Don Bradman could not get a boundary in his last innings and Anil Kumble was hit for a boundary off the last ball of his career. No, I am not comparing the two but when it came to playing the game in the right spirit, Anil Kumble was only a couple of notches below the Don.
Anil Kumble made his debut for India in 1990 and could make a comeback only during the historic South African Tour of India. Blame it on the idiosyncrasies of the Indian selectors, Jumbo never made it to the ill-fated Australian tour of 1991-92. Had Kumble played in that series, being an unknown propotion and the Aussies historic aversion to leg spin, India would have had better memories of that series? This was also the last series of the famous batsman Dilip Vengsarkar whose scores in the series put to shame most of the emergency numbers in India. It was in a test match in SA, that Kumble first took 5 wickets in an innings and after that there was no looking back. The Englishmen on the 1993 tour were flummoxed by Kumble’s spin or the lack of it. This illogical concept of lack of spin in Kumble’s deliveries was held against him throughout his career but it made no difference to him or to any of his 950 plus victims at the international level. What Sehwag is to batting today, Kumble was to bowling those days? No footwork, spin all these don’t count as long as you deliver the goodies.
Anybody who saw Kumble bowl in the Hero Cup final is bound to acknowledge his effectiveness. His record against Sri Lanka may not be much to write home about but then everybody is entitled to their own nemesis. There was no better keeper to Kumble deliveries than Nayan Mongia and no better slip fielder than Dravid and Azhar. According to me, Kumble’s best performance was not the perfect 10 but his performance in Australia in the 2004 Adelaide test. Kumble in his typical gutsy way had put a lid on his critic’s mouths.
Kumble was a decent batsman. Very few will forget his heroics on a Vijayadashmi day alongwith Srinath in winning a one day match in Bangalore against the Aussies. As a testimony to his batting skills, he was tried as a pinch hitter in a couple of one day matches. His best test innings was an 88 against the South Africans in Calcutta, when he alongwith Azhar lent credibility to a dismal score card. Kumble did manage to score a test century at the fag end of his career. Most followers of the game would admit that had Kumble showed a lit more application in his batting, he would have ended up with a couple of more thousand runs. Kumble was a far better test batsman and hardly have I seen him giving his wicket away without a fight.
Kumble was a fighter to the core but more than that a gentleman in spirit and deed. As a player, he was never summoned to the Match Referee’s chambers. Possibly, this unassuming attitude led to him landing up with only a few advertisement campaigns. Kumble did not know how to change his hairdo often; laugh childishly in press conferences; poke fun at seniors and make much ado about nothing. Kumble is no less than Sachin Tendulkar in achievements and stature. The gentleman that he is could not take the constant barbs by a former cricketer who himself took donkey number of matches to make an impact at the international level and was hardly a team man. Kumble has called it a day and it is only a matter of few matches, when we start feeling his vacuum. All good things have to come to an end and so did Kumble’s career. Here is wishing a perfect team man, competitor and a true gentleman a very happy and prosperous retired life. God no longer makes cricketers like Anil Kumble.