Since June 23, when he was appointed coach of the Indian cricket team, Anil Kumble has been getting scores of congratulatory messages via text, Twitter and WhatsApp. There have also been a continuous stream of calls. Kumble, however, took time out to reply to each person, never once showing any signs of impatience. In an interview with THE WEEK soon after the appointment, Kumble talks about how he decided to apply and how he kept his former teammates in the loop. There was no cloak-and-dagger approach and no proxy pitching for the job. As expected, Kumble was well-prepared for the interview conducted by members of the BCCI's Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), which included former teammates Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. He also seems well prepared for the task at hand. Excerpts:
What was the basic thrust of your presentation to the CAC?
It was about leading India up to the 2019 ICC World Cup. The roadmap was [put forth]. The idea was to get them to look at it, and add value to it. [I wanted to] involve all the stakeholders, including selectors, junior team players and junior team coaches.
What prompted you to apply?
Nobody encouraged me, it was just me. I thought it was the right time to get involved, to give back to the game. I have always put my hand up, [and I have been] ready to take on challenges. It was basically a family decision, as my wife had to agree first. She was very supportive.
The application was sent well within the time limit. I am surprised at reports of me applying after the deadline.
Was the coaching job planned?
Basically, I was taking a break, post retirement. I went on a proper holiday with my family after nine years. The question of what next was always on my mind. I saw the BCCI advertisement in the papers and decided to apply for it.
What is your main aim as coach?
To be a consistent team. [We have to] look to win everywhere—on all surfaces, in all conditions—and not just at home. I alone will not decide and strive to achieve that; everybody involved must be on the same page, sit down and plan to achieve this goal. The coach's role is to be in the background. It is always players first.
One needs to achieve a consensus. If the team doesn't buy into the idea, I cannot force things. If the team does not own the idea, it can never feel comfortable implementing it.
It is great that Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, who is also an administrator, are all in the CAC. There is Rahul Dravid, too, who is the India A and Under 19 coach. We all are trying to contribute to the game in various ways. We will all have to sit down and do what is needed to take Indian cricket forward.
How was the experience of fielding questions from friends?
It felt a bit strange. I mean, we guys have held so many meetings in the past to discuss the game.... It was a pretty nervous idea, meeting them like this.
Before taking up the job, have you addressed the possible conflict of interest?
There is absolutely no conflict of interest. All things have been addressed. There is the ICC Cricket Committee, for which I will not be able to dedicate as much time. However, I see no reason why I cannot continue as its chairman. There are other national coaches like Darren Lehmann on the committee. [Also part of it are] Andrew Strauss, who is England and Wales Cricket Board director, England Cricket, and Dravid, who is the India A coach.