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Kumble In, Dhoni Kept Waiting

By Orin Davidson
Anil Kumble has achieved almost everything in his cricket career outside of holding the Test bowling world record for wickets.

This past week he landed the Indian team captaincy, which as he puts it, is the dream of every player from the subcontinent.

But in handing the likeable leg spinner the reigns which Rahul Dravid unexpectedly gave up, the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) appears to be giving one of their most celebrated players, a pre-retirement honor, rather than building for the future from a state of uncertainty that has been clouding the country's cricket.

Their embarrassing first round ouster from the World Cup this year was one of the country’s lowest points.

By appointing Kumble for only the Test series against Pakistan, which apart from his age, suggests the authorities are unwilling to kick start their development quest anytime soon. If the Board was serious about digging in now, it would've made better sense to appoint a captain for its’ Tests and ODI teams for a full year initially, rather than a solitary Test series.

At 37 years, Kumble is not in a position to carry the team for a considerable period, with or without success, although his proven resilience suggests he will be around for longer than the average spin bowler.
Nevertheless a bowler of his age is more susceptible to sudden career ending injuries

For years the world has known Kumble as one of the world's best bowlers, but while the captaincy interchanged between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, no inclination was ever made to hand the reigns to the former, despite his experience and accomplishments.

Whether he was seen as captaincy material or not, it is not clear given the politics involved in India’s cricket. But based on the choices in recent years, if Kumble was thought of in that light, he deserved to be appointed much earlier than now.

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell feels the Board made the correct decision, branding the leg spinner a man of few words and more action.

He could not be more wrong though.

A good leader whether it is leading a cricket team or being President of Pakistan has to be a good motivator which requires just as much words as action.

Ask Courtney Walsh the former West Indies world record holder fast bowler.

His bowling accomplishments spoke much louder than his words but his stint as captain was a short and disappointing run.

The BCCI had previously telegraphed its shortcomings by asking Tendulkar to take the job.

It immediately made you wonder which world they were living in at the time when the great batsman gave up India's captaincy twice in the 1990s. He clearly was unsuited for the role and stated quite categorically it affected his batting.

Why they insulted the great man now, by asking him to take over is as inexplicable as the use of night watchmen to protect specialist batsmen.

If Tendulkar was the man for the job, there wouldn’t have been any need for Ganguly, Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all these years.

The BCCI’s job however, should've been easy if they were closely following Dhoni’s work after being named ODI captain for the recent Twenty/20 World Cup.

He led them to a surprising title win in South Africa without India's best - Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble.

It boggles the mind to comprehend why Dhoni should not having been running the team full time, as a result.
He went on to produce a commendable performance against Australia and despite losing 4-1, the score line did not in any way tell the story of a closely fought series.

Now, Dhoni is back to winning ways, disposing of Pakistan with one match to play, in Pakistan in the current ODI clash.

One excuse being bandied about is of work load, which it is felt would make his job doubly difficult, him being a wicketkeeper, in Tests.

But that is a clear case of dim witted perception.

It is universally accepted that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In Dhoni's case he is deemed a failure without trial, which is even more ridiculous in light of his spectacular success in lightening time.

Wicket keeping is a strenuous undertaking, but it happens to be the best role a captain needs to perform on the field. No one is closer to the action than the wicketkeeper, who is best placed to read the game than from any place else.

Dhoni is a tough character and one cannot imagine him wilting in Test matches with the added responsibility. Actually, many players rate limited overs games, which are played in bunches these days, more taxing on the body and mind than Tests. It makes the India Board's reluctance seem a bigger mistake with every passing day.

Nevertheless it does not mean Kumble should not be given kudos for his latest accomplishment.

Outside of Shane Warne there is possibly no better accomplished leg spinner ever to play the game.

Though 17 years of toil, he has mastered the skills of deceiving batsmen with his googly, defeating them with his leg breaks and flummoxing them with his variation through the air.

Warne might be the world's highest wicket taker, but he has never accomplished the incredible haul of all 10 wickets in a single innings. Eight years ago Kumble became only the second man ever after Jim Laker to achieve the best ever individual wicket taking feat.

To date Kumble has 566 Test wickets to his name from 118 games.

You don’t reach such heights in competition without heart, commitment and the requisite skill.

When his jaw was smashed in the West Indies in 2002, Kumble returned all strapped-up to bowl a marathon spell and snare the wicket of the great Brian Lara in the process.

Such courage is the hallmark of only the greats.

Only Warne and Mutthia Muralitharan stands above him in Test wickets aggregate.

But he also has another one feat up on the said two.

When he scored his maiden Test century against England at the Oval in August, many thought Kumble had iced the cake on his career.

No one expected him to get the chance to add trimmings with the captaincy, subsequently.

Hopefully he enjoys it, regardless of whether it brings him success or not.

He deserves a blast.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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