Anil Radhakrishna Kumble, a towering frame of Kannadiga decency and dignity, and Australian discipline, determination and dedication, not to speak of towering achievements, has bid goodbye from Test match cricket, leaving a sudden and gaping hole in Indian cricket.
“Jumbo”, as the Bangalore legspinner was christened by Navjot Singh Sidhu because his deliveries “took off” like a jet plane, grounded his aircraft on his favourite 22-yard runway in the nation’s capital, the Ferozshah Kotla where, 10 years ago, he had become only the second man in the game’s history to bag all 10 wickets in an innings.
Called for chucking as a young fast bowler (as a result of which his brother Dinesh Kumble egged him on to become a spin bowler), and decried by anybody who could hold a ball as a spinner who could not turn it, Kumble ended up with 619 Test match wickets, and excelled in both formats of the game over an 18-year career, showing that the first and most important battle in cricket is between the ears.
As Rahul Dravid wrote in a Cricinfo tribute three years ago:
“He has a degree in engineering and a PhD in legspin bowling.”
Competitive in a way no other Indian, barring maybe Sachin Tendulkar has been, for so long, Kumble brought grit and steel to a mercurial side that thought talent was all. Fittingly, on the day prior to his retirement, he returned from hospital with 11 stitches on his small finger in the left hand to bowl at the Australians, and even took a fine return catch in the process.
For many cricket fans, an earlier sight of Kumble with his head wrapped in bandage, bowling to Brian Lara in a Test match against the West Indies, ranks among the most heart-warming sights of his commitment.
Ironically, though, as befits a batsmen’s game perhaps, all through the India-Australia series, the talk had been on the future of the “Fab Four”—Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and V.V.S. Laxman. But cricket is, if nothing else, a game of glorious uncertainties, and it was Anil Kumble who exited first.
On CNN-IBN, Erapalli Prasanna, the legendary offspinner, described Kumble as a classic role model for generations of bowlers of what line and length can accomplish. And Javagal Srinath, Kumble’s longtime teammate and friend, said he would place him above Kapil Dev for his match-winning feats.
ANIL KUMBLE, PREVIOUSLY ON CHURUMURI.COM
Video (top): courtesy Neo Cricket, Anil Kumble talking to Ravi Shastri at the presentation ceremony at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds in Delhi, on Sunday, 2 Novemeber 2008