Anil Kumble: There's no one who can replace Dravid
Former India captain Anil Kumble reckons that Virat Kohli has the "right game" to fit in at the crucial No 3 slot in the Test squad even though it will be impossible for anyone to step into Rahul Dravid's shoes.
"I have followed Virat closely since his India Under-19 days and he has matured a lot. I am impressed in the manner he has improved in the past one year in terms of game, discipline and overall fitness.
"He has quickly adapted to the rigours of international cricket, and for a 23-year-old to do that is phenomenal. He has a Test hundred in Australia and I believe he has the right game to fit in at No 3," he said.
"However, there is no one who can replace Rahul Dravid. He has been an achiever for the past 16 years and it's certainly not easy to score 23,000 international runs," he added.
Image: Rahul Dravid
Kumble still embarrassed about Tendulkar mix-ups
Kumble paid glowing tributes to Sachin Tendulkar for achieving the historic feat of scoring 100 international centuries, saying he could quickly adapt to different conditions which is the hallmark of a great player.
"I have been witness to 80 of those 100 hundreds and, at least on 20 occasions, I have been at the other end. I would invariably arrive when he would be in his 80s and the second new-ball would be due. My job on each and every occasion was to ensure that I don't give my wicket easily which would help him to get his hundred."
Tendulkar, after completing his 100th ton, recollected a funny incident during his highest Test knock of 248 in Bangladesh, involving him and Kumble when both had some horrible mix-ups.
"Don't talk about it. I still get embarrassed when I watch the footages of that match," he smiled.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble
'The brilliant thing about Sachin is his adaptability'
For Kumble, one memorable incident was Tendulkar's maiden Test hundred at Old Trafford in 1990, which was incidentally his debut Test.
"I was made to stand at the Old Trafford balcony for more than three hours as it was Kiran More's diktat. Since Sachin was scoring runs and we were playing to save the Test, everyone got superstitious. It was difficult standing there for two hours, but I was instructed by Kiran to stand at the same position for hours. Only during tea break did I get a chance to sit," he said.
"Obviously, the 242 at Sydney was another Herculean effort where he didn't hit a single cover drive till he reached 200. The 100 against Pakistan and the 155 against Australia (both in Chennai) where Shane Warne was bowling from round the wicket were some of the knocks I would never forget.
"The brilliant thing about Sachin is his adaptability. He could quickly adapt in any given condition. That's the hallmark of a great player," Kumble said.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Kumble bats for Test cricket
For someone, who has close to 1000 international wickets, (619 Tests and 337 in ODIs) the longer version still remains priority.
"If you are able to consistently perform in longer version, that performance would help you do well in T20s and One-days, but it's never the other way round," he explained.
Talking about young leggie Rahul Sharma, who has travelled with the Indian team for last six months, and played only five games (3 ODIs and 2 T20s), Kumble said it was a tricky situation.
"It's again the 'chicken and egg' theory. You need to bowl lot of overs in matches, but, again, you need to pick your best squad. Ideally, it would have been great had Rahul played a few first-class matches, but problem nowadays is lack of tour games.
"When I went to England in 1990, we had nine first-class tour games apart from two ODIs and three Tests. Everyone got a chance, which is not the case now.
"Thankfully, the players during international matches at home are released to play Ranji Trophy. That's how likes of Ajinkya (Rahane) and Rohit (Sharma) got to play for Mumbai."
Image: Anil Kumble
NCA has done a lot of good for Indian cricket
Kumble was reluctant to talk about his brief one-year stint as chairman of the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. He resigned from the post last December.
"I don't want to talk about that phase. I wanted to do a few things but we were not on the same page. But NCA has done a lot of good for Indian cricket. It's because of NCA that we have brilliant fielders like Virat, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, to name a few."
The BCCI wants Ranji Trophy matches to be played at neutral venues, but Kumble for one wants cricket to be shifted to smaller centres which will produce good competitive wickets.
"Recently during a one-day match between Goa and Karnataka, I entered the stadium at around 11:30 and saw 55 for two on the board. I thought the match must have started late and then realised it was over. Just because it was a bit more challenging surface, batsmen couldn't cope with it.
"Now if you produce a turning track and match is over within two days, people raise questions. But what about the batsmen's ability to face quality spinners on turning tracks," he concluded.
Image: Anil Kumble