The first SMS of the day this morning was a brief intimation that Anil Kumble would announce his retirement from one-day internationals this evening at the KSCA so that he can concentrate on Test match cricket.
Coincidentally, last night on television, there was a fascinating discussion on ‘Extraa Innings’ featuring Ian Chappell, John Wright and Charu Sharma on the plight of spin bowling in the so-called land of spin: India.
The 2007 World Cup has been a showcase for top-class tweakers: Muttiah Muralidharan, Brad Hogg, and Daniel Vettori have all demonstrated their wile and guile that should put Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to shame.
What’s happened to Indian spin, was Charu Sharma’s question, as Chappell repeated his oft-repeated story of E.A.S. Prasanna bowling as if he had a string attached to it which he pulled back as the batsman advanced forward. And how Vettori was outfoxing batsmen with his slower ball not just by holding the ball differently, but by bending his back knee at the point of delivery.
So, who killed genuine Indian spin bowling? We are not talking of spinners who could turn the ball by a mile like Shane Warne, or who could turn it on a glass top like Murali. We are talking of spinners who could outthink batsmen through flight, loop, pace, turn, tactics.
The usual answer which everybody trots out is too much one-day cricket: but haven’t Murali & Co been playing that? The other answer is heavier, better bats, which enable batsmen to bludgeon slow bowlers and ensure that even mis-hits sail into the stands: but haven’t Murali & Co….
Wright, who was coach of the Indian team during its glory days under Saurav Ganguly, had an interesting explanation. He said whenever they landed at an Indian venue for a one-day match, Kumble and Harbhajan would often ask him to get the ropes moved out!
Reason: organisers would have made the boundaries shorter to accommodate the advertising hoardings and those triangular pieces which now serve as the boundary. And to ensure that there was a rain of fours and sixes to keep the crowds in the stands happy!
So, who killed spin bowling? The board which doesn’t know the balance betwen bat and ball? Captains who didn’t know how to treat spinners? Safety-first spinners whose only objective was to keep the runs down and keep their place in the side? Or, selectors who couldn’t pick the real talents?
The numbers, records and feats speak for Anil Kumble. His grit, humility and workmanlike attitude speak for Anil Kumble. And this evening, his teammates and friends will speak eloquently for him. But did Kumble motivate young people to take up spin bowling?
Will any tears be shed now that he is saying goodbye?