Anil Kumble's successful tenure as Team India coach came to an end on Tuesday © Getty Images
Anil Kumble’s successful tenure as Team India coach came to an end on Tuesday © Getty Images

With India’s meteoric rise as a cricketing superpower, I was happy about a few things. Increasing levels of fitness, a team that plays well at home and abroad, and most importantly — playing as a team, rather than a conglomerate of superstars. Unfortunately, Anil Kumble’s sacking resignation proves Indian cricket hasn’t gotten there yet. Indian cricket was always about superstars having their way.

Sunil Gavaskar had the audacity to call off his non-striker when given a wrong decision. At the height of match-fixing, the Indian captain and vice-captain were dropped for throwing away matches (and later given clean chits in the same way that a benevolent teacher gives her favourite student a ‘Golden star’). Tendulkar expressed his displeasure in batting at No. 4, Ganguly extended his career by at least three extra years.

Or take for example the dropping of Harsha Bhogle from the commentary panel: Bhogle is undoubtedly the most qualified commentator in Indian cricket — if not in world cricket — today, and to be dropped for criticising some Indian players (which is his job, mind you!) is laughably unbelievable.

Compare this with other cricketing boards. ECB asked the supremely talented Kevin Pietersen to take his funky hairstyle out of the dressing-room. Cricket Australia dropped Michael Bevan even though he was the greatest One-Day cricketer at the time.

But BCCI continues to pamper and spoil its superstars like the biased Principal of a private school.

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When people hailed Virat Kohli as the next Sachin Tendulkar, little did I know there were a few uncanny similarities between the two. Both Sachin and Kohli are bigger superstars than the team. More importantly, their stellar records fall flat when it comes to crunch, knock-out matches. Kohli averages a mere 23 in knockout matches, in the same way that Sachin seemed to be possessed by Devang Gandhi’s ghost in finals of global tournaments.

But even Sachin had to endure two years of Kapil Dev’s coaching stint. It is well-known that Kapil was a horrendous coach, acquiring some of his coaching techniques from Kripacharya, the Kaurava coach in The Mahabharata.

And it’s Anil Kumble we are talking about. Not just any cricketer — Anil Goddamn Kumble!

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The greatest spinner in a country that has produced some of the greatest spinners. A spinner so great he didn’t need to ACTUALLY SPIN THE BALL! Most cricketers would run away if someone from certain parts of India said to them ‘Main tera mooh tod doonga’. Anil Kumble got his jaw bandaged and dismissed Brian Lara while resembling The Mummy. A man who finished his career with 619 Test and 337 ODI wickets. A man who could run through opposition middle order batsmen like it was just another episode of Shaktimaan.

Off the field, the man had a record that was as clean as Bheeshma’s dhoti. Along with Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, Kumble cleaned up the mess in the Karnataka State Cricket Association by getting into the gutter himself. The three gentlemen from Bangalore contested elections, won them, and served their positions without a scratch on their reputations — at least for some time.

Kumble’s stature in Indian cricket is monumental. It’s not without reason that his nickname is ‘Jumbo’.

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Anil Kumble could have left the coaching job by citing ‘personal reasons’, or as lesser cricketers say — ‘to move on to other things in life’. But Anil Kumble is Anil Kumble — the poster boy for authenticity. If honesty was a brand, Anil Kumble would be its ambassador. He did it in a fashion only he could — writing a detailed letter about his differences with ‘The Captain’.

As Gavaskar (who chose to take off his Dhritarashtra hat for once) put it, imagine the plight of the next coach? A coach is supposed to drive the team forward. What sort of a morale will the next coach have, if the legendary Anil Kumble was dropped for not pandering to Kohli’s wishes? How much autonomy can we expect from the next coach? How much control will he have over the team in the real sense?

Kohli is undoubtedly a legend in the making.

If he truly embodies new-age Indian cricket, he’ll do well to know that players are never bigger than the team. That greater cricketers than him have gone through the ebbs and flows of international cricket without throwing sissy tantrums.

That great teams do not throw fits and tantrums when they lose a tournament. That they leap over their hurdles by choosing the difficult path. That a player with impeccable integrity, 956 international wickets, and a spotless career does not come by every day.

Oh, and good luck dealing with, well, you-know-who in future!