AFP/Port of Spain
India captain Virat Kohli refused to discuss the bitter departure of head coach Anil Kumble yesterday, admitting he “respects” the former spinner but that he will not betray dressing room secrecy.
Although his contract had come to an end at the conclusion of the Champions Trophy tournament in London last Sunday, Kumble was retained for the forthcoming brief Caribbean campaign.
However, he announced his resignation the day after the title-holders and favourites succumbed to a crushing 180-run defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan in the final at The Oval.
In announcing his decision, the former Indian leg-spinner said he had been informed by officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that “the captain had reservations with my style and about my continuing as head coach.”
The issue of an apparent strained relationship between Kohli and Kumble first arose three weeks earlier just prior to the start of the Champions Trophy with reports suggesting that players were uncomfortable with was described as Kumble’s “intimidating” style of man management.
“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,” said Kohli, speaking to the media on the eve of the series against the West Indies.
“His point of view is out there and we respect that decision. I have total respect for him as a cricketer and what he has achieved. There’s no taking away that aspect of him at all and we respect him totally.”
Had this development and the shock thrashing by Pakistan transpired ahead of a more challenging assignment there might be cause for worry.
However in the West Indies, the Indians are taking on opponents whose form has dipped alarmingly in the past 12 months to the extent that they have won just three of 16 ODIs during that period and only managed a 1-1 draw in a rain-affected three-match series with Afghanistan in their last campaign.
That series was played concurrently with the Champions Trophy, serving to highlight the steep decline of the former winners who failed for the first time in 42 years to qualify for a major International Cricket Council event.
Unless they can upset the form book in five matches against India and a further five ODIs in England in September, the ninth-ranked West Indies also appear doomed to go through the qualifying tournament next year for the 2019 World Cup in England.
“That’s no concern for me. We have to focus on our game and leave India to deal with their own problems,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder when questioned about the circumstances of Kumble’s departure.
Potent weapon missing
“We have a chance of beating India but only if we deliver on the day in all departments of the game.”
While they have rested experienced opener Rohit Sharma and exciting fast-medium bowler Jasprit Bumrah from the Champions Trophy squad, India still present an impressive front with strength and experience in all departments compared to a home side short on confidence and top-level exposure.
From their last ODI meeting more than two years ago at the World Cup in Perth — a four-wicket win for India with almost 11 overs to spare — there are only two West Indian survivors in Holder and batsman Jonathan Carter.
In contrast the Indians have as many as eight players from their touring party who featured in that fixture headed by proven match-winners Kohli and former captain and wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Their vaunted batting line-up was obliterated by Pakistan’s seam attack in the Champions Trophy final but it remains to be seen if the West Indies bowling armoury, shorn of their most potent weapon in injured fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, can present similar challenges on the Queen’s Park Oval pitch for the first two matches, starting today.
This is the first bilateral series between the two teams since the West Indies abandoned the scheduled full tour of India after the fourth ODI in Dharamsala in October, 2014 due to a dispute with their own players’ association in which the West Indies Cricket Board declined to intervene.
Following Sunday’s second match, Antigua will host the next two ODIs before the tour wraps up in Jamaica where the final one-dayer will be played followed by a T20 International on July 9.
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