Raise your hands if you thought Anil Kumble will say something controversial about the ongoing war of words between Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri?

No one? Yes, that’s what he thought.

As is expected from a man known for his statesmanship qualities as much as his cricketing abilities, Kumble side-stepped questions on the spat brewing between Ganguly and Shastri, choosing to focus on his plans for the team instead.

In his first official press conference after taking over as India’s coach, this is what Jumbo said:

“I was the first one to call Ravi after chosen as the head coach. He did a wonderful job with the Indian team. And it’s not about Ravi or me or anyone else. It’s about the players, it’s about the team. 

“From my point of view, we all want Indian team to do well, and perform at its best. We all believe that India team has the potential to dominate all three formats. He was part of this journey and (now) I am part of this journey. That’s all what I have to say. He congratulated me and I told him we have a fantastic team.”

“It could be somebody else tomorrow. I am not permanent here in this role. I have an opportunity to make a difference and I have an opportunity to be part of a journey. I am privileged and honoured to be part of this journey.”

As classy as one can get!

Presenting a fair idea of his leadership style in the role of India coach, Anil Kumble said he will try to inculcate self belief in his bowlers as he wants them to develop as leaders.

“I will try and observe how the team is shaping up and at this point in time, I would like to look at the bowlers. That is something I am looking at…Get closer to the bowlers and understand what their needs are and then probably looking at bringing in a fast bowling coach. That is a consideration I am thinking of. Bowling is one area where I can contribute.”

“When I was a player, I used to feel that you are the captain of your own bowling, which I would like to try and inculcate, especially in the bowling group. That is important. All of them must believe that they are leaders.”

The former India captain, who ended his career as the third-highest wicket taker in the world, said he understands the role of a mentor and insisted he would be quietly helping the playing by staying in the background.

“We, the support staff would be working in the background. Players will be in the front. I have been the player and now I am the coach, so I understand both the roles well. It is a different role and I certainly understand the role”

“The role of staying in the background and it is the captain who takes all the calls on the field. I can only assist him in giving him whatever necessary informations in terms of strategy, be it preparation. And whatever experience I have as a captain and player.”

The 45-year-old new coach said that it was important to communicate with all the players, including the ones who would not make it to the playing XI.

“It’s the captain who is in charge. As a coach I need to organise preparations for the team and giving informed input to captain and the team to strategise better, inclusive of every player. It’s not just 11 who are going to play but also six or seven who are not going to play.

“I was dropped and not chosen for a tour, I understand being the most important member of the team to be dropped. I understand that communications during such times is critical for a coach to pick up the phone and say ‘dont worry’. Hopefully I will succeed in communicating with the players.”

Asked to comment on how different it is to be a player and now coach:

“There are boundaries as a coach but other than there is no difference. These are exciting times (for Indian cricket) and you have to be a part of that journey. It was no different walking into the meeting room with the entire team. I had met a lot of them in various capacity.”

Kumble also said he has a very clear idea about the demands of the modern game.

“Fortunate thing is I have been close to the game in various capacities. So I know what is the thinking for future, what youngsters are looking at. I have travelled with players in IPL, so I understand. I am close to the modern game. I am parent of teenage. I can blend my experiences putting across to the youngsters today. Communication is required and I can do that”

He said he was looking forward to working with both Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

“It was good initial interaction with the players, very welcoming. I also had a talk with MS after the Zimbabwe tour. Am looking forward to working with both MS and Virat.”

Asked what has changed since he quit in 2008, Kumble said: 

“Fielding of course. That probably stands out. Excellent to the see the agility and the fitness levels now. Also, now the average age is 25, 26, and they already have experience of playing at highest level. Virat has played close to 40 Test matches and he is just 27, Ishant 60. So there is experience and youth. Nice to see that mix. Some of them are in the making of becoming great players.”

Kumble said he would do everything to ensure that Test cricket survives.

“Whatever it takes to popularise Test cricket, I am for it. We will play 17 Test matches in the next 12 months. That shows how important Test cricket is. Talking to the players I realised how much importance they give to Test cricket.”

With PTI inputs