Known for his courage and forthrightness, India’s leg-spin legend Anil Kumble has donned several hats in his career. He is still India’s most-successful wicket-taker in Tests, has been the president of Karnataka State Cricket Association, is a much sought-after commentator, and has also coached the national team.
Kumble’s time as the coach of the Indian team was fruitful, but it ended on an acrimonious note after the 2017 Champions Trophy when his relationship with skipper Virat Kohli got strained considerably. The spin great resigned, terming his relationship with Kohli as “untenable”.
Since then, Kumble hasn’t been in the coaching saddle. But the upcoming Indian Premier League will see the return of Kumble, the coach. The 49-year-old will be the head coach and director of cricket operations for Kings XI Punjab.
So what prompted him to get back to coaching? “I have always enjoyed being among the players,” Kumble said on Wednesday. “I may have been a cricket administrator and now a commentator, but it’s being on the field that I like the most. To contribute and give back the experiences I’ve had and share my thought process with the players. If I can help develop their game and fast track whatever they want to achieve, I’m always up for it.”
Kings XI has never won the IPL. The best finish they have achieved is the runners-up position in 2014. Kings XI management hopes that bringing in someone of the stature of Kumble will change the team’s fortunes.
In recent times, there has been a lot of dilly-dallying over off-spinner and Kings XI’s captain for the last two editions, Ravichandran Ashwin. There were speculations that he could join Delhi Capitals. Earlier this week, though, KXIP co-owner Ness Wadia said that the franchise’s board had a rethink and has decided to retain Ashwin.
Kumble agreed that Ashwin was a “fantastic asset” for the team, but also added that the offspinner isn’t an automatic captaincy choice.
“I think any decision on Ashwin or any other player is an internal matter of the team. Ash (Ashwin) is a fantastic asset for the team. We all know his contributions for the Indian team over that last so many years. He has been a brilliant player for India. But there is no certainty yet that he’ll be the captain this year. Moving forward, we still haven’t taken any decision on anyone for that matter. We need to sit down with the (Kings XI) board.”
Kumble’s concerns for the team are its death bowling and lack of experience in the middle-order. “There are certain gaps that one needs to fill. We are certainly looking to add some experience to our middle-order. We have Chris Gayle who is perhaps the most experienced international player in the T20 format.”