When Anil Kumble won India the Hero Cup with his magnificent figures of six for 12

Anil Kumble’s magnificent spell had sealed a convincing victory for the hosts and one felt that it was the turning point of his career © Getty Images

Nishad Pai Vaidya goes down memory lane with Salil Ankola and Pravin Amre to the night of November 27, 1993. Anil Kumble produced magnificent figures of six for 12 to help India beat the West Indies at Kolkata and clinch the Hero Cup.

The Eden Gardens in Kolkata is the coliseum of cricket – where the game’s warriors battle it out in the presence of a massive vociferous crowd. It requires nerves of steel and a gladiator-like character to script a performance that wins the hearts of those present at the intimidating arena. Anil Kumble — a fighter with a never say die attitude — produced a dream spell on this very day in 1993 to win India the Hero Cup against a formidable West Indies side.

India were entering the Hero Cup final at the back of a thrilling victory over South Africa in the semi-final. That game is best remembered for Sachin Tendulkar bowling the final over to seal the dramatic triumph.
Pravin Amre recalls, “We did very well to qualify for the knock-outs and then came the semi-final – which was a classic. Playing at Kolkata in front of a full house was an experience for all of us. I will never forget my crucial partnership with Mohammad Azharuddin in the semi-final against South Africa. Salil Ankola’s crucial throw from the deep in the last over to effect a run-out. And, of course, Sachin Tendulkar bowling that final over to win the game for India.”

India had won a close game, but the West Indies were coming off a convincing win over Sri Lanka in their semi-final encounter. Some felt that the West Indies had the upper hand going into the all-important game. “People expected the West Indians to win. We were absolutely pumped up for that game especially after we had won the semi-finals,” Ankola says.

The pitch for the final was used in both the semi-finals and West Indies captain Richie Richardson surprised a few by electing to field first. Amre says, “The surface used to keep a little low and it wasn’t easy to hit the boundaries immediately after going to the centre. Batsmen had to apply themselves to get the runs on the board. After a while, it would then be useful for the spinners.”

Ankola however feels, “The wicket was a decent one to bat on and was very well done up. It didn’t break or crumble like it did during the 1996 World Cup semi-final.”

Both Amre and Ankola did see some logic in the decision. Ankola says, “We were surprised and they perhaps did it as there was no grass on the wicket. They also may have felt that there would be dew and that the ball would come on to the bat later on.”

Amre believes that the semi-finals may have had a bearing on the decision. “We thought that because they chased comfortably during their semi-finals, they may have elected to bowl first. In our semi-final as well, South Africa came close to our score and we won it only in the last over.”

Having been put in to bat, India put up 225 on the board with Vinod Kambli scoring 68. It wasn’t the kind of a total that assured a victory as it was somewhere in between. Amre recalls, “I thought 225 was a fighting score. We can’t say it was a winning score, but we could defend it.” West Indies had a strong batting line and Ankola says, “The total of 225 didn’t look enough considering their batting firepower.”

West Indies started off smoothly as Brian Lara held firm and kept them in the hunt. They lost Phil Simmons early, but Lara was going strong and took them past 50 in company of Richardson. With the score at 57 for 1, Lara was clean bowled by Sachin Tendulkar – a wicket that sparked a dramatic collapse. Ankola says, “Brian was a fantastic player and was in prime form. Once he got out, the others felt the pressure in the West Indian side. That may have triggered the collapse.”

Kapil Dev then sent back Richardson and Keith Arthurton in quick succession to reduce West Indies to 63 for four. Carl Hooper and Roland Holder commenced a mini-recovery that saw the Caribbean army cross the three figure mark without further damage. However, that is when Kumble entered the picture.

Holder missed a delivery that didn’t turn and it took the bail off the stump. The umpires referred the decision as they weren’t sure whether the ball hit the bail or it was the keeper’s glove that disturbed it. Ultimately, Holder had to make the long walk back when his worst fears were confirmed with the score reading 101 for five. Twelve runs later, Jimmy Adams spooned a Kumble delivery to cover.

The West Indies innings disintegrated with Kumble dismissing Hooper leg-before and then bowling out the tail by firing it in. Sunil Gavaskar described one such delivery as a “rocket-ball.” Curtly Ambrose missed a wild heave across the line to give the Indian leg-spinner his fifth wicket. The win was achieved when Anderson Cummins was castled by a Yorker. West Indies were bundled out for 123 with Kumble finishing with remarkable figures of six for 12. Four of his six victims were out bowled.

Amre recalls, “The bowling was brilliant. Anil bowled in crucial areas and there were unplayable deliveries. After 10-15 overs, the ball stopped on the surface a touch which made shot making difficult. West Indian batsmen were in a dilemma – whether to defend or go for the shot. Anil bowled in a way that the batsmen didn’t know whether to go forward or back and they were caught on the crease. Most of them were bowled as they were not in a position to play the ball as it went through quickly. He was so accurate that he hit the stumps whenever the batsmen missed.”

“Once Kumble started getting wickets, we were pretty sure he would skittle out the rest and get it going for us. He is a legend and he has bowled well despite any wicket. He should be given full credit for the way he bowled. Irrespective of the surface, Kumble bowled brilliantly well then,” Ankola says.

The passionate Kolkata crowd soaked in the feeling of victory. With a number of celebratory fires burning in the stands, Henry Blofeld said on air, “It may sound like open warfare, but it is just a cricket match. It may look like a prayer meeting. In fact, it is an enormous party.”

Ankola reminisces, “Eden Gardens went crazy. Kolkata people are sports enthusiast. We had a good dinner and a party as we had won the Hero Cup, which was a big event.”

Kumble’s magnificent spell had sealed a convincing victory for the hosts and one felt that it was the turning point of his career. Amre says, “Obviously, any spinner getting six wickets in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) is always special. The fact that he got it in a big game proved his mettle. His strong character has made him the highest wicket-taker in Indian cricket.”

For Kumble, it was a career highlight. He says, “It’s a special moment in my career and I recall it fondly, especially knowing that it resulted in a win for India. It emphasizes the fact that spin remains relevant in the shorter format of the game.”

That night at the Eden Gardens put Kumble in the record books. His spell of six for 12 is the eighth best in ODIs. In 1993, they were the best figures by a spinner until Muttiah Muralitharan bettered it in 2000. The spell still remains the best effort by an Indian bowler in one-day cricket.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)