I could never compete with Warne and Murali: Anil Kumble
After being inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame on Saturday, former Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble complimented Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, with whom he enjoyed healthy competition during the 1990s and 2000s, acknowledging that he didn’t have the skills to compete with the duo. While Kumble took 619 wickets in his Test career, Muralitharan and Warne finished up with 800 and 708 Test wickets, respectively.
"Yeah, Warne and Murali competition, I don't know whether I looked at it as a competition, but I could never compete with a Murali or a Shane Warne. Wish, I had the skills that they (Warne and Murali) had," said Kumble.
"I've had some great friendships with Warney and even more with Murali because we played a lot more. We saw each other a lot more. Murali would always call up and congratulate me after every milestone, and he would always possibly be 30, 40 wickets to the next milestone. So I would also congratulate him saying, Murali, another three Test matches I'll reach your 30 wickets, so congratulations. It was always a healthy friendship that we had, and it still continues."
Lara was the best batsman I bowled to: Kumble
Kumble’s career spanned over 18 years from 1990 to 2008, during the course of which he played a colossal 132 Test matches. Kumble credited his achievements to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, all of whom were a part of the Indian core during his time.
"That core group stayed for a long time and we started to believe that we can win against any opposition. To this five, you can add Virender Sehwag, Javagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, we had a fantastic bunch. I always felt fortunate that I only bowled to Tendulkar, Sehwag or Dravid in the nets and not in international matches.
“Actually, Tendulkar, Dravid or Sehwag later kind of became my "coach" as they would tell me after playing me in the nets as to where I was going wrong and stuff like that," recollected Kumble.
Kumble also said that West Indies’ Brain Lara was the best batsman he ever bowled to, recalling a particular incident which established Lara’s greatness in his mind.
"Brian Lara was blessed with the ability to hit four or five shots of the same delivery. Once right here at the MCG, during a match played in memory of victims affected by Tsunami, I was bowling to Lara. I bowled a delivery where he charged down the track after I had flighted one. Once he came down the track, he realised that he had misjudged the trajectory of ball. Any other player would have missed it and got out. But Lara swept that delivery for boundary and I knew that nothing could be done," he said.
Harbhajan gave me healthy competition: Kumble
When asked about his favourite bowling partnership, he picked out Harbhajan Singh, with whom he formed a potent partnership for almost a decade, as his preferred choice.
"Initially, it was Venkatapathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan was a part of our group, Hirwani very briefly, Sunil Joshi later on, and then Bhajji, of course, close to 10 years that we played together. And sometimes, we competed against each other, so that was a bit of a challenge. Whenever we toured abroad where they could only accommodate one spinner, so it was always either him or me, so that was a bit of a tough ask.
"Even in ODIs, it became that way. Yes, you always feel that you should be playing in every game, but it was a great healthy competition with Bhajji actually bowling exceptionally well on that Australian series in India when I was injured. I believe that spinners like fast bowlers also hunt in pairs.”
Kumble also recalled his maiden and only Test century against England, back in 2007, calling it one of the most memorable moments in his career.
"The Test hundred will always remain special, because I believed that I could get a Test hundred. It took me 117 Test matches to realise my batting potential. In fact, just before the Test match, we had a team meeting where I openly said that I was disappointed with our batting line-up because we had great legends and not a single century on that tour. I didn't realise that I had to show them how to get a hundred," an amused Kumble said.
"It was something very special. You could see the faces of my colleagues, how happy they were, more than me, when I scored that hundred."