One hundred and counting for Kumble
When Anil Kumble takes the field for the final Test against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad, he will become the second spinner, after Shane Warne, to have played 100 Tests. Kumble is the second longest serving member of this Indian side after Sachin Tendulkar, and his contribution to Indian cricket has been simply immense.
It takes a remarkable standard of fitness and resolve for a bowler to earn 100 caps and just six others, before Kumble, have passed this landmark. Only a handful of current bowlers have played more than 90 Tests and, with the exception of Shaun Pollock, all their stats in the last 25 matches are better than their overall career figures. Muttiah Muralitharan has a staggering 141 wickets from his last 20 games and Kumble is only four behind Warne's tally of 118 scalps.
Kumble may not figure in India's one-day plans anymore but, in Tests, he has only gotten better as the years have rolled by. Kumble's strike rate, at 53.69, in his most recent games, is far better than his career equivalent of 65.1. His average is also a couple of notches lower at 26.53 and with eight five-wicket hauls in the last 19 matches, Kumble is enjoying one of the most productive phases of his career.
How India fares in a Test depends a lot on Kumble's form. In games that India have won, Kumble takes wickets at a mere 18.47 apiece. On the other hand, Kumble has taken only four of his 30 five-wicket hauls in matches that India have lost and his average skyrockets to 42.34 in these games.
A major argument, and one that was certainly justifiable, against Anil Kumble was his ordinary overseas record. After the tour of West Indies in 2001-02, Kumble had 109 overseas wickets from 34 games at an average of 40.40 and a strike rate of a wicket every 16 overs. But since then, he has improved significantly. In 13 Tests, beginning with the England tour in 2002, Kumble has taken 67 wickets at a respectable strike rate of 55.85.
|Upto May 2002||34/109||40.04/95.4||4/0|
|After May 2002||13/67||28.84/55.85||4/1|
An Indian win masterminded by Kumble in the fourth innings of a home Test is a familiar tale. A spinner should, in theory at least, have better figures as the match progresses and Kumble most certainly confirms to it. In the second innings, he averages 24.85 compared to 30.56 in the first. And if he's bowling in the last innings of a match, that figure drops to 20.32.
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo. For some of the stats, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan from Cricinfo's Chennai office.