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SK Flashback: Anil Kumble bowls with a broken jaw in Antigua

Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif (R) congr : News Photo
Anil Kumble had an incredible passion for the game
Shweta Haranhalli

Cricket has a way of producing inspiring tales of courage with an iota of instances in the history of world cricket that defines undeterred valour showcased by the greatest players of the modern era. The game has produced some memorable moments for the cricket frenzy fans around the globe to stand up and applaud the courage of the players, who defy all odds and go out on the field to perform for their nation.

The sight of Graeme Smith walking out to bat with a broken hand to save a Test match for his country against Australia, to the visuals of Anil Kumble emerging from the dressing room of Antigua with a broken jaw to bowl for his side against the mighty West Indians are etched in the memory of every cricket loving fan.

Antigua Test, 2002

The stage was set for a classic face-off between the two heavyweights of world cricket in the longest format of the game. The series evenly poised at one all, the fourth test match goes down in the memory lane as one of the greatest matches to be played in the sport.

In the fourth Test match of the series at the Antigua Recreation Ground, Anil Kumble was struck on the jaw while batting by a Mervyn Dillon bouncer. Bleeding profusely, Kumble did not give up and continued to battle it out for his team with the bat for another 15 minutes before being dismissed for six. The Indian team declared their first innings for 513 runs with Ajay Ratra scoring an unbeaten century at number eight.

When the world bowed down to his determination

Anil Kumble was rushed to a local hospital immediately after he returned to the dressing room for an X-ray but lack the of high-end medical facilities did not help his cause as the initial report did not suggest anything. Subsequent detailed scans post the injury revealed a fracture on the left side of the jaw and the iconic cricketer was all set to leave for Bangalore for a surgery in order to fix the broken jaw, the following day.

The cricket fraternity and all the fans across the world did not expect Kumble to take the field when the Windies were batting but he surprised one and all as he strolled down the changing room of the stadium to take the field for his nation.

CRICKET-INDIA-WEST INDIES-KUMBLE : News Photo
Kumble showed immense grit by stepping onto the pitch

With a heavily bandaged face with eyes full of determination and sheer grit to perform for the nation, the country’s greatest leg spinner bowled over after over in gruesome pain to fight hard and give India a crucial breakthrough. Jumbo, as he is fondly called by his teammates, scalped the big wicket of Brian Lara to dent the West Indian middle order. Bowling his trademark quicker delivery, the left-hander was trapped right in front of the wicket to give the Indian team a slender advantage of forcing a result in the match.

The physio of the Indian cricket team, Andrew Leipus, strapped Kumble’s jaw heavily with a bandage around the face in order to keep the broken part together and advised the bowling spearhead not to appeal or speak much on the ground. Such was the apathy of the situation that Leipus was seen tightening the bandage of Kumble at the boundary ropes in between every over.

The Australian-born physio made sure the leg-spinner was ready for his next over with his bandage neatly adjusted. Although the match ended in a draw, this epic clash is remembered for the courage of the bespectacled mechanical engineer from Karnataka who showed the world that sport is all about overcoming your grievances and stepping on the field for your nation.

“I did not want to sit around”

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Kumble was quoted saying, “I did not want to sit around,” after being quizzed about his decision to bowl despite being in such a bad condition, later in the day. The never say die attitude and the undying spirit to serve Indian cricket were the two stand out things of this courageous performance as he struggled hard to bowl 14 overs in the day and gave away 29 runs, scalping the prized wicket of Lara.

Viv Richards, one of the greatest players to have ever played the game, regarded this incident as one of the bravest things to have ever happened on the field of play.

Fifteen years have gone by since that incident, the role and responsibility of serving the nation have changed a bit for Kumble as the 46-year-old is currently at the helm of the affairs as the head coach for the Indian team but the attitude to carry on the legacy of Indian cricket has never changed.

The sight of the wounded warrior, Anil Kumble walking out from the pavilion of the Antigua Recreation Ground with a heavily bandaged jaw and plenty of pain killers still gives goose bumps to millions of cricket fans around the world.


Edited by Staff Editor

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