesday, gave a "dressing-down" to one of his players at The Oval on Sunday, moments after Pakistan had completed a 180-run win to seal the title.
Debriefings are part of the coach's job and it was natural for Kumble to have been disappointed after the crushing defeat. But a BCCI official said his timing was not right.
"After the final he gave a big dressing-down to the player," the official said. "There is a time for everything. Team has just lost. They are down. You come and [give the dressing down]."
Kumble was unavailable to comment on developments since Tuesday.
The morning after the final, when Kumble met the BCCI top brass, he was told of the reservations the players, including captain Virat Kohli, had with regards to his approach. In his parting note, which he released on Twitter on Tuesday, Kumble said it was the first time he had been told of these differences. Yet, others in the know insist that the relationship between Kohli and Kumble had become dysfunctional over the last few months.
On Tuesday, when the India squad left for the Caribbean to play a limited-overs series against West Indies, Kumble stayed back in London to participate in the ICC's chief executives committee meeting, where he sat as chairman of the cricket committee. Although Kumble's year-long contract ended with the Champions Trophy, the BCCI had given him an extension until the end of the West Indies series.
"Kumble had accepted to travel to the West Indies, but that was subject to resolving the differences," the BCCI official said. The BCCI had even booked a room in his name in the team hotel in Trinidad, where India start the five-match ODI series on June 23. Kumble was meant to land on Thursday.
Kumble had been recommended by the BCCI's three-man cricket advisory panel comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Despite not having any formal coaching experience, the CAC felt Kumble had the right credentials for the job, and offered it to him ahead of candidates such as Ravi Shastri, who had been the India team director for two years.
Before the Champions Trophy, the BCCI decided to invite fresh applications instead of extending Kumble's contract. The job was advertised the day India landed in England (May 25) to start their Champions Trophy campaign. Asked if he agreed with the BCCI's decision, Kohli simply said the BCCI was following its usual processes. Later on, during the tournament, he denied any rift within the team, saying there were "no issues whatsoever". BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary, meanwhile, said the friction between coach and players was solely in the "realms of imagination" of the media.
Only six applicants put forward their resume, one of them being Kumble himself. The CAC informed the BCCI that Kumble remained the frontrunner as his track record as coach had no blemish. The CAC was then asked to patch up the differences between Kumble and Kohli. Although the CAC met Kohli, it did not meet with Kumble.
In his meeting with the BCCI on Tuesday, Kumble said that since the CAC did not want to meet him he could not have been doing anything wrong. "Anil just did not budge," the BCCI official said. "He said the CAC met Virat and did not meet me [Kumble], so I am the guy who is right."
Kumble has never been shy of expressing his opinion, but the official said the last word in the dressing room has always belonged to the captain. Kumble, according to the official, was trying to "overstep" and that caused problems. "In the cricket construct it is the captain who takes the credit and the flak. Everybody else plays the supporting role. But Kumble wanted due credit."
It is understood "multiple meetings" took place during the Champions Trophy to attempt to repair the relationship, but Kohli's opinion had not changed when he met the BCCI separately on Monday. "There is no cricketing difference between the two. It has been a personality clash."
Kumble and Kohli not wanting to reach out to each other to mend their differences may have widened the chasm between the pair over the past few months, culminating in the former opting to leave the job. The board official felt Kumble, being the senior, could have tried a little harder to reach out to Kohli. The official said being a prominent personality himself and having been in cricket for a long time, Kumble could have drawn on that experience to "handle personalities" in the dressing room.
In his statement, Kumble said he had made clear the distinction between the roles of coach and captain. "I was informed for the first time yesterday by the BCCI that the captain had reservations with my 'style' and about my continuing as the head coach," he said. "I was surprised since I had always respected the role boundaries between captain and coach."
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo