Anil Kumble is working on his Punjabi accent. It is one of the things the former India captain and coach — and one of the two players ever to take 10 wickets in a Test innings — is learning ahead of this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
As head coach of Kings XI Punjab, Kumble is “trying to speak with the Punjabi boys in as much Punjabi accent” as his Kannada tongue allows. It’s part of familiarisation with the team before the tournament starts on September 19.
Kumble is lucky to try such things in an IPL franchise, unlike other Indian coaches who haven’t found a top seat at the helm of any of the other seven franchises.
Kumble can’t help but see irony in the situation. “I can’t answer that question (why other teams don’t have Indian head coaches). I don’t think it gives a true reflection of the quality or the availability of the Indian resources. It’s bit of an irony right? It’s the Indian Premier League and then you have only one Indian as the head coach. I am hopeful that there will be more Indian coaches in the mix,” said Kumble during an interaction from Dubai on Tuesday.
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The remaining seven IPL franchises have foreigners as head coaches: Brendon McCullum (Kolkata Knight Riders); Ricky Ponting (Delhi Capitals); Andrew McDonald (Rajasthan Royals); Mahela Jayawardene (Mumbai Indians); Trevor Bayliss (Sunrisers Hyderabad); Stephen Fleming (Chennai Super Kings) and Simon Katich (Royal Challengers Bangalore).
Prior to Kumble, only three Indians have coached in IPL: Lalchand Rajput (MI), Robin Singh (SRH) and Venkatesh Prasad (RCB).
“The reason I have taken up this assignment with KXIP is that we have great a squad to go all the way. That’s my role, to prepare the team. This is first time I am meeting the squad. Because of Covid, we have got to spend a longer time with the team. Otherwise, it’s just one week before the tournament,” said Kumble.
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“I think our first goal is to prepare the team to achieve a common purpose, that of winning the IPL. It’s not only about me imparting knowledge. Our intention is to help the players in their careers. I know two months is a short time but at least, we will try and help them, especially (in) building fitness, preparing for a match.”
Gayle’s leadership role
Kumble wants senior KXIP players such as Chris Gayle take a more active role. “The youngsters look up to him. It’s just not Chris the batsman we are looking at but also Chris in a leadership role, in terms developing players. We have chats about him contributing. He has been with us for three to four days and he has been very keen,” said Kumble.
Gayle’s inputs and experience will be all the more needed as KXIP have a new captain in KL Rahul. “I have seen KL from a young age. He has captained in junior matches before but this will be the first time that he will be captaining in a high-profile tournament. He has been brilliant so far, very relaxed. He knows the players more than me. He has been with the team for two years now. He has been in the scene (top level cricket) for 10 years now. He knows the nuances of what it takes to be as a leader,” said Kumble.
He said crucial additions in the squad would help the KXIP go deep in the IPL. “We have a strong team. We needed an impact player in the middle. So we have got Glenn Maxwell. He can be an impact player not just with the bat but also with his spin. Also, we needed a fast bowler at the death and Sheldon Cottrell will help us there,” said Kumble.