This is a published article in Couchexpert
A sportsman’s shelf life is only so much. The travel and time away from family does take its toll, but as all sportsmen will tell you, they miss the mateship and competitiveness and the sense of battle and accomplishment on a daily basis is hard to replace. A void so deep that it lures many back into the game as experts, administrators, selectors, mentors, coaches, umpires and referees. And some as players again in the IPL.
Anil Kumble’s decision to stand down from the IPL auctions is most welcome in that regard. When he did show the inclination of playing this season I was vocal in disagreement on some forums. He was already the chairman of the National Cricket Academy and also the president of his home cricket association—Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). Continuing to be an active player after all that seemed to be complicating matters.
Also, there was always the danger of him not being picked in the Royal Challengers’ squad the moment he was not retained by the franchise. Even if he was picked, he might not have been its leader considering his age and other commitments.
If anything, it would throw up an unnecessary situation of him perhaps potentially not being the leader and therefore not even in the playing 11. As the president of the KSCA that would perhaps make the younger local players not know how to deal with the situation—of having to take sides involuntarily.
Was he right in pulling out of auctions?
With him having volunteered to mentor the youngsters at the NCA and as its chairman, he had clearly moved on as a person. Then he ran for office for his home cricket association. Countless days were spent speaking to the stakeholders and the district associations in convincing them of his vision for Karnataka cricket. A clean sweep at the elections showed that people were tired of the ones running their cricket, and their belief in him and his team.
His willingness to choose administration where many cricketers have tried and failed impressed the keen followers of Indian cricket. As impressive also have been the measures his team has laid out already. Among the many things that annoy locals about administrators is when people get elected time and again and do nothing time and again. Accountability isn’t much of a thing with our administrators.
Karnataka’s cricket has taken a beating from the highs of the mid-90s. Among those proposed by his leadership is a cap on the maximum terms one can serve at the office: two. For long, it has been the bane of all sports administration in this country. This might pave the way for cricketers getting into administration. Rahul Dravid is expected to get into administration once he is done with cricket.
When Brijesh Patel and a set of cricketers took office at the KSCA back in ’96, similar expectation and the hope of change lingered. After a promising start, the inevitable daily petty challenges that administrators have to face took their toll and they became just another set of blokes who couldn’t be the change. Kumble, with his stature could have chosen far easier and more lucrative positions. That he has chosen to run office for his home state is typical of the man wanting to be associated with the game for all the right reasons.
The reasons behind Kumble opting out of the IPL auctions might be more than a clash with business commitments. In a world where excellence is quick fire 50 in a Twenty20 game, Kumble stands for it with deeds. He pursues challenging tasks as an administrator of a state with its cricket in decline, as a chairman of young boys in the academy confused between the honour of Test cricket and the glamour of IPL. Now, as the chief mentor of Royal Challengers, he has made another move in the right direction.
Many an administrator has failed duty. Many an ex-Indian cricketer has attempted and failed at administration. Kumble may or may not achieve everything he sets out to achieve, but it is the step in the right direction. Opting out of IPL auction is not a step backwards, but a step in the right direction. He has moved on as a person. We won't see him again on the cricket pitch. But, all for the betterment of the game.
Alas, the same cannot be said of Brian Lara.