Friday, 30 March 2007

Kumble Quits ODI: Well Done Jumbo!

As we had discussed in this blog earlier, Anil Kumble finally quit ODI. The reticent, industrious leggie deserved to go on a high but that was not to be. Inzamam-ul Haq, who broke down after his ODI swansong, lamented he had planned to go head held high but he was simply not destined for the honour. Kumble can’t be blamed for feeling the same.

Jumbo has been the ultimate team man, India’s go-to bowler. He would bowl on and on from one end. As many as 337 wickets from 271 one-dayers at an average of 30.89 would have made any lesser mortal proud but Kumble somehow managed to be a certainty in ODI squad. It would have hit him where it hurts most every time Harbhajan Singh was preferred over him.

What amazes me is the tremendous odds he overcame. In an era when Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan tied the batsmen in tangles, spinning web around them, Kumble was almost a pacer in spinner’s disguise. Unlike Warne and Murali, his bowling was more grits and guts and not guiles. He would change the pace, maintain an unerring line and get that kick from the pitch to trouble every batsman under the Sun. And he never relaxed.

He was more on song in white flannels than the colourful pajama. He would brave a fractured jaw to come out and bowl in a 2005 Antigua Test but his day in the Sun had come an year earlier, when he got that Perfect 10, equaling Jim Laker’s record of taking all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

We mocked his loose-limbed action, laughed at the lack of turn, ridiculed his batting and fielding and yet, day in and day out, the captain would throw the ball to him, expecting him to either earn a breakthrough or stem the run flow. And Kumble invariably succeeded in either of the two. We are unlikely to see another spinner of his kind.

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