Anil Kumble: India's greatest match winner and unsung hero
On February 7, 1999, exactly 20 years ago, ace Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble accomplished a rare feat by taking all the 10 wickets in a Test innings against Pakistan at New Delhi. Kumble became only the second bowler after England’s Jim Laker to reach this rare milestone. Laker had ended up with a match haul of 19 wickets in that Test match against Australia at Manchester in 1956.
Coming back to our own Kumble, his" Perfect 10" record has survived the #20-year challenge. In that 1999 Test series against Pakistan, the visitors won the first Test at Chennai by 12 runs despite being on the receiving end of a belligerent hundred from Sachin Tendulkar.
India had to win the second Test at New Delhi to draw level in the series. That was when Kumble came to the party with a 10 wicket haul in the second innings and in the end, India won that match by a huge margin of 212 runs.
After the match, the Pakistan Captain, the great Wasim Akram, showered praise on Kumble’s achievement and expressed his desire to emulate the Indian spinner's rare feat.
Regardless of accolades flowing in from all over the world, Kumble always remained India’s unsung hero. He never got the same recognition as batsmen like Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly or Laxman. These four batsmen were projected as India’s “fab four” before Kumble was later reluctantly added to the list to make it the “fab five”.
Anil Kumble’s achievements as a bowler are by no means lesser than those of the Indian batsmen. With more than 950 International wickets, Kumble has achieved as much as a Sachin or a Dravid, if not more.
Kumble is the leading wicket-taker for India in Test matches with 619 wickets and he is the third highest in the World after his spin bowling colleagues Muthiah Muralitharan (800) and Shane Warne (708). He is also the highest wicket-taker for India in ODIs. Kumble was India’s greatest match-winner with the ball but unfortunately never got the same recognition as his contemporaries.
Kumble was always a low profile, unassuming cricketer who showed all his aggression and commitment on the field without expecting anything in return by way of recognition. He showed plenty of courage and commitment in his cricketing career. Off the field, he was among the best-behaved celebrities from whom K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya could take a tip or two.
Kumble, being a perfectionist himself, expects the same from everyone around him. This attitude of his actually landed him in trouble when he was the Head Coach of the Indian team. But no one could question his commitment to the job as India managed to sweep all the matches that they played during Kumble’s tenure as Team India’s Coach except the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
During his time as Team India’s coach, Kumble was professional to the core and a taskmaster who never compromised on discipline and always expected 200% commitment from his players. He taught his players how they should discipline themselves as professional cricketers to propel their career.
Perhaps the fact that both Kumble and Kohli being similar in nature both as cricketers and as individual personalities, meant they could not get along. But Kumble showed a great deal of dignity even in his exit.
He never got due recognition from the players concerned for his exemplary services as the Indian Coach after his resignation. However, Mr. Vinod Rai, Head of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) hailed Kumble’s role as the coach of Team India.
As an administrator, Kumble has been the Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee since 2012. Kumble, along with his fellow committee members, has brought about several changes in the regulations of the game to make it much more interesting for the viewing public.
On the 20th anniversary of Anil Kumble’s perfect 10 performance, one can safely say that it is Team India’s loss that he is no longer the Coach of the team and definitely not the other way around.