Anil Kumble: No doctored wickets, only know about engineered wickets

Kumble talked about the time he overcame questions about his lack of turn to become one of the finest leg-spinners the game has ever produced.

Former India coach and captain Anil Kumble at IIT Madras Alumni Association annual conclave in Chennai.   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Ashwin Mahalingam tried to bowl out Anil Kumble with a quicker one: As an engineer, if you are interested in a Ph.D. from IIT Madras, the team needs a leg spinner and we can include you! Kumble, straight bat, straight-faced, replied: “Well, after my hundred in Test cricket I thought you may want me in as batsman!”

In a session marked with wit and repartee, and some serious cricket questions, the former India captain jousted with Mahalingam, an associate professor of civil engineering, at IIT-Madras Alumni Association’s event ‘Sangam’, to celebrate the diamond jubilee year of the institute, last weekend.

Talking about the World Cup next year, Kumble said the Indian middle-order still does not have a settled look and the team can’t keep depending on Mahendra Singh Dhoni to be the finisher.

He should be left to enjoy the game and engage with younger players to finish games. Referring to the fact that he was not regarded a great spinner, Kumble said: “I’m glad it took more than 18 years for batsmen to figure out that I didn’t spin the ball,” to peals of laughter from a hall packed with IIT alumni and students.

Early in his career, Kumble was concerned that too many questions were being asked about his lack of spin; he came to Chennai and spent five days at IIT Madras’ cricket ground with spin legend V.V. Kumar to figure out the art of leg spin.

It had to do with the way Kumble gripped the ball.

However, his big moment came in an Irani Trophy match in Mumbai, where the home team had got a 190-run lead and was batting in the second innings.

“If we had to come back into the match we had to get Mumbai all out under 100.

“I went back to my earlier grip and we shot out Mumbai for 90! I picked up seven wickets in the innings. Though we lost by 40 runs, I got the confidence in my style back,” he said.

‘Engineered’ wickets

Not a great spinner of the ball, Kumble relied on speed, bounce and accuracy to get his 619 Test wickets. When asked how he felt to get to 600 wickets without spinning the ball, Kumble said “All I did was to keep asking questions to the batsmen with each ball.”

“And, no doctored wickets, I only know about ‘engineered’ wickets!,” added the spinner, with a broad smile, tongue-firmly-in-cheek.

Kumble said his Plan A was engineering and Plan B was cricket.

“Now that Plan B has taken 25 years of my life, it’s time to focus on Plan A,” he said, dwelling on his data analytics ventures. His company has developed a sensor, Spektacom, to make bats smart.

Cricket, he said, is today the most data-driven sport after Formula One, but even with all that data, batsmen still need the skills to tackle a bowler.

Azharuddin the favourite

Kumble said his favourite captain was Mohammed Azharuddin, under whom he debuted, and Sourav Ganguly.

And, his wife’s favourite was Dhoni. “She always takes a picture with him when we meet,” said Kumble to rousing applause.

Clearly, even 10 years after he retired as India captain, Jumbo is still the star.