in deep existential crisis..

A Journal by Sara

Tribute to Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble, the Jumbo who had been in flight for 18 years, have finally landed on earth. I remember seeing a young bespectacled Anil, bowling alike medium pace with an uncanny accuracy every over in a test match at Chepauk. Time flew, he became a regular in the national squad; shortened his run-up a little and became a typical fast leg break bowler and the rest they say is history.

While, the masters of leg spin extracted side spin off the pitch, he has gone about his business extracting top spin with pace variation off the surface. While, the critics were always out with a sword on him, he was least worried and trusted his abilities and continued improvising. A graduate in engineering, he studied in detail the pace variations, length adjustments and loop; strengthening his armor and keeping prey on the batsmen all the time. As a legendary leg spinner of the past said, ‘it is the variation of a slightest inch which makes edges off the bat to dismiss batsman’, none took the hang of it better than Anil Kumble. It would only be better if a straight ball could claim the wicket that could not have been possible by a viciously turning delivery. He has developed a school of his own with his flipper, googly and the dangerous ball that hits the pitch in off-middle line and hurries through its way between the batsman’s bat and pad hitting the timber.

Anil Kumble’s career could be split into two as pre-2001 and post it. He improvised on his googly with precision and the ability to bowl it with much lesser pace offering more flight. His sliders were much better than in the earlier years and these changes contributed especially to his domination in tests overseas post-2001. He influenced memorable wins in Headingley, Adelaide, Multan and Kingston. It was a golden era of Indian Cricket with the famed batting line-up coming of age and the ever persevering Kumble collecting wickets in bucket posting memorable wins abroad. The man had been part of 43 test victories, and many more matches saving defeat, the most by any Indian test player. Yet, he was never given his due and never had the fan base as much as his peers enjoyed in their life time. As you might expect, he never makes fuss about it and had been a quiet performer all these years. He was a match winner of his own style, in fact surpassing Indian legendaries such as Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, in terms of winning tests almost single handedly and contributing significantly in every other matches too.

The mark of the name Kumble brings perseverance, hard work, commitment and discipline to the fore. He has lived every word of it in his laborious career in entirety. Perseverance, as the man himself admits when he runs in to deliver every ball, he looks to add one more wicket to his tally; if it does not turn out to be, he prepares himself for the next delivery; the character which has allowed him to add 619 scalps to his cupboard. Hard work, his preparation for every match; the intensity and his keenness to learn new ways to dismiss batsman is on display for all to cognize.

Commitment – the character which has often shunted the lackadaisical attitude that might creep in during a long career. In particular when he was given a chance by laws of nature to prove it to the cricket world; he walked in at Antigua with his broken jaw held together by a roll of bandage to send down 14 painful overs resting not without dismissing Brian Charles Lara. It was on display even while taking his last wicket in his 132nd Test, to run till the intersection of mid-on and mid-off to catch of his own bowling not caring 11 stitches on hand and setting an example for the young Amit Mishra what it takes to be successful in cricket. It was the character that shaped him from a mere good player to a great player.

Discipline – the way he carried his team in his shoulders during the infamous Sydney test, the controversies that loomed to unstable the team was thwarted with immense professional approach and discipline he imparted to his team. The character that has helped him stay focused on the job in a country where politics and media rules the roost bashing any player without hesitation.

The mix of these characters had been the underpinning of his supremacy in his illustrious career. The methodical approach and precision with which he operated on demolishing opposition was a case study in itself for the aspiring cricketers in India. His method was surgical rather than brutal. His art of spin bowling isn’t the delight for common spectators but is the gate pass to hell for the batsmen in test cricket. His trust on his skills and his commitment to bowling has fetched him the exclusive moment in test cricket snapping all the ten batsmen in an innings; he accompanies Jim Laker in what was all his lone clubhouse for decades of test cricket.

His 31 four-wicket hauls and 35 five-wicket hauls in an innings, 7 ten-wicket hauls in a match and an unique ten-wicket haul in an innings shows his invaluable contribution in the matches and his single-handed demolition of oppositions.

It isn’t easy to pick a single great moment in his long career of test cricket, but I would rate his bowling on the second day of first innings of Adelaide test in 2003 as the mark of his greatness and as a tribute to his hard work and perseverance. Australia burst to 400 on the close of day 1 and resumed the day2 with centurion Ricky Ponting and the dangerous Adam Gilchrist on the crease. Given the situation, most bowlers would feel reluctant to bowl to the mighty Aussies who is resuming their score from 400 on day 1, but it was not to be even a thought for Anil Kumble, as he sent down over after over to skittle Australia out to 556 picking up the double centurion Ponting and running through the tail when his other mates felt they are doomed in this test match. Later, Dravid scored a magnificent double as India went on to win a finest test match in its history of cricket. He was a replacement for injured Harbhajan in the match, and having been criticized often that he is ineffective in foreign pitches; he proved his worth in gold and set the tone for the remainder of the series. He went on to pick up 24 wickets in 3 tests he played in the series, making it a memorable tour for India.

He is only third in test history with 619 wickets for most dismissals and is one of the three of the exclusive 600 club along with legendary Shane Warne and the Sri Lankan Muthiah Muralitharan. Yet, he is the only one among the three to have scripted a test century, at The Oval, arguably the finest feat achieved by him.

He calls it a day today having given hundred percent to his team’s cause till the last day bearing the dozen of stitches in his torn palm. He has earned respect from all the oppositions he played against, and has scripted most test victories for India, far more than any other player. As he walks away into the sunset today, India searches for its next generation spinners to carry art and craft.

I wish Kumble don’t add to the mud of political circus of BCCI and its whims and fancies, instead go on to run an academy for youngsters and groom the next generation spinners. I am sure he would prefer the latter.

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November 2, 2008 - Posted by | Aus Tour Ind '08-'09, Cricket, Sports

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