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Anil 'Jumbo' Kumble, an unorthodox spinner who didn't turn the ball much, was perhaps India’s greatest ever match-winner. Tall and lithe in his build, Kumble was not the quintessent...
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Anil 'Jumbo' Kumble, an unorthodox spinner who didn't turn the ball much, was perhaps India’s greatest ever match-winner. Tall and lithe in his build, Kumble was not the quintessential, everyday spinner. He produced no lateral magic from the surface like Shane Warne did, nor did he creat ripples around the batsmen like the wily old fox, Muralitharan. Yet he ended up with 619 Test wickets, second only to the magical duo of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. In the process, he gained enormous goodwill amongst fans and his fellow teammates for being fiercely aggressive and competitive on the field, and unerringly composed and humble off it. Anil Kumble was perhaps cricket's last gentleman.

Kumble did have one thing in his favour: he was a hard-worker and his tough as nails attitude towards the game stood positively. Anil did not have the greatest of starts to his career: a few fleeting appearances in the Australasia Cup in 1990 and the subsequent ODI series in England gave an early indication of his nagging accuracy. He was surprisingly overlooked for the subsequent tour of Australia and the 1992 World Cup Down Under.

The Irani trophy season-opener of 1992, though, was an eye-opener. Kumble singlehandedly delivered a handsome victory for the Rest of India side by claiming handsome figures of 13/138, also paving the way for his inclusion for the twin tours of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kumble impressed in the away Test series against South Africa, picking up 18 wickets in four Tests with conditions not particularly conducive to spin bowling. The subsequent home series against England, though, cemented Kumble's spot as the leader of India's spin attack - Kumble grabbed 21 wickets in the 3-match series as India whitewashed the visitors 3-0.

There was no looking back then as the then-bespectacled spinner from Bangalore continued to haunt the opponents with his subtle variations. The backspinning flipper and the custom-made googly (squeezed between his thumb and the first two fingers) were his most potent skills, while the loopy and flat yorkers led many a tail-enders to their doom. As the years progressed, Kumble added a more potent topspinner and the double-bluff slider to his arsenal, making him a uniquely formidable bowler to face - as a batsman and as a wicketkeeper (just ask Parthiv Patel). Quicker through the air and metronomic in his line and length, Kumble turned out to be a captain’s delight.

Despite his outstanding record, there were snide remarks that Kumble was nothing more than just a home track bully, suited to demolish the opponents on dust-bowls. While the accusations were just a figment of truth, Kumble’s overseas record did help them to sustain the theory. As years progressed, Kumble put them to bed as he led India to victory across continents, from Rawalpindi to Adelaide, from Jamaica to Johannesburg, from Wellington to Nottingham.

Kumble’s moment of glory was definitely the Delhi Test against Pakistan in early 1999. In his favorite hunting ground, Kumble ran through the entire Pakistani batting line-up to finish with amazing figures of 10/74, only the second bowler after Jim Laker to have taken all the ten wickets in an innings as India went on to defend a total that was looking improbable when Pakistan was 101/0 at some stage. Wisden Almanack, the Bible of cricket, rated the performance as the second best bowling performance of all time.

Kumble rapidly became one of the go-to guys in the Indian dressing room and was also involved in the negotiations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) when player contracts were introduced for the first time in Indian cricket. Kumble ended his ODI career after India’s disappointing exit from the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean Islands. His ODI exploits were no less relative to his Test achievements; he ended up with 337 wickets in the shorter form of the game and his figures of 6/12 against West Indies in the Hero Cup in 1993 was the best individual performance by an Indian bowler until Stuart Binny shattered it in late 2014.

Kumble was named the captain of the Indian Test team following the resignation of Rahul Dravid in 2007. He led India to a series victory against arch-rivals Pakistan and was praised for his diplomatic handling of crisis moments during India’s tour of Australia in 2007-08, particularly the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal. A lean period followed, during India’s tour to Sri Lanka, where he was well below par and the subsequent home series against Australia in October, 2008. Kumble announced his retirement from international cricket mid-way through the 3rd Test of the series in the Delhi Test alongside Sourav Ganguly who bid the game goodbye in the Nagpur Test.

The Indian city of Bangalore honored one of its favourite sons by renaming the ‘Oriental Circle’ (just behind the M. Chinnaswamy stadium) after the legendary bowler. Kumble was also a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise in the Indian Premier League and took over as the captain of the team mid-way through the 2009 season. His captaincy turned out to be a major boost for the struggling franchise as they made it to the final that season.

Kumble announced his retirement from all forms of the game ahead of the 2011 IPL auctions and was immediately offered the mentorship role for the Bangalore franchise. Under his mentorship, Bangalore finished as the runners-up in the 2011 edition of the IPL. In 2013, Kumble resigned as the mentor of the Bangalore franchise and took over in the same role for Mumbai.

Kumble is also associated with a company called ‘Tenvic’ which handles sports management. In 2010, Kumble contested for the post of the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and comfortably beat Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, scion of the Mysore Royal family, by a margin of 33 votes. He also held the post of the chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA). However, he chose not to contest the 2013 KSCA elections.

In October 2012, Kumble was appointed as the new chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee. In June 2016 then, as per the recommendation of BCCI's three-member advisory committee, Kumble was appointed as the head coach of the Indian set-up. He held the post for a year with a great success rate until the final of the Champions Trophy of 2017 which India lost. Kumble had an alleged fallout with captain Virat Kohli and was supposedly sacked from his position only to be replaced by Ravi Shastri. He remains the head of ICC's technical committee and an active member of the NCA where he mentors young and budding cricketers.

by Pradeep Krishnamurthy and Rishi Roy





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