India v Australia, 3rd Test, Delhi, 4th day November 1, 2008

Kumble perseveres through pain

Cricinfo staff
Despite clearly being in some discomfort from the injury to his left hand, Anil Kumble went through his repertoire, probing away for the mistakes that were interminably slow to arrive

Anil Kumble bowled tirelessly even though his left hand was badly cut © Getty Images

When people think of Anil Kumble's indomitable spirit, they usually hark back to Antigua (2002) and the broken jaw. In some ways though, the best example of his refusal to give up came 18 months later, in Australia. Though an order of preference had never been announced, Harbhajan Singh had unofficially held premier-spinner status since his 32-wicket heroics against Australia in 2001. At the Gabba, Kumble watched from the dressing room, often with camera in hand, as Harbhajan endured a miserable Test match.

Less than a week later, he was on the field at the Adelaide Oval , with Harbhajan having decided to go under the knife for a finger injury. In his only previous tour of Australia, a poorly selected and incompetent Indian side had used him primarily as a stock bowler and his five wickets at 90 apiece had provided a convenient stick for critics to beat him with. Devastating on more responsive pitches at home, he had been negated by an Australian team that appeared intent on playing him as a slow-medium bowler.

On that opening day in Adelaide, Australia piled up 400 for 5. Kumble bowled 34 of the 90 overs, finishing with unflattering figures of 1 for 116. The home thoroughbred had once again been utilised as a carthorse away from home, and there must have been a few who wondered if he regretted Harbhajan getting injured. To lose heart though is not the Kumble way, and on the second afternoon, he picked up four wickets to restrict Australia to 556. It was to prove the springboard for one of the unlikeliest of Test triumphs.

Given his previous record at the Feroz Shah Kotla , it would have taken a severe injury to keep Kumble away. On the third afternoon, he suffered just that, and needed 11 stitches for a gash on the little finger of his left hand. He didn't emerge on the fourth morning, leaving Mahendra Singh Dhoni in charge for the first hour of play. But as soon as he ran on to the field after the first drinks break, the ball was in his hand.

There was no headline-grabbing ten-wicket haul, or even a five-for. But after Michael Clarke and Shane Watson had shown some signs of dominating against Amit Mishra, Kumble shut the scoring down. There was no prodigious turn, and only the occasional glimpse of the Jumbo, the delivery that used to take off so disconcertingly from a good length. But despite clearly being in some discomfort from the unwieldy contraption strapped to his left hand, he went through his repertoire, probing away for the mistakes that were interminably slow to arrive.

Kumble varied his run-up and tried going round the wicket to spear the ball into the rough. By the time Brad Haddin had a touch too much of the morning sun and gave him the charge, Kumble's first wicket of the series had become something like the quest for the Holy Grail. It was the fifth ball of the 75th over he had bowled since Bangalore, eclipsing even the 66.2 overs he had to wait for a breakthrough in Sri Lanka.

Numbers though shouldn't be used to judge Kumble on a day like today. The wickets that followed were almost incidental, with Australia having more or less assured that they couldn't lose the game. Brett Lee would have been quite miffed to be given out to one that struck him high on the pad, but there was no questioning Kumble's commitment when it came to the return catch that ended the innings.

By then, he had bowled 26.3 overs in the day, conceding only 59 runs. By his usual Kotla standards, it was a middling return. But given his recent travails, it was a pretty strong statement from a man who usually prefers to convey his messages on the field with ball in hand. Even if he doesn't play at Nagpur, there's an awful lot that Amit Mishra and so many others can learn from the man who just keeps coming back.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mohan on November 2, 2008, 7:47 GMT

    I agree with "Azfar's comment @ November 01 2008, 19:05 PM GMT". Anil Kumble, for all his commitment and past achievements, no longer commands a place in the XI, let alone as a captain. It is understandable that the selectors a grateful nation would like a dignified exit for him, but that should not come at the expense of costing India matches.

    Anil, and perhaps his Bangalore colleague Rahul Dravid as well, need to honestly assess their own recent performances and their prospects of turning a things around. That would hopefully a prompt a quiet consultation with the selectors and the coach, and an announcement to join Sourav Ganguly in retirement at the end of the current series.

    Kumble and Dravid are among India's five greatest test cricketers ever, along with the three obvious ones. However, they need to realize that the time to quit is now, or they risk being unceremoniously dumped from the team, which would be a sad but correct move on the selectors part.

  • Sajin on November 2, 2008, 5:40 GMT

    Kumble, simply says, a devoted cricketer with perseverance and skills: He will always remembered as one of the greatest test spinner in the world and one of the best captains of India. I am always wondering about the temperament and commitment to the job assigned to him, whether as a captain, a bowler or as a batsman, though his fielding scored as an average. I can match him with one and only, one of our former great fast bowlers of India, Javagal Srinath. Recently, media created critics have frequently attacking his bowling form, but, I don't feel the time has come for his retirement. His replacements are yet to foot their land, if you feel contrary, that would be an exhorbitant thought and price has to pay for that. Let 'jumbo' do his job till the moment he wants to go. (I believe, he will retire after the next series-England)

  • Karthik on November 2, 2008, 3:33 GMT

    I dont understand this tendency to praise Kumble just because he bowled with an injury. It doesnt make him a great bowler. It doesnt hide hs abysmal failure as a bowler, if thats what this article is intended to do. Kumble got off lucky in this innings because his bowling will not be analyzed too much because of his injury. Commitment? I have seen batsmen face over after hostile over from fast West Indian quicks without a helmet and thigh guard. Thats commitment and bravery for you, not a bowler who picks up an injury in his left hand and bowls with his right hand.

  • Swarup on November 2, 2008, 0:20 GMT

    What can be said but 'shabash!' Kumble has been through every possible twist and turn in cricket and still manages to push himself through to work harder and pick and pick some more. One of India's greatest ambassadors ever, a very unlucky man who never it seems believed in luck.

  • Akshay on November 1, 2008, 21:31 GMT

    Let Jumbo alone decide when he wants to go. Today he proved that not a broken jaw, a sore shoulder or even eleven stitches can stop him from giving his best.

  • Girish on November 1, 2008, 20:25 GMT

    Kumble is one of the best role models in cricket. To be frank for any sportsman in the world. One should learn his commitment, his perseverence, his effort and taking both bricks and bats in right stride. His attitude is highly commendable, for if he had anything to influence, Bajji would not have played so many matches and juniors would not have got tips and support from him. Its only the Indian media that keeps coming back at him, which is very unfortunate. One must respect for what he has achieved. He deserves to lead the team for another year, probably by when he also knows its time. Hats off Anil! Keep it up!

  • Sudarshan on November 1, 2008, 19:48 GMT

    Where are all those critics of Anil Kumble? I guess hiding in a grave to wait for an opportunity to strike back at him. This is the commitment. Where was Amit Mishra? This man could have easily taken an excuse (a justifiable reason) to not bowl on this pitch where no one got any assistance (except Sehwag) but bowl he did and inspite of 11 stiches in his left hand and still captured 3 wickets. This is the spirits. With 11 stiches in the hand, people working in the office take 11 days break but here is a man who was doing physical job with full commitment very next day.

  • Rajesh on November 1, 2008, 19:35 GMT

    One hopes Anil Kumble will play at Nagpur and turn in a good performance...... And who knows he might just have a magic for us in store tomorrow.... Good Luck Skipper....

  • Azfar on November 1, 2008, 19:05 GMT

    There is no questioning Kumble's commitment and tireless effort for the country. We have seen that for over 18 years now. He has toiled away though he never got the credit he should have got. But age is no longer on his side. Increasingly his struggles with the ball is effecting his captaincy. When India posted 600 plus,it was a tailormade situation for Kumble. But he failed to capitalise. This has now happened many times in the last 2-3 years when we expected Kumble to wreak havoc only for him to prove quite ineffective. With his grit he may still prove to be a useful bowler for some time but he should be relieved of the captaincy at the end of this series. Then Kumble can concentrate on his bowling and try to rediscover the magic which has got him 600 plus wickets.

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