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EXCLUSIVE | ‘I Wouldn’t Look Back’ – Kumble Advocates ‘Proper Conversation’ on Dhoni's Future

EXCLUSIVE | ‘I Wouldn’t Look Back’ – Kumble Advocates ‘Proper Conversation’ on Dhoni's Future

Former India captain and coach Anil Kumble has called on the national selectors to clearly communicate with MS Dhoni about his place in their future scheme of things, especially with the T20 World Cup in Australia just over a year away.

Former India captain and coach Anil Kumble has called on the national selectors to clearly communicate with MS Dhoni about his place in their future scheme of things, especially with the T20 World Cup in Australia just over a year away. Speaking exclusively to CricketNext, Kumble said that while he “wouldn’t look back” when asked if Dhoni should continue to be part of the team, he advocated a “proper conversation” take place between the player and the selectors.

After India’s World Cup exit in July, Dhoni chose to opt out of the limited overs series in West Indies and wasn’t considered for the three-match T20 series against South Africa starting on September 15. Kumble insisted that a player of Dhoni’s stature deserved a “proper send-off”, adding that a situation similar to the World Cup should not be allowed to develop, where India failed to identify the ideal choice for the number four slot in the batting order.

“I think the selectors will have a take a call as to which is the likely team that you’d want in the World Cup because the World Cup is just a year away,” Kumble said. “You’d want a consistent team to be playing right throughout and that’s exactly what didn’t happen in the 50-over competition.

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“There were a lot of changes leading up to the World Cup. We were still not sure about who that number 4 would be, the whole World Cup we kept on discussing who should bat at number 4, and that’s not what you want leading up to the 20-over World Cup. You’d want all those roles and responsibilities to be fixed and make sure that you have back-ups for certain positions, just in case somebody gets injured or if somebody’s out of form.

“So, yes, there will be some discussions about an exit plan. But having said that, MS Dhoni certainly deserves a proper send-off, whenever he decides to move on from the sport. But for the team’s sake, the selectors need to sit down and have a discussion around what the plans are because it’s important that things be communicated.

“If the selectors believe that Dhoni is in the scheme of things for the T20 World Cup then I think he should be playing every game. If he’s not, then it’s important that they have a discussion around how they need to make this happen. I think they need to do that in the next couple of months. Like I mentioned, he certainly deserves a proper send-off, whenever that happens but the communication needs to be come from the selectors.

“I think Pant has certainly made a lot of claims as a keeper-batsman, especially in the T20 format. So, it’s important to have a conversation and you need to have a proper send-off, he certainly deserves that. So, I think you need to have a proper conversation around how you want to do that.

“But having said that, Pant has also shown some inconsistency. So, that’s a call the selectors need to make. Today, in spite of all of that, are you going to back him or someone else, or would you look back? I wouldn’t but I think it’s important that the selectors take a call on that.”

While Dhoni’s immediate future in limited overs cricket remains shrouded in doubt, another player experiencing a mid-career stumble is Ravichandran Ashwin. Although the 32-year old has 342 wickets in 65 Tests at an impressive average of 25.43, he is no longer India’s first choice spinner in overseas conditions. After playing just one Test on India’s previous overseas tour in Australia, Ashwin was left out of both Tests in the West Indies, with Ravindra Jadeja preferred as the lone spinner.

While admitting to be a “bit surprised” that Ashwin was kept out of the playing XI, Kumble believes the team management needs to find a way to get their “number one spinner” back into the mix.

“He is still the best spinner that you have,” Kumble insisted. “Yes, there have been a few incidents where he has had injuries & not performed to his potential, but Ashwin is your number 1 spinner in the team. He should be a part of the squad, he should be in the playing XI, you have to make a way of getting him in.

“I strongly believe that the team certainly can have two spinners in the squad, because both Ashwin & Jadeja are wonderful batsmen.

“Ashwin has had four Test hundreds, Jadeja has been really consistent with the bat. He did that again in the West Indies, he’s a wonderful bowler too & both of them in tandem can certainly be handful for the opposition. So yes, when India travel outside, it’s not always that you get 4 bowlers to pick up 20 wickets.

“Ideally, if you have a combination of 3 fast bowlers & 2 spinners, wherein your 2 spinners can also contribute with the bat, that’s the perfect scenario. And you have 2 front-line spinners who are equally good as batsmen, so I think it’s just a matter of time, I strongly believe that Ashwin will certainly make it into the playing XI. So, the management needs to look at that and I am a bit surprised that someone with the ability and quality of Ashwin is sitting out in a Test match.”

Ashwin’s spot may not be secure any longer but one bowler who continues to rise in stature is Jasprit Bumrah. In the recent series, Bumrah topped the wicket-takers tally with 13 scalps at an astonishing average of 9.23. Having first seen Bumrah emerge during his stint as mentor for the Mumbai Indians, Kumble has followed his career closely and was hugely impressed with his performances in the Caribbean and believes the 25-year old can go on to become the “greatest ever fast bowler from India.”

“I think he is an amazing cricketer, you know for a young boy who walked into Mumbai Indians in the IPL when I was part of it, he has just grown in stature, grown in his skill set, he is much stronger, fitter and he has added a bit of pace,” Kumble said.

“He is a lot more consistent, he knows how to get a wicket. It is not just about the skill set you have or you possess the ability to bowl in, away or a bouncer. I think the ability to bounce back and what to do when I think Bumrah has done that brilliantly and he is a great student of the game, he understands the nuances, he bowls differently to different batsmen assesses those conditions really quickly and that has been the ability of Jasprit Bumrah in this series.

“What really was intriguing and what was really nice to see was his ability to swing the ball away from the right hander or to the left hander coming back in. I think that to me is lethal. Bumrah can do that consistently. One coming back in is a natural angle to the right-hand batsman.

“If he can take the ball away which he did in the series, we know what he could do. He could just blast out the opposition in less than five or six overs and that’s the ability Bumrah has and I think India is blessed to have someone like him.

“In all the three formats, India depend a lot on Bumrah. To have that ability to do that consistently and carry that burden, he just needs to remain fit and then continue to work on that and he is a wonderful student of the game. He understands better than any other bowler and you can see that in his development. So, yes, he certainly has the quality to go on and become the greatest ever fast bowler from India.

“He is only 25 so he has a long way ahead of him and you know it is wonderful to see the kinds of performances he has put together. What really differentiates Bumrah and someone starting young is his ability to convert those two or three-wicket hauls into five-wicket hauls and then win matches for the country. I think that is a hallmark of a bowler, you would want your bowlers to be match winners and that’s what Bumrah does and he has showed that in this young career of his.”

first published:September 07, 2019, 17:19 IST