Exclusive Interview: Kumble is the best man to coach Team India says Anshuman Gaekwad: The original ‘Great Wall of India’, Anshuman Gaekwad keeps himself occupied with various television shows and has been travelling a lot.
Our correspondent Subramanian Krishnamurthi caught up with the yesteryear cricketer and engaged him in a discussion that started with Gaekwad’s courageous batting in Kingston in 1975, facing the then West Indian bowling giants and comes down to modern day cricket, Team India coach, BCCI workings etc.
Excerpts from the Interview:
- Anshu Bhai, taking you back in time, do you still remember the fourth and final Test of the 1975-76 series at Kingston, Jamaica, against the then powerful West Indies team and your patient knock of 81 runs, facing the onslaught for 450 minutes after which you retired hurt. You took a big blow on your ear from Michael Holding and also had to undergo surgery. Did you get back the original hearing abilities after that?
Not exactly. I underwent surgery twice. But there is not much of an improvement. The ear drum was burst. So the medical experts felt that the situation cannot be reversed and I would have to live with this problem.
- Post your retirement from the playing days, you have also served as coach and selector. Which one is the toughest role to perform? Is it being the player, coach or selector?
Role of a coach is the toughest. It is very challenging also. The expectations are high and it is not easy being a coach for a vibrant team like Team India.
- Compared to your playing days when the facilities in terms of protective gears for the players, coach/es, physios, video analysts were all unheard of, has the game improved in quality in the present era when all these facilities are available?
It is always advantageous to have a full fledged support system. It helps all-round. The physical fitness, which is a very important aspect, is taken care of.
In our days the players had to take care of everything. Heaving a coach in the team is always very advantageous. Deficiencies, if any, in the players can be easily rectified.
The video analysis helps identify the weakness and shortcomings of the players. The coach, who is available at hand, can work with the concerned player/s and rectify the flaws so they can perform even better.
In our days, without these facilities we had no way to know the flaws and if something was noticed, then we ourselves had to work on it and many times went unrectified due to lack of guidance.
Hence it is always advantageous to have a full fledged support staff and this will go to enhance the performance of the players.
- In your playing days the tour party would consist of 15/16 players, a Team Manager and maybe a couple of extra guys to do the errands. Team Manager was more of a tour facilitator and had very little to do with the game, per se. Present day tour party consists of 15 players and an equal number of support staff. Your views.
See, the game has changed a lot over the years. In our playing days we had to work on our problems on our own and work out a solution.
These days with the help of support staff, readymade solutions are available. It is just that the players need to adopt those solutions and perform better.
Guidance and assistance on all issues are easily and readily available and that is to the advantage of the players and the game.
- Currently the Indian Team is in West Indies. The Test series commences today (21 July). What is your assessment of the team, given the fact that only Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli have the experience of having played Tests in the Windies?
Well I would say that only two players have the experience of playing in West Indies and the others being new to the condition is actually a ‘blessing in disguise’.
Wickets have changed in WI over the years and have slowed down. It is not that bouncy stuff any more.
The players can go with an open mind and play according to the conditions and situation prevailing over there. They need not go with a pre-set mind and this will help them to perform better.
- Would you focus on any particular player, be it batsman or a bowler, who might do well in the series?
All the players are in good shape and should perform well. Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, all should be able to perform.
They are all quality players. It is not that just one or two will do everything. All the players should get together and put in their best.
Difficult to pinpoint any one player.
- Anshu Bhai, you have been travelling a lot within the country. Have you been able to spot talents that could be nurtured properly, who could don the national colours, sooner than later? Can you name atleast one?
I have not been able to see much of the domestic games. I have just watched a few games on the television. As such it is difficult for me to name anyone right now.
- Kumble is known to be a strict disciplinarian, hard worker and a great motivator. Would he succeed in passing on these good qualities to the guys in the dressing room and is one year, a sufficient time to assess Kumble’s performance as the chief Coach?
Kumble has all the abilities of a good coach. Yes discipline is an important aspect. But the boys are not school kids. They are all grown up guys who know and understand their responsibilities.
Anil has led the team during his playing days and led from the front. So he knows what it takes to manage a team.
‘Man Management’ is the key factor. It is necessary to keep the boys focussed.
Kumble is connected to day-to-day cricket. He knows the boys well and they also know him very well. So there should be no problem.
Yes one year is sufficient to assess.
- Having been a coach yourself, how would define the role of a coach in the team? Should he be outspoken and reach out to the guys or take a back seat, let the captain have the control and butt in only as and when guidance is sought?
Well the coach need not be outspoken. It is ideal for him to take the back seat and observe so that he can always offer a solution as and when problems arise.
- BCCI has been in turmoil. With Justice Lodha coming out with recommendations for sweeping changes to be made, how do you think the things are going to work out in the days to come?
I don’t know how to react. I really don’t know what exactly transpired. Indian cricket is definitely doing well.
Can’t comment how things would shape up. Need to wait and watch.
- Anshu Bhai, why have you and other player legends like say Gavaskar, Amarnath, Vishwanath, Bedi, Prasanna, Kapil Dev et al, have shied away from being at the helm of affairs in BCCI? Don’t you think a player who had undergone the grind and represented the country would be the proper person to head the Board instead of politicians and business tycoons, who hardly know anything about the game?
Not necessarily. Not all good players could become good administrators. There was no money in BCCI. So money had to be generated. This was possible only by the experts belonging to that function.
If somebody gave to a cricketer say Rs 10 crores to manage the same and to run the Board, he may not have the expertise to manage the funds. It needs the financial / commercial experts to be involved.
Cricketers should be involved the development and improvement of the game leaving the board administration matters to the respective experts.
- Would you now be interested to participate in the games administration and make a foray into BCCI and would you also advice your contemporaries to do so?
As cricketer, definitely I would be interested to work in the improvement and development of the game, as and when I am asked to or approached.
I was the coach of Team India from 1997-99. We did well in the ODIs. We failed to qualify in the World Cup. Azhar (Azharuddin) was dropped as captain. I was dropped as coach. Kapil (Dev) was appointed coach. He resigned in 6 months time.
Thereafter BCCI again approached me. I was very reluctant. But keeping the interest of Indian cricket in mind, I took over the job.
Presently I am in the BCCI Affiliation Committee, working on resolving issues concerning Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Mizoram.
Yes I am willing to take up any role that is connected to cricket and for its improvement and development.
- Anshu Bhai, you have your own School of Cricket. How much of time do you personally devote for the same and do you have one-one discussion with the boys? Are there talents who could make it to the Baroda team ASAP?
Actually the school was started in 2000, but had to be closed in 2001 since I took up assignment with GSFC.
It was again reopened by my son and is being managed by him since 2003. I have actually not been able to make time to be involved in the school on a regular basis.
However, I have been guiding my son as and when needed.
I have a lot of travel, being contracted for a few television shows. Yes I will have to work out some schedule and involve myself to the school activities.
- Could you kindly explain what is keeping the Pathan Brothers away from Team India? Atleast Irfan should be in the Indian dressing room, be it the Test or the ODIs. Even in IPL, Irfan was given a raw deal by his skipper, MS Dhoni.
I really have no clue on this. All I am aware is Irfan has lost a lot of cricket due to his injuries. Definitely he is a good player and has done well also.
About the selection, i really don’t know and I have no clue.
About his IPL treatment, I really cannot say much since I am not aware of the situation that prevailed and it is difficult to make any assumption.
- What is your take on IPL? Is it a boon or a bane for Indian cricket, more so, for the reason that cricket today stands redefined as ‘slam bang’ stuff instead of patient knocks and innings build up? Does this not affect the ability of players to play in the longer version? Under this scenario would it be possible to see a batsman spend 671 minutes at the crease, keep the concentration intact, face 436 deliveries and score a patient 201, exactly what you did against Pakistan at Jalandhar in the 1983 series?
IPL is definitely good from the spectators’ point of view. They get their money’s worth in three hours flat. It is also a good platform for budding cricketers who get to rub shoulders with players of repute, both national and international.
Coming to the financial part, yes, the players get paid very well and they have a very secure future.
Now career wise it is upto the players to adapt to the different situations. They can’t continue to play in the same manner in all formats of the game. They should understand the situation they are in and make the necessary adjustments to suit the format.
- Finally, Anshu Bhai, what would you like to advice the youngsters who always dream of an IPL cap even before moustache start appearing on their face?
Well, youngsters watching the IPL game on television or in the stadium should realise and understand that the players have reached that position after getting their basics right.
The youngsters also should realise that these IPL players have played a lot of cricket prior to winnings IPL contracts.
If they can get their basis correct then they can play in any format of the game else their career might be in danger. Ultimately nothing is impossible.