Team India is in a fix: Captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble are having problems. People in the know say it’s an ego clash between the two and unless BCCI intervention is able to cement their differences, Kumble is on his way out.
“When it comes to coach-captain conflicts in India, it will always be the skipper who comes out trumps. In this case, Kohli clearly enjoys more support from the Board — He’s the glamourous poster boy of Indian cricket! I don’t see Kumble getting any support here and the clear indication was the public announcement for the post of new coach,” said a former Indian player on condition of anonymity.
Kohli comes from the Dhoni school of thought, whose first rule is ‘the captain is always right’. Everyone else is secondary to the plot even if 10 more men are needed to make a full team.
Both Kumble and Kohli differ on work ethics. The coach likes to see everyone train hard to the point of exhaustion while the captain likes his players to be fresh on the field. Kumble is a hard task-master, wants to be recognised as the reason for India’s consistent success. But Kohli knows that his men have done the trick at each turn, even if the cricket was mostly at home where Team India has the distinct advantage. Fitness is a coaching obsession and it has helped Team India. Kohli, himself a fitness maniac, would, as captain, still demand flexible players rather than stiffened by over-training. The coaches love the preparation, nets and the drills. Captains love the heat of battle, on the field. These are basic differences.
The ego clash may run deeper. It may have to do with the basic question of who is responsible for the performances — the players or the support staff. Kohli knows it is the player who has to deliver. The former player also recalled how a young Kohli influenced a change of coach in Royal Challengers Bangalore and brought in Daniel Vettori in place of Ray Jennings who is considered a tough taskmaster. The South African, Jennings, had even said, “Kohli is a very talented kid but sometimes thinks he is better than the game.”
The feud between Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly turned ugly because the Indian team had many power centres then. “Chappell had already created a rift in the team. And, since the BCCI had back-up options for the captaincy then in Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, it took time for Ganguly to muster the support he needed,” added the former player.
The stark differences:
- Both Kumble and Kohli differ on work ethics. The coach likes to see everyone train hard to the point of exhaustion while the captain likes his players to be fresh on the field.
- Kohli’s biggest advantage is not having second rung leaders in the team. Though all-rounder R. Ashwin has expressed his desire to lead the team, the management has never considered him as leader material.
- Kohli comes from the Dhoni school of thought, whose first rule is ‘the captain is always right’. Everyone else is secondary to the plot, even if 10 more men are needed to make a full team.
Kohli’s biggest advantage is not having second rung leaders in the team. Ajinkya Rahane was stand-in skipper when Kohli was injured, ahead of the final Test against Australia, but the Mumbai cricketer’s form has been oscillating and his very own spot lies in danger. Though all-rounder R. Ashwin has time and again expressed his desire to lead the team, the management has never considered him as leader material.
A clash of perceptions is seen as the captain believes it is the players’ talent and performance that is bringing victories while coach Kumble must think he has contributed by looking after all the components of the team while the stars shine on their own.
A similar situation had come about when Mahendra Singh Dhoni claimed the credit for Team India’s win in the 2011 World Cup while at least some players in his line-up like Gautam Gambhir made it a point to say how so many had contributed to the win.
Who gave Gambhir much of a hearing then when Dhoni was Mr Success and Sachin was the Team Mascot to whom the win was dedicated? What we are seeing now is a replay of a basic ego clash in which the captain would want all the accolades for the team’s performance. Whether Kohli is right or not, the wind blows in his favour. Coaches are expendable, captains are more difficult to get rid of.