Anil Kumble felt that he was treated “unfairly” and forced to resign as head coach of the Indian team but then skipper Virat Kohli opined that players were not happy with his “intimidating” style of enforcing discipline, according to former Committee of Administrators head Vinod Rai.
In his recently published book ‘Not Just A Nightwatchman: My Innings with BCCI’, published by ‘Rupa’, Rai touched upon various issues that he dealt with during his 33-month tenure.
One of the issues and perhaps the most controversial, was when Kohli complained about his breakdown of relationship with Kumble, who announced his resignation publicly just after Champions Trophy in 2017.
Kumble was handed a one-year contract in 2016.
“In my conversations with the captain and team management, it was conveyed that Kumble was too much of a disciplinarian and hence the team members were not too happy with him,” Rai has written in his book.
“I had spoken to Virat Kohli on the issue and he did mention that the younger members of the team felt intimidated by the way he worked with them.”
Rai reveals that the then Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman had recommended Kumble’s re-appointment.
“Soon, the CAC met in London and interacted with the two separately in a bid to resolve the issue. After deliberations over three days, they decided to recommend Kumble’s reappointment as the head coach.”
However it was evident from what followed was that Kohli’s point of view was given more respect and hence Kumble’s position became untenable.
“We had long conversations with Kumble after he had returned from the UK. He was obviously upset about the manner in which the entire episode had panned out. He felt he had been unfairly treated and a captain or team should not be given so much importance.
“It was the duty of the coach to bring discipline and professionalism into the team and as a senior, his views should have been respected by the players.”
Rai also wrote that Kumble felt that more credence was given to following protocols and process and less emphasis was laid on how the team performed under his guidance.
“He was disappointed that we had given such importance to following process, and that, in view of the team’s performance over the previous year, he deserved an extension.”
Rai had further written that he had explained to Kumble as to why he didn’t get an extension.
“I explained to him that considering the fact that even his earlier selection in 2016 had followed a process, and that his one-year contract had no extension clause, we were bound to follow process, even for his reappointment. And that is exactly what was done.”
Rai however found it mature and prudent on both Kohli and Kumble’s part to maintain a dignified silence on the issue or else the controversy would have continued.
“It is indeed very prudent of captain Kohli to have maintained a dignified silence. Any utterance from him would have set off a fusillade of opinions.
“Kumble, on his part, too, kept to himself and did not go public on any issue that had transpired. That was the most mature and dignified manner of dealing with a situation which could have become unpleasant for all parties involved.”
Non-appointment of Dravid, Zaheer as consultants, reason given and reality
In 2017, when Ravi Shastri was reappointed as head coach (earlier he was Cricket Director), the BCCI had in its initial mail stated that Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan were appointed batting and bowling consultants respectively.
However the decision had to be overturned and later Shastri’s right-hand man and confidante Bharat Arun was also reinstated as bowling coach.
Rai, in his book, mentioned that there were practical difficulties which led to Dravid and Zaheer not being able to take up the role.
“Laxman called to say that news reports were emerging that the CoA had reportedly given the impression that the CAC had exceeded its remit in recommending Dravid and Zaheer as consultant/coach.
“He called to convey the ‘pain of the CAC’. I assured him that these were media speculations and somebody was quite unnecessarily adding his unsolicited two bits to the process.”
“The fact remained that Dravid was far too occupied with the U-19 team to spare time for the senior team. Zaheer was contracted with another team and could not have been engaged. And hence that recommendation could not be acted upon. That put the lid on the process,” he wrote.
However Rai’s recollection for all those who had covered the issue back then, seems a bit inaccurate.
“Had they known that Dravid and Zaheer would unable to take up, why would have Rai sanctioned their appointments,” a senior official, who was active back then told PTI.
“The truth is that Shastri, after his appointment had made it clear that he would only work when his choice of support staff is given and that roster needs to have Bharat Arun,” the official added.
Figures in Book
While Rai is absolutely spot on in mentioning that it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who recommended an A+ category in the central contracts, the figures mentioned on page 36 of the book do not match with reality.
“As per the suggestion of team management, we devised four categories, A+, A, B and C, and the remuneration contemplated was ‘8 crore, 7 crore, 5 crore and 3 crore, respectively.”
However, the BCCI’s Centrally contracted cricketers get Rs 7 crore (A+), Rs 5 crore (A), Rs 3 crore (B group) and Rs 1 crore (group C).
Ben Stokes salary
A factual error noted in the book is England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ salary which Rai has quoted as USD 4 million (Page 71) for eight weeks.
“Another remarkable example has been that of Ben Stokes. He was barred from playing due to some infractions not related to cricket. That seemed not to have caused him too much of consternation as he earned USD 4 million in the IPL, and that too for a mere eight-week engagement,” he wrote.
However it must be mentioned that Stokes was bought by Rajasthan Royals for USD 1.8 million (GBP 1.4 million) and not for the amount mentioned in the book.