Kumble included for 2003-04 tour on my insistence, says Ganguly

The former India captain revealed he had forced the reluctant selectors to include the leg-spinner for the series.

Anil Kumble (left) had claimed 24 wickets, the highest by any player, in the Test series.   -  S. Subramanium

Anil Kumble may have been omitted from the Indian squad for its tour of Australia in 2003-04 as the selectors were “not very keen” on having him, but Sourav Ganguly, the then captain, insisted on retaining the leg-spinner.

Ganguly revealed this at a promotional event here.

“I will give you the example of Anil Kumble, who was probably the biggest match-winner India has ever produced in the last 20-25 years. I remember attending a selection meeting before the tour of Australia in 2003. I was the captain of the side and I knew, selectors were not very keen on having Anil in that tour,” Ganguly said.

No agreement

“As I entered the selection meeting, I could sense the selectors had made up their mind to leave Kumble out. I kept on requesting and insisting that he is such a match winner, he has done so much good for Indian cricket. He must be in Australia and the selectors just didn’t agree,” Ganguly said.

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Not only did Kumble make it to the tour, he eventually emerged as the highest wicket-taker among both sides in a drawn Test series. “The selectors wanted to pick a left-arm spinner because Australians don’t play left-hand spin well, and this went on for a good couple of hours. It was getting late and John Wright came up to me and said Sourav let’s finish this and go with what they said and I am sure we will do well,” he said.

‘Champion’

Ganguly said he told coach John Wright that if Kumble was not picked for that tour, he might not play for India. “I told John that Kumble has been a champion for last 10 years, he is on his way down at the moment, maybe because he hasn’t bowled well, but I actually feel it is a temporary thing,” Ganguly said.

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“I told John if you leave Anil, he may not play for India again. I said I am not going to sign the selection sheet till Anil is in the side. The selectors got fed up with me and said if I don’t play well, if the team does not play well and if Kumble does not play well, I will the first person to to go before anyone goes. I said ‘fine, I am ready to take that risk and we will see what happens’,” he added.

“Anil had an outstanding series, an outstanding year as well. He went on to pick 80 wickets that year, which was the most by any spinner in a calender year in history of Test cricket,” Ganguly said.