Happy birthday Anil Kumble: There are some sportsmen who shatter innumerable records, yet maintain a low profile and simply focus on impacting the world in their own unique ways. Anil Kumble arguably India’s greatest ever spinner perfectly fits into that league. A gentleman, a cricketer, a coach and a trainer: the legend has achieved so much in his life. As ‘Jumbo’ (as he is popularly known) turns 51, here are a few moments that have defined his career!
HERO CUP 1993: THE PROCESSION
It was a huge occasion as the West Indies locked horns with India in the Hero Cup final. A total of 225 looked overhauled at the mid-way stage, but veteran Kapil Dev dented the West Indian innings with crucial blows early on. Nonetheless, at 101/4, the West Indies were well and truly on top, with Carl Hooper looking solid. Anil Kumble, introduced as the 6th change, ran through the West Indian lower order, snapping all the remaining six wickets without any fuss. West Indies stuttered from a dominant position to being bowled out for 123 runs, handing India a massive victory. That was the first glimpse of the colossus, who in the next couple of decades would take the world by storm.
Records drip from any page of Kumble’s career, but this clearly tops the list. Scalping ten wickets in an innings is not only a tremendous achievement but also one that entails immense patience and determination. A man who exemplified every ideal in the book put up a show for the ages on his favoured ground, Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium Delhi. Chasing a massive total of 420, the Pakistan openers had got them off to an amazing start, and at 101-0 things looked pretty sanguine for them. But, Kumble removed one batsman after another, and in an astonishing spell of bowling, dismissed all the 10 batsmen, as Pakistan lost by a whopping 212 runs. He not only emulated Jim Laker’s distinguished feat but also surpassed Indian spinner Jasu Patel’s 9-wicket haul against Australia in 1959. Another precious feather in Jumbo’s cap!
ANTIGUA 2002: A LESSON IN GRIT
No, this isn’t about stats or achievements. It is simply a depiction of Kumble’s grit, determination and passion for the game, a lesson for people across professions and vocational interests. Anil Kumble copped a blow on his jaw by West Indian fast bowler Merv Dillon. It was assumed that with such an injury, he may not bowl in the second innings. But, he took everyone by surprise, emerging from the dressing room with a bandage wrapped around his face. He did endure excruciating pain, but bowled as many 14 overs in the spell, accounting for the inimitable Brian Lara. He trudged back after that gritty show, as all cricket enthusiasts bowed down to the legend’s tenacity and spirit. His commitment to the team remains worth emulating. A simple act…that carried a plethora of lessons alongside.
THE MONKEYGATE SCANDAL: DIVINITY INCARNATE
Kumble has always been an epitome of dignity, on and off the field. India were fortunate to have him as captain when the ungainly ‘Monkeygate’ saga unfolded in the 2007-08 series Down Under. He shepherded his team with such great fervour, that respect for the Indian team only grew after that series. The gritty victory in Perth can largely be attributed to his calming presence, that rubbed off on all players, as the team cherished a memorable victory.
The way he handled the media rancour around his spat with Virat Kohli that clipped his coaching stint with the Indian team was also praiseworthy. It is pretty clear that he endured a lot of controversies in his career, but never did they hinder his evolution as a cricketer and a human being.
Time to gulp down some numbers: 619 wickets in Tests, 337 in ODIs. Kumble is the highest wicket-taker in Test matches for India, But, his legacy extends beyond mere statistics. His comforting presence in a murky scandal has been alluded to, but Kumble was also part of a team that built from the lows of the match-fixing scandal at the turn of the millennium. In 2007, at the age of 37, he took over the captaincy from Rahul Dravid with the team going through tumultuous times after the 2007 World Cup debacle. He also led RCB to the IPL final in 2009. He has continued his association with the IPL in very many different ways, and in that capacity, is the Head Coach of Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing season of the IPL.
Tales from Jumbo’s career never cease to inspire. Here’s wishing him a very happy 51st birthday!