November 3, 2008

Champion leggie Kumble bows out on a high


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Many eyes witnessing the fifth and final day of the third Test between India and Australia at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi, had to shed tears when Anil Kumble came out to lead the home side for the last time in his career.

The news about the retirement of Kumble was broken only when India had inched closer to safety. And from the moment the news was confirmed all eyes and cameras were focused on the champion leg-spinner who had done his country proud with his exploits on and off the field for the past 18 years.

With the emergence of outstanding young leg-spinners like Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra it was being speculated that the master would be considering calling it a day sooner or later. But nobody had expected the decision to arrive during the course of a Test match.

It didn’t look a hasty decision, however. Kumble, in fact, has made a wise move in the larger interest of Indian cricket. With his left hand stitched around there was hardly any chance left for him to regain fitness before the start of the fourth and final Test in Nagpur in just a few days time.

His decision to quit makes life easier for the team management who can still stick to the combination of two fast bowlers and as many specialist spinners with Harbhajan Singh looking fit to play again.

But no praise could be too high for Kumble, whose record as the highest wicket-taker for India in Test matches should remain intact for the next many years. It was an emotional moment to see him bowl his last few overs in international arena.
He was as accurate as ever, extracting uneven bounce and keeping the batsmen guessing. No wonder he didn’t pick up any wicket in that brief spell despite beating the bat on a few occasions.

The Indian cricket will certainly miss Kumble. He was one of the toughest characters around. He didn’t turn the ball as much as the legendary Shane Warne or Mutiah Muralitharan but he was no less effective. He was a fierce competitor whose never-say-die approach helped considerably in lifting the morale of the team whenever it was down.

One criticism on Kumble has been his performance rather the lack of it in overseas matches. It’s unfair to blame him for the inconsistency of the Indians abroad. He certainly made the most of the favourable conditions on home pitches but he was hardly ever found wanting anywhere.

Kumble, like any other spin bowler, became more lethal when attacking. He obviously didn’t get the opportunity of testing the batsmen when the Indians didn’t have enough runs in the bank. He did prove less effective in games where India had to adopt defensive approach but he was one weapon trusted the most by his captains.

Kumble looked a gutsy captain but he refrained from taking undue risks. He handled the team very well on that demanding tour of Australia last season. He has left the scene on a high note with India leading 1-0 in the home series and looking confident for regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.


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