Home > Features >

As Indian spinners struggle on home turf, the match-winning ability of Anil Kumble is better appreciated now

As Indian spinners struggle on home turf, the match-winning ability of Anil Kumble is better appreciated now

Anil Kumble (above) boasted a bowling average of under 25 in India, with a whopping 25 five-wicket innings hauls and seven 10-wicket match hauls © Getty Images

The name of JS Bach may now be an integral part of musical heritage, but it was only over 50 years after his death that his legacy was fully appreciated. If such a fate could befall the most legendary of Western classical composers, perhaps the plight of a relative mortal like Anil Kumble is more understandable. As England ground India’s much-hyped spin bowling attack to dust, the absence of the man fondly known as “Jumbo” was felt more than ever.

It was nearly 20 years ago at the venue of the ongoing Test between India and England, Eden Gardens, that the then captain Mohammad Azharuddin found the magic formula to build an invincible home record.  And Kumble was his magic weapon. In tandem with Rajesh Chauhan and Venkatpathy Raju, he helped inflict an eight-wicket defeat on England in that game and went from strength to strength thereafter.

With unusual pace for a spinner, staggering accuracy and relentless persistence, he demolished visiting teams on dustbowls almost as a matter of habit. He boasted a bowling average of under 25 in India, with a whopping 25 five-wicket innings hauls and seven 10-wicket match hauls. Once Kumble was into his stride and had discovered a sweet spot in the pitch for him, it was only a matter of when rather than whether he would knock over the opposition’s challenge. 

And never was this better demonstrated than in his record-equalling 10 wicket innings haul against Pakistan at Delhi in 1999.  After going wicketless at the Fort End through the morning session, it took Kumble no time to run through the Pakistan batsmen from the Pavilion End post lunch. They were helpless in the face of what looked like a rapid fire machine gun discharge of vicious leg breaks or, rather, flippers and bouncers!
In the noughties, Kumble’s craft matured and he became a more effective bowler abroad with vital contributions to India’s proud away wins as at Leeds 2002, Adelaide 2003, Johannesburg 2006 or even Perth 2008. However, the image of a spinner who couldn’t really spin the ball and depended on wearing tracks stuck and Kumble never really got his due, from the BCCI or from the media. 

When he went past 600 wickets in Test cricket, the feat was received more with dreary-eyed astonishment than warm appreciation. Evidently, some people had never noticed all those wickets he had bagged by toiling hard through long spells, day in and day out. When he bowled with a broken jaw in the West Indies in 2002, it was cynically interpreted as more of a publicity stunt to keep Harbhajan Singh out of the team than a mark of his commitment.

In 2008, Kumble stepped aside, waylaid by injury and assured by the promise of Amit Mishra that a successor had been found. But the shabby treatment of this living legend continued post retirement, most notably in the unsavoury National Cricket Academy affair. The International Cricket Council (ICC) meanwhile has found better use for his know how and he is now the Chairman of its Cricket Committee.

At the end of Day Three of the ongoing Test, Pragyan Ojha freely admitted that neither he nor Ravichandran Ashwin could bowl at Monty Panesar’s natural pace, which approaches 100 kph.  Panesar’s pace and accuracy have put the Indian batting line-up under tremendous pressure. His performances suggest that he may have watched the methods of the original Indian spin assassin and learnt his lessons well. Perhaps, if the nation finally got around to acknowledging Kumble’s indispensable role in Team India’s home victories, there is still hope for the art of spin bowling in India. A team needs to take 20 wickets to win a Test and I am sure MS Dhoni is rather acutely aware of it now more than ever.

(Madan Mohan is a 27-year-old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was 8 and to date, he has not been cured of it.  He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.  He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton


South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run


Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai


AB de Villiers praises team after win in 1st ODI

Pakistan hold advantage at stumps on Day 3 of 1st Test against Australia

Asad Shafiq emerges as dependable No 6 for Pakistan

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Vital for Brendon McCullum to find form quickly

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Duleep Trophy India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Duleep Trophy 2014: Central Zone lead by 81 runs as North Zone bowled out for 457

Laxmi Ratan Shukla to lead Bengal in upcoming One-Day series

David Warner feels lucky to have equalled Don Bradman’s record

Kapil Dev’s Dev Musco Lighting accused of inflated costs by GCA

VVS Laxman advises budding batsmen to score big hundreds

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Spin hunt continues for visitors

Sarfaraz Ahmed may have trumped the Akmals as Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman across formats

Don Bradman — even if every chance he ever gave in his career was accepted, he would still remain head and shoulders above the others

Len Hutton’s hundred gets reported as illness

Viv Richards’ 6/41 bowls West Indies to a thrilling victory over India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

अभिनेत्री हुमा कुरैशी ओरिफ्लेम की ब्रांड एंबेसडर

Has Bigg Boss 8 made Karishma Tanna the most hated person?

Pranab Mukherjee returns home after visit to Norway, Finland

Revealed: First look of Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar’s Do!

7 reasons why having sex during pregnancy is great for your health

Videocon Infinium Graphite with gesture control feature launched, priced at Rs 10,499

Rupee up 19 paise against dollar in early trade

Twitter introduces Audio Cards to listen to music directly from your timeline

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here