The appointment of Anil Kumble as Coach of the Indian Cricket Team has been widely welcomed by cricket experts and fans alike. I have been a fan of Kumble the player ever since he came on to the scene. His gentlemanly demeanor never prevented him from demonstrating his grit and fighting spirit. His exploits as a player speak for themselves.
Yet to straightaway pitchfork someone who has virtually no coaching experience into one of the hottest seats in world cricket seems inexplicable. The logic that a great player will make a great Coach has been proven to be untrue too often in the past to merit citing examples. The closest that Kumble has come to being a Coach of a senior side is in the role of a mentor to the RCB and the Mumbai Indians Team in the IPL.
Kumble has deep knowledge of the game, has always been regarded as a thinking cricketer and has the respect of the entire team. In addition he has enormous goodwill among the fans which will carry him in good stead should the going get rough early.
Yet it is difficult to see today in any international sport, a person with almost no coaching experience be elevated to the post of a Head Coach of a Senior National Team, that too of a leading team in the game. (To quote some examples in football of great players being asked to learn the job, Zinadine Zidane had to serve as Asst. Coach to Carlo Ancelloti for a couple of years and had to spend another two years learning before being elevated to the top job. Ryan Giggs not being given the top job at Manchester United is another example.)
There are those who ask what coaching experience Ravi Shastri had when he was appointed as Director-Cricket of the team. And there is the obvious example of Gary Kirsten who was running a Cricket Academy when he was handed the job. There will always be exceptions but in today's sport specialization has been a trend and coaching is a specialist job.
The other issue about Kumble has been his track record since retirement where he has moved on from one job to another often in contentious circumstances. He resigned as Chairman of the NCA, did not contest a second term for KSCA President and quit his role at both RCB and Mumbai Indians. Some of these moves may not be related to relationship conflicts but there must be a niggling worry on his ability or willingness to build a consensus.
A big advantage for Kumble is that much of the action over the next several months for the Indian Cricket Team is at home, where traditionally India has been very strong. So Kumble has the time and the opportunity to grow into the role and any early errors may be overlooked as long as the team does well.
Also the fact that KUmble comes in with the endorsement of Sachin, Ganguly and Laxman who were the members of the committee that picked him must give him even more credibility. But by giving him just a one year term the legends of Indian cricket may have let slip that they also have their worries about how he will take to the role.
Kumble deserves our best wishes as he starts on his one year assignment. We must give him our unstinting support and every Indian will. But you cannot ignore the feeling that maybe Indian cricket would have been better served had Kumble been asked to gain experience as a Coach for a couple of years before being given the job.