Kumble had a body of a 39-year-old but the heart of a 22-year-old — a spirited fighter © AFP
April 18, 2009: In what was just the second match of the second edition, Royal Challengers Bangalore scored a thumping 75-run win over defending champions Rajasthan Royals at Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa. The architect of Bangalore’s emphatic win was Anil Kumble, who took five wickets for just five runs. Sarang Bhalerao goes in flashback mode.
If footwork at the batting crease was any indicator of his dancing skills, he probably had two left feet. While he may not be good at dancing himself, Anil Kumble nevertheless knew how to make other batsmen dance to his own tunes. He was an exceptional choreographer in that respect, as he proved on this day in South Africa, where the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL) had shifted because of the general elections in India.
Royal Challengers Bangalore went into the tournament with a new captain, the mercurial Kevin Pietersen. They locked horns with the defending champions Rajasthan Royals at Cape Town.
The format was envisaged to be a death knell for bowlers; more so for the spin bowlers. There were obituaries written for the spinners. Yet, Kumble relied on the basic tenets of his bowling: he did not experiment too much with his action neither did he possess any magic delivery. What he had was terrific control over line and length, subtle variations of pace and — most importantly — the heart and attitude of a champion.
In their season opener, Bangalore scored 133 for eight in their 20 overs. The score didn’t seem substantial. But the Bangalore bowlers put relentless pressure on Rajasthan batsmen. When Kumble came on to bowl Rajasthan were reeling at 28 for five in nine overs.
Kumble had the runs to play with. Hence he was unleashing his subtle variations. He outwitted Yusuf Pathan with a skidder which the batsman hit to long-off. Ravindra Jadeja was beaten in flight; the loopy delivery bounced awkwardly, and Jadeja’s slog-sweep ended in deep mid-wicket’s hand. Shane Warne, the master practitioner of the alchemy of leg-spin, was bamboozled by a googly. Munaf Patel and Kamran Khan saw the ball above their eye-level and went for mindless slogs. Kumble had a wry smile on his face. Rajasthan were dismissed for 58. The bowling figures of 5 for 5 “intrigued” Kumble himself.
The 39-year-old Kumble opined: “The Twenty20 game may not be for the oldies, but as Sachin [Tendulkar] and Rahul [Dravid] have shown, we can have our days too.”
The exuberance of youth was also seen in the way he celebrated his wickets. Kumble had a body of a 39-year-old but the heart of a 22-year-old — a spirited fighter.
Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 133 for 8 in 20 overs (Rahul Dravid 66, Kevin Pietersen 32; Dimitri Mascarenhas 3 for 20) beat Rajasthan Royals 58 all out in 15.1 overs (Anil Kumble 5 for 5) by 75 runs.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)