Variation is Kumble's greatest strength - Jenner
Terry Jenner, the former Australian legspinner, stood among the crowd, arms folded, observing Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the nets in front of him at the practice session at the Adelaide Oval. Since he was sporting shades, it was difficult to figure out which of the two Indian spinners he was focussing on. "Neither of them have got enough rewards for the way they have bowled so far," he said without moving his gaze.
Jenner, Shane Warne's coach and mentor, had come over to the nets to renew his ties with Kumble, and fondly remembered meeting him four years ago at the same ground. "He wanted me to tell him everything I saw about his bowling," Jenner recollects of the 2003 meeting. "And I told him 'Mate, it's just one day before the Test', but he was intent on listening."
Back then Jenner observed that Kumble was trying to bowl with a Warne-like action instead of trusting his own style. "We spoke about getting him to bowl from over the eyes - from the top of his head," said Jenner. The two also spoke about the sequence of deliveries, which Jenner believes was crucial in Kumble taking his first five-wicket haul in Australia in India's memorable win.
Fast forward four years and has anything changed? "He is mostly doing the same things apart from bowling his faster one that pushes on to the bat." Jenner felt Kumble had overdone that delivery during his first tour to Australia in 1999-2000, making him too predictable. However, after their chat "he started to mix up his deliveries, making the batsman come out of his crease and do something". He observed that Kumble's greatest strength was his ability to mix up his deliveries, and bowl the conventional legbreaks with his unorthodox googly and the faster ones to keep the batsmen guessing.
Jenner understands Kumble now has the responsibility of being the captain. "He's torn between bowling it quick and taking the risk of tossing it up," said Jenner about Kumble's mindset while leading the side.
Jenner is a big admirer of Kumble, but he also thinks highly of Harbhajan, especially his seam position during delivery. He also had an interesting take on the fact that Harbhajan had dismissed Ponting three times in 18 deliveries, but had only taken four other wickets in the series. "A lot of emotions go into the wicket of Ricky Ponting, and perhaps that doesn't allow him to prepare for the next wicket."
Looking ahead to the Adelaide Test, Jenner felt India's best option would be to play two spinners on a surface that usually helps turn. "The bounce on the third and fourth days is low and playing two spinners could prove to be beneficial."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo