CHENNAI: The Class of 92 has been spoken about enough in world football. It centered around six players from Manchester United — Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phill Neville and Nicky Butt. Their careers coincided with the lives of Brits, the pinnacle being the Champions League win in 1999.
Indian cricket has a class of 1996. That’s when Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman joined forces with Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble. Together, they saw it all. Match-fixing rocked the boat. They stood tall, conquering heights teams of the past could not.
When Kumble bid goodbye in 2008, the process of taking the team to the top of Test rankings was still on. Three years later, after India won the World Cup, one of the striking images coming out of the dressing room was of Kumble holding the trophy with Tendulkar. It was a process that started after the lows of the Greg Chappell era and ended with Gary Kirsten’s departure as coach in 2011. The striking point now is, all these stalwarts are associated with Indian cricket in some capacity. Kumble was interviewed by Laxman, Tendulkar and Ganguly. Dravid has managed junior and A teams.
That Kumble pipped Ravi Shastri to the post with just the experience of mentoring IPL sides will surprise few. During his playing days, Kumble was a warrior who maintained the same intensity even while bowling the last ball of the day. He was the studious kind who kept learning. Even on unresponsive pitches, he devised methods. He was fearless leader who even fought against administrators to get better pay contracts for players.
Despite the success it has had of late, this Indian team needs direction, something that Kumble & Co needed around the start of the millennium. They need to step out of this comfort zone of playing on spinner-friendly conditions, if they dream of becoming a truly top side. “It’s a great honour to be back in Indian dressing room in a different role. Strategy will be to win. There is still time to think about all that and sit with the players. I have short and long-term plans for the upcoming series (against West Indies), but I cannot plan alone. I need players to pitch in,” Kumble said after being handed the responsibility.
Nobody knows where this ride is going to take the team. Maybe the process that MS Dhoni and Kohli keep harping on might be beginning here. As Kumble said, “This is a great time for Indian cricket. I’ve played for long with Sourav, Sachin, VVS. Rahul is guiding the junior team. The five of us share a wonderful relation. Need to sit down with them and do what is best for India.”
That is what perhaps India needs now. To come out of this shell and play the Indian way, aggressive on the field, not off it. They should give Kumble the opportunity to focus his camera on the field.