Preparing players for Tests is my big challenge: Kumble

Bengaluru, June 29 (IANS) With a crowded cricket season ahead, in which India will play 17 Tests over the next one year, the biggest challenge before India’s head coach Anil Kumble is to prepare the players for the five-day version of the game.

Addressing his maiden press conference as head coach of the Indian team, the former leg-spinner said here his immediate focus would be on Test cricket.

“We need to change the mindset of players, as they played a number of Twenty20 matches in the recent months, to prepare for the longer version of the game. This is my biggest challenge at present,” the legendary third highest wicket-taker in the world told reporters here on Wednesday.

Noting that the onus was on the Indian team to bring spectators back to Test matches by making it interesting for them to watch, Kumble said he would do everything to make this happen.

“Next month’s tour of West Indies will be a good challenge for the players and am confident that they will win the series. We are ready for the tour and will prepare well for the four Tests to be played there. The pitches in the isles, unlike in the 1980s, will be similar to Indian pitches and will be on the slower side,” he said.

Admitting that the West Indies are a strong outfit in the limited overs format, the new coach said he was confident that India could beat them in Tests.

“Though only four players in the present squad have played Tests in West Indies, and a couple of them had visited that country as India A players, the team have the talent to come up trumps in the coming tour,” Kumble said.

“As Ishant Sharma had emerged as the Player of the Series when India won the Test series against West Indies last time, he will spearhead the bowling attack. Murali Vijay had also played very well on that tour while (skipper) Virat Kohli will be the key player. Leg spinner Amit Mishra had also played well. So we are confident,” Kumble asserted.

The Indian squad started a six-day conditioning camp in the city from Wednesday. But rain played spoilsport on the first day, forcing players to confine themselves to indoor exercises.

“We want to have maximum outdoor nets, weather permitting and will play a game to provide match situation to players at Alur grounds on the city’s north outskirts on July 3,” Kumble said.

Kumble hinted that he would take up the mantle of training the fast bowlers, as India does not have a fast bowling coach at present.

“It is important that we have one, but it may not be possible at this juncture to (appoint and) take a fast bowling coach to West Indies. I want to see what I can do in this regard,” he said.

Though there was no action on the opening day of the camp, it was a sort of ‘welcome meeting’ for him with the players.

“Next five-six days there will be lot of interaction with the players and we want to have as much net practice as possible, if weather permits,” he said.

The city has been witnessing intermittent showers throughout the day for the past few days and the weather office said the spell is likely to continue for the next few days.

It is an exciting time for the 45-year-old Kumble to be back in the dressing room eight years since he last played for India and he was overwhelmed by the reception he received from players and people alike.

“I am overwhelmed with the response. I have spoken to (one-day and T20 captain) M.S. Dhoni over phone at length soon after he came back from Zimbabwe and also had close chat with Kohli. I am looking forward to working closely with the two captains.”

“In cricket, the captain will be the master and the coach will work in the backdrop. I will ensure this will continue to happen in the Indian team and will be on the backstage and fully support the captains. Whether we win or lose, what I want to ensure is that the fighting spirit among the boys is intact,” Kumble noted.

Kumble would use his experience as the former Test captain of the national team and his distinguished stint as a player to hone the skills of the present set of players who are young and exciting.

“The difference between the team that I played in and the current set of boys is obviously a sea change in the fielding skills. The team has an average age of 24-25 years and they are very talented, especially in fielding. I want to ensure that they grow their all-round skill sets like batting, bowling and fielding,” he added.

The coach also said it was amazing how at such young age the current set of players had achieved something big. “Virat (Kohli) has already played close to 40 Tests and Ishant (Sharma) 60. I have been working closely with young players in IPL and is looking to train them to understand the pressure situations,” he said.

“There is experience and there is youth. It is very nice to see that mix. And now I think this journey that I embark on where some of them will certainly become great players and they are in the making of great players,” Kumble added.



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