When Anil Kumble rewrote history: Reminiscing his 10-fer against Pakistan
20 years ago, the pinnacle of individual excellence was reached by an unassuming young leg spinner, as he took all 10 wickets in an innings at the iconic Feroz Shah Kotla, against the archnemesis, Pakistan.
Anil Kumble is regarded among the greatest spinners in the history of the game and is a bonafide legend. He has the most Test wickets for an Indian bowler, and the third most for any bowler in the history of cricket. An earnest trier and an unorthodox leggie who ditched flight for zip, Kumble’s magnum opus was written on a zingy cool day at Delhi against Pakistan, in what was a must-win match.
On 7th February 1999, he scripted history by becoming only the 2nd person ever to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings, the first being Jim Laker. Many have tried since and been left hanging at the 8 or 9 wicket mark, but Kumble remains, till date, the last bowler to have picked up all 10 wickets in an innings.
India were 1-0 down in a two-match series and losing a series at home would have been a huge dent on the team’s reputation. Setting Pakistan a target of 420, the stage was set for an Indian win, but little would the players and the spectators have guessed that they were going to be a part of cricketing folklore.
Pakistan started quite well, having raced to a 100 in no time, as Anwar and Afridi hacked away at the lead. Post a rather uneventful first spell, Kumble returned for a second spell with a change of ends. And magic ensued. Afridi was the first to go and then there was a collapse orchestrated by the legend himself. A marathon second spell from Kumble ensured that the pressure was relentless, and Pakistan succumbed to it.
As Kumble reached the mark of 9 wickets, there was a whiff of history in the making. There was a buzz of excitement among the spectators and players alike. There was loads of drama as Javagal Srinath deliberately bowled way outside off-stump, there were a couple of high balls landing in no-man’s area, and it was now about more than just an Indian win.
Wasim Akram was the prized scalp as he edged a ball to VVS Laxman at forward short leg and history was made. The numbers read 26.3 – 9 – 74 – 10. A near flawless performance that went down in cricketing annals as one of the greatest bowling performances ever (and would probably stay there forever).
A 10-wicket haul in an innings is, statistically, the second least likely event to occur in Test Cricket, with it having happened just twice in 2345 matches, or a little more than 4000 Innings (the least likely is an individual batsman scoring 400).
It is close to impossible to reach statistical perfection in Cricket, but if there ever was to be a performance which came near, this was it.