Happy birthday, Anil Kumble: The gentleman-soldier of Indian cricket

His character, consistency and irrefutable match-winning ability helped him to be a lead figure in Indian cricket’s scheme of things throughout his career.

Kumble's tally of 619 Test wickets places him atop the pile among Indian cricketers.   -  S. Subramanium

From the time he made his international debut in 1990 to when he hung up his boots from all forms of cricket in 2010, Anil Kumble rubbed shoulders with as many as three generations of Indian cricketers.

His character, consistency and irrefutable match-winning ability helped him to be a lead figure in Indian cricket’s scheme of things throughout his career. A single, fleeting highlight reel will be insufficient to capture the legbreak legend's career for many gems adorn it.

The match-winning 6 for 12 in the final of 1993 Hero Cup, the unforgettable 10-wicket haul in the second innings of the 1999 Test against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla, the eight-for against Australia in Sydney in 2004, and a Test century (his only one) at The Oval in 2007, are among the many feats that trigger a flood of memories as he turns 48.

    

Kumble after claiming a 10-wicket haul in the second innings of the 1999 Test against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla.   -  The Hindu Archives

While performances emphasise Kumble’s match-winning ability, his character and resilience were the kind that will make soldiers proud.

The spell he bowled in Antigua in 2002 in which he dismissed Brian Lara will remain in the hearts of cricket lovers forever. A vicious Mervyn Dillon bouncer had broken his jaw, but he bandaged it and was out there bowling just hours later. 

Another instance of an injured Kumble braving the pain and coming on to bowl was in Delhi 2008, against Australia. This time he injured a finger on his left hand while batting and, with the hand heavily bandaged, came on to bowl on the final day of that Test, which was also his final match of his international career.

Another of Kumble’s highlights was scripted during India’s 2007-08 tour of Australia, when he was the captain of the Test team. Controversial umpiring, racism allegations in the second Test in Sydney, and match referee Mike Procter handing Harbhajan Singh a ban (which was later revoked) for his alleged role in the 'Monkeygate' scandal threatened to curtail India’s tour. There was talk of the team being called back.

But, Kumble’s men remained in Australia and responded in a stirring manner. Down 2-0 in the four-Test series, India beat Australia at a venue which was regarded as the graveyard for visiting teams — WACA in Perth. India became the first Asian team to beat the host on this ground.

His tally of 619 Test wickets places him atop the pile among Indian cricketers, while he remains the third-highest Test wicket-taker. He is also the highest Indian wicket-taker in ODIs with a tally of 334.