June 25, 2017

What the Kohli-Kumble saga tells us

Captains are best off being advised by senior team-mates on the field, and assisted by managers off it
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An able vice-captain, like Ajinkya Rahane, is the best foil for a strong-minded captain like Kohli © AFP

Pakistan soundly beat India in the Champions Trophy final, and it has been interesting, to say the least, to witness the aftermath.

Firstly, the Indian coach, Anil Kumble, resigned. Then the Pakistan players - not surprisingly - were welcomed home as heroes. This was followed by an ICC announcement that Afghanistan and Ireland have been added to the list of Test-playing nations, increasing the number to 12.

Kumble's resignation was no great surprise, as he's a strong-minded individual and the deteriorating relationship between him and the captain, Virat Kohli, had reached the stage of being a distraction. Kumble's character is relevant to any discussion about India's future coaching appointments. The captain is the only person who can run an international cricket team properly, because so much of the job involves on-field decision making. Also, a good part of the leadership role - performed off the field - has to be handled by the captain, as it helps him earn the players' respect, which is crucial to his success.

Consequently a captain has to be a strong-minded individual and decisive in his thought process. To put someone of a similar mindset in a position where he's advising the captain is inviting confrontation.

The captain's best advisors are his vice-captain, a clear-thinking wicketkeeper, and one or two senior players. They are out on the field and can best judge the mood of the game and what advice should be offered to the captain and when.

The best off-field assistance for a captain will come from a good managerial type. Someone who can attend to duties that are not necessarily related to winning or losing cricket matches, but done efficiently, can contribute to the success of the team.

The last thing a captain needs is to come off the field and have someone second-guess his decisions. He also doesn't need a strong-minded individual (outside his advisory group) getting too involved in the pre-match tactical planning. Too often I see captaincy that appears to be the result of the previous evening's planning, and despite ample evidence that it's hindering the team's chances of victory, it remains the plan throughout the day.

Too often I see captaincy that appears to be the result of the previous evening's planning, and despite ample evidence that it's hindering the team's chances of victory, it remains the plan throughout the day

This is generally a sure sign that the captain is following someone else's plan and that he, the captain, is the wrong man for the job.

India is fortunate to have two capable leaders in Kohli and the man who stood in for him during the Test series with Australia, Ajinkya Rahane.

It's Kohli's job as captain to concentrate on things that help win or lose cricket matches, and his off-field assistants' task is to ensure he is not distracted in trying to achieve victory.

India's opponents in the final, Pakistan, were unusually free of any controversies during the tournament. They were capably led by Sarfraz Ahmed, who appeared to become more and more his own man as the tournament progressed.

Watching Pakistan's success unfold from Islamabad, it was obvious how much the team's success meant to the fans. While the ICC deliberated on increasing the number of Test-playing nations, it's good to see some consideration was given to Pakistan's plight; they have not played matches at home for close to a decade now.

It was the right time for the ICC to implement a plan to resume matches in Pakistan and to commence with small steps. In light of the recent instability around the world, it was reasonable to ask: "Is Pakistan the only region that is unsafe for hosting cricket matches?" On the evidence I saw, and from what I was told by people in a position to know the situation, Pakistan's security is much improved from the recent past.

Adding Afghanistan - incidentally, a more dangerous country than Pakistan - and Ireland to the roster does seem a little premature. The last thing thing Test cricket needs is more uncompetitive matches. Surely the priority is to ensure Pakistan and West Indies, two great contributors to the rich history of the game, are both playing Test cricket to their full potential before expanding the number of teams.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ganesh on June 30, 2017, 11:49 GMT

    I don't know how well versed Ian Chappell is with the conditions, but most educated Pakistanis who know their country well still insist that it is not safe for foreign teams to tour Pakistan yet. One has to agree about Afghanistan and Ireland though. The ICC should help some of the test playing nations like Zimbabwe and WI before letting more teams into the test arena.

  • Ram on June 30, 2017, 0:18 GMT

    Kumble comes across a boring rude dude as a commentator at least.

  • Jay on June 28, 2017, 12:26 GMT

    Ian - Wrong again. A year ago Chappelli tried to rationalise "Why Kumble could work out better for India than Greg Chappell did." Ian's logic was totally baseless in making it a simplistic "Indian mentality" advantage for Kumble. Then how did foreign coaches like John Wright (w/ Ganguly) & Gary Kirsten (w/ Dhoni) take India forward so spectacularly in the 2000-11 period? The only dark period was Greg's disastrous 2-year tenure. After the WC2007 debacle, Greg was axed. Bro Ian got miffed, blamed it on "stars players on the wane." Wrong. In his autobiography, Tendulkar writes: "Chappell seemed intent on dropping all the older players...damaged the harmony of the side." Spot on. Harmony - player unity built around a core group of star players and coach-captain chemistry - is vital in modern-day cricket. Chappelli is out of touch: A vague "managerial type" off-field assistance for a captain in today's demanding games won't cut it. Just ask victorious Mickey Arthur & Sarfraz Ahmed, Ian!!

  • Amir on June 27, 2017, 13:22 GMT

    @VANZANFAN - Regarding your comment on Micky Arthur's role, Ian was of the opinion that as the CT progressed, Sarfraz became his own man, meaning that he was making all decisions on the field based on the situation and was not following any set strategy.

  • Bala on June 27, 2017, 12:53 GMT

    Chappelli seems to be more comfortable with the structure of the dressing room as it was when he was skipper. Fair enough. In that period, the captain had to be on top of the strategy and tactics of his team and the opposition. The number of matches played was lower and there was more time between matches. Currently, the captain cannot work on the strategy aspect as much as earlier. The amount of data analysis (bowling/batting tendencies, success areas, weaknesses, etc.) needs a full time strategist. Enter, the coach. Man management is not only performance managment but also injury management, load management, and streaming of new players. Some of these functions cannot be left to the captain for obvious reasons of ignorance or bias; this is the overlap area between the team leadership and the selection committee. Given the amount of cricket played today, a capable coach is as important as a strong captain, and both should know their respective bounds.

  •   Cricinfouser on June 27, 2017, 10:19 GMT

    Agree with Ian some of his view, but not completely. Yes, it is true that the captain is the man who has to play the match and lead from the front. But giving complete authority to captain to choose the playing 11 is not that good. And if the coach can not even advice or suggest a better playing 11 for the condition, then things are even worse. And what if a coach can not point out their mistake of loosing a game then it is really worst. A coach should have full authority to advice a playing 11 and he should point out the mistake after the match as well. Kohli's decision to play two spinners in semi final and final against a subcontinental team was really poor. India was lucky with Jadav provides two break through in the semi final against bangladesh. And in final the luck did not come Indias way and the decision to bat first was even wrong. But the captain did not like that someone pointed out his mistake and he wanted to kick him out because of that, you think is fair?

  • Jose on June 27, 2017, 2:34 GMT

    @CricNinja on June 26, 2017, 17:00 GMT

    In another article, in this site, titled, "New BCCI committee to identify hurdles in implementing Lodha Reforms", you may notice that having "Committees" is the flavour of the day, for BCCI & perhaps even for CoA.

    So, whenever India play, anything & everything about the match will be guided by a committee consisting of an Alpha male, Beta male, Theta male, and a Gama female. Since Kohli already fills up the first slot, we need to search only for the next three.That will certainly avoid two alpha males fighting with their egos as cutting swords! Good for us. And, for our cricket.

  • Vinayakaram on June 26, 2017, 20:49 GMT

    What does this article tell us? Start with praising Kumble, then support Kohli then go on to talk about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ireland. And this is all related to Kumble - Kohli saga. wow. amazing article connecting the dots. Missed the security part towards the end which is perfect ending to Kumble - Kohli saga. We need people with such clarity of thought like Chappell to coach the Indian team.

  • Vivek on June 26, 2017, 19:51 GMT

    Kohli is facing all the blame on this matter, but you have to realize that he is probably representing the entire team here. The team rejected Kumble's methods. Kohli is being a gentleman by soaking up the blame for his team and team mates. I love both Kohli and Kumble, but sometimes the chemistry does not work. Kohli did the right thing by providing the feedback to BCCI. Both Kohli and Kumble behaved in a professional manner on this matter. Its the so called "fans" calling both names, who should introspect on their behavior.

  • Jacob on June 26, 2017, 19:34 GMT

    CRICFAN1215798394, Pakistan won the match because they played well. Period.

    As for your advice to Ian, just as you are entitled to your opinion, Ian also has the same privilege. He is also known to have played professional-level cricket.

    And in case if you haven't noticed yet, while some may disagree, Ian's opinion is well respected by many here.

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