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Anil Kumble: The outcast who won over the world

Santosh Kumar
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Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble

Leg-spin is generally a trade-off between how much spin you impart and how accurate you are. Anil Kumble, with his physique and height, seemed destined to be a seam bowler but he chose to be a wrist spinner. He followed in the footsteps of the great Bhagwat Chandrashekhar who was a great influence in his life.

Like the great, tall wrist spinners Bill O'Reilly and his own idol Chandrasekhar, Kumble traded the leg-spinner's proverbial yo-yo for a spear, as the ball hacked through the air rather than hanging in it, and came off the pitch with a kick rather than a kink.

Stock Ball: He did not impart as much side spin as Shane Warne or even Stuart MacGill but his stock delivery, the leg-spinner, was laced with fizzing topspin and a pace of close to 100 kph. On day 1 of Test matches, and on unhelpful pitches, his ball would go straight on but with some extra bounce because of his height and the topspin that he imparted.

As the wicket wore out, his stock ball would start to turn a little because of his side spin and bounce viciously due to his topspin. This lethal ability led Navjot Singh Sidhu to rename him Jumbo after a 1992 Irani Trophy match.

Top Spinner: Kumble also possessed a faster top-spinner which used to come on with the arm and bowl the batsmen.

Flipper: Perhaps his most potent and wicket-taking delivery, the flipper used to rocket off the surface just like the great Chandrashekar’s. He used to set batsmen up for his flipper to rap them on the pads or go through the gate and that is why a great percentage of his wickets were bowled or LBW. 

The delivery he bowled to Salim Malik comes to mind, in his famous spell at the Feroz Shah Kotla, which beat him for pace and bowled him. Similarly, his delivery to Ricky Ponting at Sydney in 2004 is also one of his best, where he worked him over with a host of slower top-spinners and googlies only to then unleash his rocket flipper and trap him LBW.

Googly: Kumble had a whole variety of googlies which he developed post his shoulder injury. While bowling the googly, he used only his thumb and forefinger. The speed of his googly was much slower than his normal deliveries.

Kumble had a major shoulder injury in the early 2000s which kept him out of action for a year. After the injury, he lost a bit of his pace but he made up for it by working heavily on his googlies and stock balls.

He had a sharp mind and a big heart as well. His deliveries did not have the optics of a Warne or a Murali, but the batsmen knew each delivery was different.

Constructing his way to greatness

"It's all about creating doubts in the batsmen's mind and at the end of the day, you needn't bother about how you do it. You can spin the ball, bowl straight, swing it, bounce it as long as you create doubts you'll be fine. Right through my career, there have been a lot of criticisms but these critics are important to egg you on." - Kumble.

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Santosh Kumar
Cricket Lover who writes to enjoy and works to earn a living
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