Former India captain Anil Kumble has been appointed coach of the national side for one year, the BCCI announced on Thursday. His first assignment will be India's four-Test tour of the West Indies. The question of who would take over as India coach has been a talking point since Ravi Shastri's tenure as team director ended after the World T20. Some of the uncertainty was addressed when Anurag Thakur, after his appointment as BCCI president, said the vacancy would be filled before the Tests in the Caribbean.
The BCCI put out an advertisement for a new coach in the first week of June and received 57 applications, including Kumble's. However, it appears he was not among the 21 names shortlisted by the BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke's office. The Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, assigned to pick India's next coach asked for Kumble's name to be included, at which point he became an instant favourite.
The committee interviewed Kumble and a handful of other candidates in Kolkata on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, they made their recommendations to the BCCI. Thakur, along with Shirke, made the final call. "The CAC recommended a few names to the BCCI. After discussions with various stakeholders, we have taken the final call that for next one year Anil Kumble will be the head coach." Thakur said at a media briefing in Dharamsala. He added the support staff would be appointed after consulting with Kumble.
Kumble applying for the job was a surprise to many in the BCCI, considering he has not coached a cricket team before. The BCCI had preferred their candidates to have had that experience, but his pedigree as a player and two stints as mentor in the IPL worked in Kumble's favour. The BCCI offered Kumble a one-year term to help him acclimatise to the job better and to give themselves the cushion to reassess if needed.
"As for the one-year period, Kumble is now transforming himself from being a great on the cricketing field to probably becoming a great coach that we expect him to be. That transition has to be smooth. This is professional appointment. All professional appointments try to cover all bases. Therefore that is the reason we want to be able to be in a position to review our options should there be any need. I am confident that we will not have that need to address that need. That is the exact reason behind the one-year appointment."
A senior official privy to the selection process said a long-term contract was not a viable option considering the lengthy interval between now and the next World Cup in 2019. But he felt Kumble was in "the driver's seat" to prove his credentials. "We have 13 Tests at home and then there is the Champions Trophy next year," the insider said. "He is now in the driver's seat. We have given him the keys and he has to now prove himself."
Kumble's lack of experience is made up for by his standing as a player and captain in an 18-year-long international career. He finished as India's highest wicket-taker in Tests, and the third-highest overall, with 619 wickets, including a best of 10 for 74 against Pakistan in Delhi in 1999.
After being appointed Test captain in November 2007, he led India in 14 matches, winning three, losing five and drawing six, until his retirement a year later. Among his notable victories as captain was the Perth Test in January 2008, which was played after the controversial Sydney Test where, among other issues, India faced allegations of racism from the Australia side. Kumble is the first Indian to be appointed full-time India coach since Kapil Dev resigned in September 2000.
According to Shirke, there were four overseas candidates who had made the shortlist of 21, including Tom Moody and Andy Moles, who, it is understood, were among those interviewed by the in Kolkata. "It's not about Indian or foreign coach," Thakur said. "There was no such limitation that we have to look for only Indian coach. We wanted the best for Indian team. We deserve the best. We have Anil Kumble with us. He has been a match-winner for India."
There has been speculation that the delay in choosing India's head coach - the appointment was expected on Wednesday, but a subsequent BCCI press release said some "finer points" needed to be discussed - was the result of the Cricket Advisory Committee being unable to contact India's Test captain Virat Kohli for his inputs. Without confirming as much, Thakur said that various "stakeholders" had been consulted.
"The CAC looked into all applications. They have shortlisted few names which were suggested to the BCCI. When the names came to us we discussed with other stakeholders in the board, in the team and then you finally take a call on the various experiences [of the candidates]. All of the shortlisted names worked with various teams, in IPL, in various cricket boards, as well as the state units. So you take feedback not only from one sector, you take feedback from all stakeholders. We have taken little more time, but we wanted to be more transparent and wanted to pick the best."
Kumble has also served in administrative roles since his retirement. He was elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association in November 2010, served as chairman of the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and also headed the BCCI's technical committee from 2012 to 2015.