KXIP players celebrate their 12-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad at Dubai on Saturday. Pics:BCCI/IPL

IPL 2020: Kings XI Punjab's comeback from the dead thanks to Anil Kumble

By Chandresh Narayanan | Dubai

Updated: 26 October, 2020 07:39 IST

Typical of the man himself, Anil Kumble-coached Kings XI Punjab have found ways to return from the dead to win four matches on the trot to keep their play-offs hopes alive

Everyone knows the story about how Anil Kumble abruptly quit the role of India head coach in 2017.

Three years later, he made a comeback of sorts in a coaching role when he took over as Director of Cricket and head coach of Kings XI Punjab.

This was his first assignment in a coaching role since the India job and first in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Previously, he had been mentor at both Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

Anil Kumble

This, therefore, was his big comeback, but it was probably the most unheralded of sorts. It typified the personality of the man who had always been in the background even during his playing days.

Early struggles

For the first few weeks, it did seem like the Kumble comeback story was not going well. The side struggled and found different ways to self-destruct.

But now with their backs to the wall, Kumble's side, typically like the man himself, have found ways to make a comeback from the dead. They have now won four games on the run to keep their hopes of a place in the play-offs very much alive. The reaction of the normally staid Kumble, while sitting in the Punjab dugout, even as Sunrisers Hyderabad were losing their way on Saturday night, was priceless. It showed how much the resurgence meant to India's all-time highest Test wicket-taker.

The revival of fortunes of Punjab is also a statement for Kumble as Director of Cricket and head coach. As the only Indian head coach, a success story under his stewardship will go a long way in changing the narrative about Indian coaches. Thus far, very few franchises have employed Indian head coaches in the IPL since its inception in 2008.

"It's a bit of an irony, right? It's the Indian Premier League and then you have only one Indian as the head coach. I am hopeful that there will be more Indian coaches in the mix," Kumble had said before the tournament. Maybe, the Kumble-led revival of Punjab will change the narrative.

What has also helped Punjab is the old association between Kumble and captain KL Rahul. Both come from the state of Karnataka and have been in contact right through the last decade. "I have seen KL from a young age. He has captained in junior matches before but this will be the first time that he will be captaining in a high-profile tournament. He has been brilliant so far, very relaxed. He knows the players more than me," Kumble had said.

For Rahul too, the presence of Kumble has been of a massive help. "Somebody like Anil Kumble comes in with so much experience. He has been through it himself. He is now in a coaching job, it helps the team, and it helps a captain like me who is captaining the team for the first time to have his experience and someone like him to fall back on to bounce some ideas," Rahul said during a recent conversation on InsideSport's Amstrad Face 2 Face Cricket Series.

'Help for youngsters'

"Furthermore, we come from the same city and he has watched me grow, it's a huge help. He has been someone who has supported me and supported all the players from Karnataka. Just to have him around makes a huge difference for youngsters and for the guys who have been playing for a while because there is so much to learn from him," he added. Three years on, this sort of endorsement of Kumble as head coach is an icing on the cake. Hopefully, qualification for the play-offs will mean redemption in some way for the man who had much more to offer to the Indian job.

P.S: And just as an aside, Punjab have beaten Royal Challengers Bangalore both times they have played each other in this season's IPL!

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First Published: 26 October, 2020 07:35 IST

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