Image: Jagadeesh N.V / Reuters
“It is every engineer’s dream to speak at Nasscom,” said a modest Anil Kumble, who trained as an engineer, before taking to cricket. “Cricket, by the way, was plan B,” joked the spin legend and former India captain, to a packed hall at the ongoing Nasscom India Leadership Forum 2017, in Mumbai. Kumble now serves as head coach of the national team.
At 619 test wickets to his credit, Kumble was the first Indian bowler and third in the world to hit the 600-wicket milestone. Reflecting on his successful career as a bowler, Kumble shared that he would follow a set of rituals before every match he played, whether it was an ordinary Ranji trophy game or the finals of an all-important international tournament. Among those rituals, which included training properly, eating right and sleeping well, “visualisation”, he said, was key. “A day before the match, I would think of each batsman of the opposing team, one at a time, and visualise how I am going to get them out. I would picture the fielders’ positions, my bowling technique, the strategy I would use,” said the bowler, who was nicknamed “Jumbo” by his teammates – in reference to a jumbo jet - because of the fast-pace of his deliveries.
Bowling, Kumble said is “all about strategy” and that he usually went with his “gut feeling”, rather than playing it safe. He also said that attitude and body language was key. “If someone is watching a game on TV, they should not be able to tell the score by looking at the players. Whether you are at 50 for five, or 200 for no loss, your body language should be the same.”
“Being a captain or a coach is all about managing people and personalities,” revealed Kumble, alluding to the overlaps between business and sport. Clear communication, an understanding of the players’ personality, and giving feedback in the right manner, was all-important, he said. “Sometimes you can see it [mistakes] coming. But as a coach you have to hold back, give players their space, let them make the mistakes and then talk to them about it; rather than force it.”