Mumbai: Anil Kumble, a former captain of India and an icon, spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast on Tuesday at the Taj Lands End.
The following are excerpts
Q Post-retirement felicitations evoke mixed emotions... There’s happiness and sadness... What are your feelings some hours before Rahul Dravid’s felicitation by the BCCI?
A I see the felicitation as a celebration of Rahul’s career... At some point, all good things must come to an end and you’ve got to move on... Rahul has taken a personal decision and one accepts it... Whether to retire or not is a very personal decision.
It was the same with you, in late 2008...
Absolutely... Nobody forced it on me. Each one has his own time to call... I did, some three-and-a-half years ago... Rahul did so this month.
Sure, retirement is a personal thing, but Dravid will be missed big time... Your thoughts?
(Emotionally) In a way, there’s sadness, for one won’t see Rahul again in the India cap, but he’s moving on and we’ll have to do likewise. Rahul gave his heart and soul for Indian cricket... He’ll be missed, not just on the field, but off it... Rahul carried the burden of the team exceptionally.
Dravid called you, too, before he went public with his decision. What did you tell him? Did you suggest that he wait for a season?
Yeah... But Rahul had already made his decision... He stood committed to the decision and he’s not the type to go back on something he’d decided. It’s not that Rahul was contemplating retirement, he’d made that decision when he spoke to me. It wasn’t as if he was asking ‘what should I do’?
While Dravid himself hasn’t said so, it appeared that the call for the seniors’ heads during the Test series in Australia did influence his decision. Is there a day-to-day treatment of heroes in India?
It is, to a certain extent. You can understand if one hasn’t done well over a period of time, but you need to give the player his space, need to give him respect. Unfortunately, because the results weren’t good (in England, Australia), the seniors became easy targets... It wasn’t right... I felt sad... Everybody goes through such phases. It’s not right to target the seniors and jump on them... Don’t target a few guys and think that, by replacing them, everything will be set right. It’s not that easy and there’s never one reason for defeats. Indeed, don’t point fingers at a couple of players.
Why have we been losing overseas?
Not because of a couple of individuals, but because of a collective failure. Some key individuals had injuries in England, but I’d been confident about the team in Australia... I expected a far better show... The first Test is very important and we didn’t capitalise on the chances we had at the MCG... The story was repeated at the SCG, in the second Test. Even in England, there were occasions when we didn’t make the most of the opportunities, in Trent Bridge, for example.
We’d been hammered on the 1999-00 tour of Australia as well...
Yes, I think that’s the only time I was part of a team when nothing went right. We had a good team (under Sachin Tendulkar), but... The failure was collective and Australia bulldozed us.
What’s the way forward?
Haven’t thought about it, frankly, but we need to definitely sit down and look at how we can make a difference. Certain calls will have to be made for the betterment of Indian cricket... We’ll largely be playing at home for the next two years, so, I guess that will be the right time to get the confidence back.
Some, including former cricketers, have been calling for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s head...
I’ve told you, it’s not about individuals.
Virat Kohli and Umesh Yadav shone in Australia. That would have pleased you?
Of course, yes... I like Umesh’s attitude, he runs in hard and doesn’t drop his pace. He needs to be a bit more consistent with his line and length, though... With time, he’ll get consistent... Virat’s been very good and I was very happy for him when he got that hundred (116) in the Adelaide Test. He’s come of age in the last couple of years and the past 12 months or so have just been brilliant for him.
What’s your take on Kohli being made the India vice-captain?
Being the vice-captain doesn’t necessarily mean you will be the captain, but Virat has the qualities (to lead)... There’s more responsibility... I’m sure the Indian team has moved on from a situation where only the captain and vice-captain take decisions. There must be a core group, going beyond the captain and vice-captain.
You’ve worked with Kohli at the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). What’s special about the 23-year-old?
Virat has the talent, has the skill and has the determination to win... The one change in recent months has been his ability to play match-winning innings. Virat’s gone to the next level now.
Sachin Tendulkar’s India debut was six months before you played your first game... Well, he’s still going strong...
(Laughs) I met Sachin at a private party last night... It’s amazing to see him going... His commitment, his enthusiasm... Sachin’s got better and better... To score 100 International hundreds is awesome... It took me 17 years to get my only (Test) hundred! He has 100 of them... I’m a classic example of how difficult it is to get a hundred at the international level.
What’s the biggest challenge for the top-most performers?
To stay fit... After a while, fitness becomes the biggest challenge... Also, in whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to have a balance.
The last one... Your thoughts with IPL-V a few days away...
I hope we (RCB) do one better than last year... We were the runners-up in the IPL and the Champions League... Nothing can, however, be said with any certainty... We’ll have to start well, get into a momentum and take it forward... Extend a winning run. The semi-finalists may not be identified till the last week of the league matches.