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Show up, No matter what: Anil Kumble shares his leadership Mantra.

An account by Sushant, Program Communications Lead, Mantra4Change

A super busy Wednesday morning, an empty coffee cup on the table, I was in the middle of a draft, totally immersed in writing a story, barely aware of what was going around me when I heard Sekhar calling me - niche chalo, Anil Kumble aaye hue hai (come down, Anil Kumble has come). It took a while for my brain to process the message and step away from my workspace. It was the same for everyone else at the office, as our co-founders, Santosh & Khushboo, wanted it to be a surprise. It often happens that you wake up thinking - should I go to the office or work from home, and then a million task reminders pop up on your calendar, you finally, pull out a wrinkled shirt, iron it in a hurry, pack your bag, and head to the office, hoping it's worth putting in the effort. It was undoubtedly one such day. Now I feel, the office is a nice place to work if you have a chance of meeting Anil Kumble or Sachin Tendulkar.

You must be thinking what was Anil Kumble doing at Mantra4Change’s office? During the peak of the pandemic, COVID -19 when Mantra4Change and Suriya Foundation collaborated to support Bengaluru in fighting the battle, Mr. Anil Kumble, fondly known as ‘Jumbo’ came to know of our efforts in supporting local communities with oxygen cylinders, ambulance services, ration kits, etc. and extended his generous support. Since then, Khushboo and Santosh have been planning for interaction between Mr. Kumble and our team members at Mantra4Change. And what better time than this, when the leadership team was in Bengaluru for a half-yearly step back.

From being awarded the Padma Shri, to having a road intersection in Bengaluru named after him, to being inducted into the ICC hall of fame, Anil Kumble has exemplified the meaning of being a true sportsperson through his dedication, commitment, performance, humility, and above all the reverence he has shown towards the game by always doing his best to contribute towards the upliftment of the sport. Apart from being an excellent cricketer, he has been a phenomenal leader too. His leadership journey started with him becoming the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, then chairing the ICC Men’s cricket committee. He was also the head coach of the Indian National Cricket team in 2016 and was the head coach and the director of cricket operations of Punjab Kings (earlier, Kings XI Punjab), an IPL franchise. At Mantra4Change, where we work on enabling education leadership, having Kumble talk about - what leadership means to him, was immensely helpful. When he was at the Mantra Office, Khushboo, a cricket fan herself, went down memory lane to pull out the most iconic moments from Anil Kumble’s career that are lessons in leadership and continue to inspire generations. What were those moments? Let’s dive into how Kumble reacted to it.

Segment: 01

“Sense of Possibility”

1996 Titan Cup

On being asked about the epic run chase at Bengaluru against Australia in the 1996 Titan Cup, Kumble recalled how the native Bangaloreans in the stadium started leaving when Tendulkar was dismissed for 88 and India was 52 runs short, with only two wickets in hand. Two local Bengaluru boys, Kumble and Srinath, took matters into their hands and led India to a glorious victory. This is what our co-founder Khushboo calls a “sense of possibility”. Kumble shared, how there always be moments when others may not believe in you, and situations will look hostile or non-conductive. That's when leaders have to believe in themselves. How we respond to a given situation is always in our hands and that makes a big difference. As a school leader, one needs to turn obstacles into opportunities and problems into possibilities. As long as we believe that we can do it, we are actually doing it.

Our R&D Director, Sriram, recalls how the cameraman spotted two ladies applauding with a particular interest, joining their hands as if praying to the almighty during that match. Sriram says, “those visuals on TV were representative of the entire nation”. Kumble confirmed that his mother and Srinath’s sister brought that emotion onto the field and added that "perhaps, in every inspiring journey, family and especially parents have an enabling role."

Segment: 02

“Courage and Ownership”

Playing with a broken jaw, 2002

Are you mad? That’s what everyone, the captain, coach, umpire, physio, doctor, and family members, said to Kumble when he decided to bowl against West Indies on the third day of the test with a fractured jaw, assembled with stitches and bandages around his head.

Kumble fondly recalls and shares with the Mantra family how in May 2002, he was sent up the batting order, ahead of keeper Ajay Ratra in a fourth Test match against West Indies. He was welcomed to the crease with a short-pitched delivery from Mervyn Dillon. It was a superbly directed short ball and in response, Kumble took his eyes off the ball. It didn’t prove to be a good decision as the ball struck him under his left jaw, shaking him up. He was immediately taken to a government hospital in Antigua but the first X-ray revealed nothing but a blurry image. The following day, Kumble told Leipus (Physio, Team India) that the pain was a bit too much. They took another X-ray and saw that the jaw had a crack. It was moving independently. He said, "I didn’t wanted to get my surgery done on a tour, so they put a pin in and I was scheduled to leave for India in the evening”.

But then when West Indies were finally put in to bat, there was some juice in the wicket for spinners. However, with Kumble injured, Tendulkar was forced to wage a lone battle. What Santosh, our co-founder recalls, “that’s when Kumble shocked everyone present at the ground and on the television”. Kumble bowled 14 consecutive overs and finished with figures of 14-5-29-1. As Khushboo puts on screen what Viv Richards once said “It was one of the bravest things I’ve seen on the field of play”. What made the Mantra family crack up into laughter was when Kumble shared how worried the umpire was about his injury that he requested Kumble not to appeal for wickets.

When Rupesh from Makers’ Space asked Kumble if it was ‘representing India’ that made him come to the ground. Kumble responded - “it was my passion for cricket, even if it was a gully cricket match, I could have done the same”. Kumble emphasizes operating with a sense of responsibility that is more intrinsic, as leadership is not about having a title or a role. It's about how we look at our role.

Segment: 03


10 Wicket Haul against Pakistan, 1999

What does Excellence mean to you? The word “excellence” is tossed around mostly in leadership and creative circles. All of us have our perception of what excellence is. Different people define excellence differently. How does Kumble define excellence? In response to one of the questions asked, Kumble says “You turn on the TV, see the match, turn it off. No one gets to see what the team does between the two matches. They (the team) keep sweating for that one day. That, for me, is excellence. Hard work and practice to be able to outperform oneself and give the personal best”.

Twenty-three years ago, at the Feroz Shah Kotla (Now Arun Jaitley) stadium, Kumble became only the second bowler after England’s Jim Laker to claim 10 wickets in an innings of a Test match. He finished with figures of 10 for 74 in 26.3 overs. Chasing 420 with almost two days remaining in the Test, Pakistan was off to a decent start, with Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar posting 101 for no loss till lunch.

Then comes Kumble, who broke the partnership with the wicket of Afridi, who Nayan Mongia caught behind. Pakistan’s batting line-up then crumbled with Ijaz Ahmed dismissed leg-before the next ball. Inzamam-ul-Haq chopped on while Mohammad Yusuf was leg-before as well. Pakistan’s hopes of victory were dashed in minutes, and efforts moved to save the match. Kumble, with his probing, aggressive line, continued to torment. Forcing tourists to play at everything, Kumble’s fizzing pace through the air, and the natural variation thrown up by the Feroz Shah Kotla surface, made the leggie impossible to counter, and that’s how he claimed the 10-wicket haul. He smiles and says, “it was not just me; Srinath had to bowl several wide balls for me to get the 10th wicket”. When asked, "did he think before the game began that he would get ten wickets that day?" Kumble says, with a palpable sincerity, that you always define what success means to you, but when would the opportunity present itself, one cannot anticipate. One can prepare consistently, improve one's game continuously, and be ready whenever that opportunity presents."

Hailing from the Kumbla district of Kasaragod, which now has the main road to the government hospital named after him to becoming head coach of the Indian National Cricket Team in 2016, Anil Kumble has inspired generations. When he was with us at Mantra4Change, he spoke about some leadership characteristics but demonstrated many. His humility, the respect he showed us, how he connected with everyone in the room with the same warmth, and the free-flowing, easy-to-understand communication was something to look for. He shared stories about teamwork and how transparent culture enables trust that makes a team do extraordinary things. But the one thing that Kumble insisted upon was the “need to show up, no matter what”. I wish he would come more often to Mantra4Change and keep inspiring the changemakers.

Photo Credit

Segment 01: Hindustan Times

Segment 02: India Today

Segment 03: India Today

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