Anil Kumble back in the reckoning to replace outgoing coach Ravi Shastri

Anil Kumble during a press conference. (AFP file)
Anil Kumble during a press conference. (AFP file)

Dubai - Top BCCI officials lament Kumble's unceremonious exit in 2017 after his partnership with Kohli became 'untenable'


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 19 Sep 2021, 1:09 AM

Ravi Shastri’s decision to step down as India coach after the T20 World Cup was not a googly that went through the gap between your bat and pads to rattle the stumps.

It was a straighter one.

And it was very much on the cards after pictures of Shastri and players of the Indian team breaching the bubble to attend a crowded event in London went viral.

Shastri, who soon tested positive for Covid-19, was under humongous pressure following the backlash over the suspended fifth Test.

The crowded event to launch his book, ‘Stargazing: The Players in My Life’, in London was blamed for the multiple Covid cases in the Indian camp.

If things had not gone out of hand, the former Indian captain would not have given up without having a crack at winning the 50 overs World Cup in 2023 on home soil.

Yes, his contract would expire after the T20 World Cup. But regardless of the results in UAE, Shastri would have expected to receive a new contract, having guided a severely depleted India to an incredible Test series win in Australia.

But the dramatic change in fortunes will now put another man on the centre stage.

So who could replace Shastri?

MS Dhoni was recently appointed as a mentor of the Indian team at the T20 World Cup. But Dhoni is still an active player who will now lead the Chennai Super Kings when the Indian Premier League (IPL) resumes in UAE on Sunday.

Something dramatic needs to happen for Dhoni to be in the reckoning for the India job.

For Dhoni to earn a shot at becoming the new India coach, he needs to retire from all forms of the game as a player and apply for the job when BCCI invites applications.

Dravid not in the frame

Rahul Dravid, who recently coached a second-string Indian team in Sri Lanka, could have been a ready-made replacement if he had not reapplied for the National Cricket Academy’s head coach position, having completed a two-year stint at the academy.

Coaching the senior Indian team doesn’t seem to be an immediate ambition for Dravid, under who India won the 2018 Under 19 World Cup.

So that leaves the BCCI with one option – Anil Kumble.

Kumble set for second stint?

The legendary leg-spinner had a bitter end to his first stint in 2017 after falling out with the powerful Indian captain Virat Kohli.

The BCCI backed Kohli in the dispute, eventually forcing Kumble out of the team.

But Kohli doesn’t enjoy the same support anymore from the powers that be in BCCI, especially after his recent struggle for big scores.

And his decision to relinquish the T20 captaincy after the World Cup is an indication that he would no longer be allowed to be a towering figure in the dressing room.

According to reports in Indian media, BCCI top bosses are keen to have Kumble back as the head coach and the former Indian captain will be assured of full support.

Unlike Shastri, Kumble is a hard taskmaster who believes in instilling strict discipline in the players.

Of course, many big names could be in the frame when BCCI invites applications.

Former players like Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have openly shown an interest in the Indian job.

But none of them boasts a CV like Kumble’s.

An astute reader of the game, Kumble has been coaching Punjab Kings in the IPL for the past two seasons.

But the only obstacle in the path could be Kumble himself.

What if he doesn’t want to return to a team that still has Kohli as captain of the Test and ODI teams?

But if he does make up his mind, the BCCI is reportedly ready to give him the support that he lacked in his first stint.

According to the board insiders, top officials lament Kumble’s unceremonious exit in 2017 after his partnership with Kohli became ‘untenable’.

The tide seems to have turned in quite dramatic fashion now.

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