Ponting and I could have solved ‘Monkeygate’: Kumble

Mumbai, Oct 3 (IANS) Recalling the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ incident during India’s tour of Australia in 2008 which involved Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, then Indian captain Anil Kumble on Saturday said a lot of problems could have been solved with just Australia captain Ricky Ponting and him sitting and talking about the matter.

During the second Test of the four-match Test series in Sydney, Symonds’ said he was racially abused by Harbhajan as the Indian off-spinner allegedly called the Australian all-rounder ‘monkey’.

But the Indian camp denied it and claimed that Harbhajan had used the Hindi abuse ‘maa ki’. But referee Mike Procter handed Harbhajan a three-match suspension for racial abuse. This left the Indians fuming and the team soon threatened to go home with two Tests remaining.

Later, India decided to play the complete series. After the conclusion of the series, Harbhajan’s suspension was dropped, though.

“We wanted to play and win the series. I was fortunate to have such a lot of players beside me like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag who supported me and Harbhajan during the incident. But I think a lot could have been solved with just me and the Australia skipper,” Kumble said.

The legendary leg-spinner said a captain should always have a say in the selection of a team, adding that it is the skipper who will be responsible to bring out the best from the players.

“A captain should have a say in the selection of a team. He should voice his opinion on the selection on the team. Because a captain is the one who will be responsible to bring out the best from the players on the field,” Kumble said during the annual Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture here.

“A captain should look to share knowledge and experience among his players and not look who is senior and junior. Captains nowadays have a lot of opportunity,” he said.

The only leg-spinner who became the captain of India, replacing batting great Rahul Dravid in September 2007, said a captain should be attacking and not aggressive.

“A captain needs to be attacking. Aggression is not the right word in this context. One has to have the intent to win games for your country and personality will come along. A captain should be prepared for the unexpected. Best captains should always be a step ahead of the game,” he said.

After the retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from Test cricket, Virat Kohli took over the responsibility of leading the Indian side. Dhoni is still the skipper in the limited formats of the game, the One-Day Internationals and Twenty20.

The Indian cricket team is now being led by two captains in the three formats of the game and the 44-year-old Kumble believes having different captains for different formats will not be a problem for the country.

India has two captains now and that is logical. I don’t think two captains will be difficult. I don’t think it will be difficult for the players to adjust with the two captains in different formats of the game. Players are now playing and switching from one format to the other and that will help them to shift from one captain to the other,” Kumble, who took 619 wickets in Tests and 337 in ODIs,” said.

“Dhoni as we know is a calm and quiet captain and Kohli is a different captain. So players will not have difficulty to switch from one captain to another as players are now used to shifting formats and game,” he added.

Speaking on the period when Tendulkar took over the Indian captaincy and why the batting legend was not successful, the former India spinner said, “It was a huge challenge for Sachin when he took over the captaincy. He was captain when West Indies, Australia, South Africa were in full flow with top players in their squads. It was really a tough job for a new captain to play against such tough sides. Expectations went too high on him and when he failed people targeted him.”

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