After completing his first tour as India coach with a 2-0 Test series win in the Caribbean, Anil Kumble has dished out the praise for his charges, acknowledging the maturity of captain Virat Kohli as well as applauding allrounder Ravi Ashwin’s stunning improvement.
Kumble oversaw a series victory against the West Indies in his first assignment but, needing a 3-0 result to claim the No.1 Test ranking, India were denied after only managing draws in the second and fourth Tests.
Ahead of their titanic 13-Test home season, which kicks off next week in Kanpur for a three-Test series against New Zealand, the 45-year-old nonetheless admitted he’s been impressed by a few key players.
Kumble, having watched Kohli’s progress from afar in recent years, admits he’s been blown away by the dedication of India’s star man.
“The last time I saw him closely was in 2012 (with Royal Challengers Bangalore),” Kumble said, referring to the Indian Premier League franchise he captained and then later mentored.
“And from there to 2016, there has been a massive difference for the good.
“I have not seen anyone that professional in terms of looking after his fitness, his work ethic and in terms of his preparation.
“He wants to be the best and he leads from the front. He was brilliant on the (West Indies) tour.”
Quick Single: Performance more important than pitches: Kumble
Kohli, if he hadn’t already, confirmed his status one of Test cricket’s most exciting players in the first Test of India’s tour of the Caribbean.
The 27-year-old struck a 283-ball 200, his 12th Test score in triple-figures, leading the tourists to a resounding series-opening victory in Antigua.
Along the way, Kohli shared in a 168-run fifth-wicket partnership with Ashwin, whose move up to No.6 in India’s batting order proved a masterstroke.
The No.3 ranked Test bowler’s series-leading 17 wickets also propelled him to second position on the Test allrounder rankings.
“There was a conscious decision from the management to push him up the order,” Kumble said of the off-spinner.
“Ashwin has shown in his career that he is capable of batting higher up in Test match cricket. Credit to him, he grabbed it by scoring two hundreds.
“You can’t ask for a better all-rounder in the team where he goes, gets hundreds, then picks up a five-for and wins matches.
“This home season, you want him to play all those 13 Tests and pick up tons of wickets.”
Kumble also commended promising young batsman K.L. Rahul, who made 158 in the second Test after only receiving a call-up because of an injury to opener Murali Vijay.
The right-hander then demonstrated his versatility in the Twenty20 International series in Florida, notching a remarkable 51-ball 110 not out the second match.
“(Rahul) has been brilliant,” Kumble said. “In the West Indies, he came in as a replacement for Vijay and seized that opportunity.
“In his short career, he has shown that he can score hundreds in Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies and what was really heartening was that he could adapt to T20 and score a hundred. “It goes to show that he has the game and he also has the mind to adjust at this young age.
“It really augurs well for Indian cricket.”
September 22: 1st Test at Kanpur
September 30: 2nd Test at Kolkata
October 8: 3rd Test at Indore