Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Anil Kumble: A tribute to the unsung hero of Indian cricket

Wide Angle By Anil KumbleThis entry is posted as a part of the Contest by

Rewind nine years, Pakistan chasing a mammoth 400-odd and were 100 for no loss with both Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar blasting the Indian attack to all corners of the park at the Kotla.
A loud roar greeted Anil Kumble to the bowling crease and magic began - magic which saw 10 wickets fall in a couple of sessions. Kumble, as he has done so many times, again showed why he the biggest match-winner India has ever produced. But this one was special since, in the history of Test cricket, only one more man had been able to achieve what our bespectacled engineer did.

forward to the present and Kumble has announced his retirement. The colossus who would have probably won us more games than the trio of the 70’s did, bowled his last few balls at the same ground, and Kotla was witness to a fascinating end to a journey that spanned 18 years.
For people like me who have not had the opportunity to meet him, he has been a source of inspiration. Whether it be the astounding courage which made him walk on to the ground with a broken jaw and dismiss Brian Lara, or his statement after the Sydney Test where he said: “Only one team played with the spirit of the game”, the amount of learning from this institution has been probably more than that which schools and colleges can teach you about conviction and confidence.
At the end of the day you need to have both of these traits to survive in a game where, at every minor wrong step you take, there are thousands ready to replace you. His weaknesses became his strengths, he knew he couldn’t spin the ball but still batsmen were flabbergasted on a regular basis.
As a kid when I did not understood what a top-spinner or a "quicker one" meant, I always used to ask people what made a bowler who does not do anything with the ball so special. Believe me, it was time and nothing else which answered me because every Test that Jumbo undertook, there was something new in his armoury.

The entire cricketing fraternity would also agree that there hasn’t been a bigger gentleman in the game. Dignity had been his hallmark on the cricket field - umpires rarely gave not out when Jumbo appealed for an lbw because, more often than not, they knew there had to be something otherwise the guy would not appeal.
It’s his dignity and persona which makes even a huge critic of him consider his words before speaking. But all this didn’t make him a weak fighter. He was always hungry for one more wicket, something that was pretty clear watching him bowl even the last over of his career. Had he got a wicket, Kumble would have gone for another one. This has been the story of his epic career where he has always looked for the next one and the opposition knew that if this man tastes blood early, then on Indian pitches it's doomsday for them.
For me personally, it has been a huge loss seeing him retire since loyal fans can never see their favourite sportsmen go out just as loyal customers hate their brands being killed by companies. But, as they say that age which is perhaps a sportsman's biggest enemy - especially in the Indian context today where men are no more the order of the day and the chants of youngsters have probably overtaken everything - this was the best decision he ever made. As I wrote in my last piece, it would be best for Indian cricket if the man who matters most would take the decision himself.
This marks the end of an era in Indian cricket and the end of the career of the fiercest competitor ever seen by Indian cricket fans. The man had skills which defied tradition and a heart of gold. For now, the best that can be done is to celebrate the farewell to the person who is credited with taking the highest number of wickets by any Indian bowler - and probably also credited of winning a billion hearts in the process.


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