Cricket

‘I have total respect for Kumble as a cricketer’ – Kohli

India captain Virat Kohli, while speaking of the respect the team has for Anil Kumble’s achievements as a cricketer, has offered little about the events that led to Kumble’s resignation as head coach on Tuesday, three days before the start of the limited-overs series in the West Indies.

“Anil bhai has expressed his views and taken a decision to step out,” Kohli said at a media briefing in Port-of-Spain, where India play the first ODI against West Indies on Friday. “We all respect that decision. It is something that has happened right after the tournament (Champions Trophy).”

Even though he was pressed to reveal the differences with Kumble, Kohli maintained that he could not break the culture of not divulging dressing room details in public. “I’ve had 11 press conferences that have happened during the Champions Trophy… We have created a culture over the last three-four years that whatever happens in the change room, we’ve tried to maintain the sanctity of the change room throughout,” he said. “That is what the whole team believes in. For us that is paramount. I’ve always respected that and we have continued to maintain that as well.”

While stepping down as head coach Kumble spoke about the reservations¬†Kohli had with him, but Kohli refused to be drawn into the issue. “It’s his opinion, his point of view which I respect,” Kohli said about Kumble, India’s leading wicket taker in Tests and ODIs, going public with the differences between the two. “I have total respect for him as a cricketer and what he has achieved for the nation. All the years that he has played. There’s no taking away that aspect of him at all. And we all respect him totally.”

On being asked whether Kumble’s approach affected the team (negatively), Kohli didn’t give a direct reply. “Like I said, for me what’s most important is to maintain the sanctity of the change room and what happens in the change room is something that’s very sacred and private to all of us, and something that I would not express in details in a public scenario. As I said, his point of view is out there and we respect that decision.”

Hours after resigning as India coach, Kumble said he had been informed for the first time on the same day by the BCCI that “the captain had reservations with my style and about my continuing as head coach”. Kumble, whose contract ended with the Champions Trophy but had been given an extension to take the team to the West Indies, termed his working relationship¬†with Kohli ‘untenable’. He announced his resignation while the squad was flying to the Caribbean.

Two days before the Champions Trophy had kicked off in England, it emerged in the media that India captain Kohli had told BCCI officials that some players were uncomfortable with the “intimidating” style of Kumble’s man management. As a result, despite India’s success in Kumble’s year in charge, during which the team climbed to No.1 in the Test rankings, the board advertised for fresh interviews for the head coach’s position instead of extending his contract. Incidentally, Kumble did reapply for the job then.