Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Daredevils, IPL, Johannesburg May 19, 2009

Captain Kumble calls the shots

Bangalore's turnaround has much to do with Kumble's appointment as captain following the departure of Kevin Pietersen

The tale of today's two captains can't be more contradictory. Anil Kumble has almost taught this team to win while Delhi have sailed along without Virender Sehwag's contribution with the bat. Bangalore hadn't won much before Kumble took over and led from the front with his bowling; Sehwag has been almost anonymous through a mix of poor form and injury but Delhi - still comfortably top of the table despite today's defeat - haven't missed him.

On a flat night at the Wanderers - the crowd was out of it till Ross Taylor biffed a few sixes - Bangalore cruised through a game they had in control from the dramatic first over. They were in top form - they had to be given their must-win situation - and, though clinical and professional, displayed a hunger to win.

Bangalore's turnaround has much to do with Kumble's appointment as captain following the departure of Kevin Pietersen. Even Ray Jennings, the coach, admitted as much, noting that Kumble's tenacity and hunger to win - qualities that served the Indian team for almost two decades - have spread across to the team. Not too long ago they were languishing near the bottom of the table, the players pessimistic about the fate of their campaign.

Kumble changed all that - he set the example and the seniors followed. Last year, they failed to put up their hand. This year, though, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Mark Boucher have shone and Ross Taylor has begun firing at the right time. Kallis, the man whom Kumble pipped to the captaincy post, has especially supported him superbly with the bat. As witnessed tonight in another typically serene Kallis knock; he batted on calmly with Dravid and dropped anchor to allow Taylor a cameo before finishing the game.

The seniors' performances have started to rub off on the youngsters; Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar and Virat Kohli have chipped in with vital contributions to keep the team afloat in the competition. It's a team that has worked really hard in their preparation. At times, they have had a strenuous workout in the morning before playing a practice game in the afternoon. Kumble hasn't had to worry about reckless late-night partying, unlike last year when Martin Crowe had to impose a curfew mid-tournament.

For all the preparation and practice, though, the wins weren't coming. Till Kumble entered. He has led superbly with the ball in the last few games. Today, he didn't have to do much as Praveen and Kallis had done the damage first up with the new ball. He simply had to ensure that Delhi didn't get away in the middle-overs and he did it without much fuss. There was one Kumble moment, though, that evoked memories of his younger days when he would feast on the non-Asian and non-specialist batsmen with his pace.

The mind went back to a home series against England when Kumble haunted, harrassed and made a mockery of Richard Blakey. The bat would go up and, in the blink of an eye, the stumps would be in disarray. Or the ball would crash against the pad or produce a hurried fatal prod. Today, Andrew McDonald found out what Blakey must have felt like. Anyone could have predicted Kumble giving him the yorker. Yet when it came McDonald was helpless; the bat was late and the furniture was disturbed. It was akin to watching one of those wildlife films where the tiger stalks the deer before pouncing; the brutality loses none of its beauty in the absence of surprise.

Even in the earlier games, Kumble has bowled like a champion that he is. Not many have collared him and when some, like Yuvraj Singh, have tried, they have had to admit defeat pretty quickly. Kumble has been his fierce old self and his team has flourished under him.

In contrast, Sehwag has seen his team win without his contribution. It's a sign of a settled team and Sehwag could actually be pleased with it. He would know, though, that he'll have to fire in the pressure games ahead to support his middle-order which has stood up valiantly so far. Last year, the top-order used to fire and the middle-order struggled. So far, it's been the reverse. Sehwag's best could come in the knockout games. For Delhi it would be well worth the wait.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vivek on May 21, 2009, 17:54 GMT

    This article goes as one of the tributes to the great Jumbo!

  • P on May 20, 2009, 10:54 GMT

    On the face of it, the conspiracy theory of Jose is laughable. Purely going by the strengths of individuals in each team, each team has the potential to put it across any of the other teams without rasing Eye brows. In that sense, teams being labelled as favourites or underdogs is an outcome of the extent to which potential of those teams have been (or not been) converted into performance. If DD are really banking on such a stunt to win the tournament, then they are asking for trouble. By the way, someone should tell Sehwag to stop spitting all over the park while fielding. Each time the Camera is focussed on him, even for a few seconds, he spits all around him with most of it flying right back on him! Disgusting indeed.

  • Mradul on May 20, 2009, 10:35 GMT

    Sachin and Kumble started their career almost at the same time, and on one side Sachin has been hugely popular and known as the Best Batsman, only second to Sir Don, Kumble has been known just as a Workhorse. I really feel that the contribution by both these legends to Indian cricket has been equal and though Kumble hasnt been as popular as Sachin he has always been one of the most respected person in Cricket World. Even when our Team was not performing under him (Only in Sri-Lanka I guess) it was never Kumble the Captain to be blamed, it was Kumble the Best Bowler we ever had who was not up to the mark... Its been such a wonderful feeling now to see him Lead RCB with such Aplomb and even though i was supporting Delhi initially, i sure hope RCB goes onto win this IPL, Just for Anil Kumble... For us, he is not second to anyone...

  • Mathew on May 20, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    I enjoyed reading this article. Especially analogy used to describe Kumble's snaring of Andrew McDonald with a predictable yorker, "It was akin to watching one of those wildlife films where the tiger stalks the deer before pouncing; the brutality loses none of its beauty in the absence of surprise."

  • Prashant on May 20, 2009, 8:48 GMT

    Sehwag's captaincy has been very poor specially in a couple of matches. The first instance was against Rajasthan Royals when he gave the ball to his spinners while yusuf pathan was batting and he killed them. Yesterday too he gave the ball to an inexperienced off spinner when Taylor was going hammer and tongs. His poor captaincy has led to these 2 defeats

  • Jose on May 20, 2009, 8:28 GMT

    I agree that BRC played well yesterday, but didn't you observe that the win is because of complacency of DD? Do you think BRC has got any chance to win, had DD fired? I bet on it. Moreover, i feel its a tactical match played by DD. Like in "Weakest link", DD perhaps wanted let BRC to semis & push bit more stronger teams down. I am sure if DD plays BRC in semis, DD will pounce them. Don't be jubilant over one win.

  • Brindha on May 20, 2009, 7:46 GMT

    Did anyone notice it is the same test team that Dravid selected last year that is doing well this year and not the new comers selected by Mr. Vijay Mallya this year? The most important difference between 2008 and 2009 - Mr. Mallya is keeping his mouth shut and is letting the players do the talking.

  • Pratyush on May 20, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    Kumble we all know is a fiercely competitive individual and has turned things around for RCB. But I would still say he has his luck going in the past few matches. Yesterday, Delhi looked as if they did not want to play, and RCB made a killing out of it. Sehwag is a confused captain and there is no doubt about it. Handing the ball to Nagar in the 18th over killed the match then and there. He seems to be clearly short of confidence and I would not be surprised if Delhi are knocked out in the semis.

    On the other hand, RCB play Hyderabad in the next game, which is like a knock-out, this should be more of a test for RCB as now they have a motive to play for, if they win they are through, if they dont, they are out. Often its when you realise that victory is at the gates, you tend to falter, rather than playing without much pressure !

  • Satish on May 20, 2009, 6:53 GMT

    Its said that the team takes on the character of the Captain. Royal Challengers have certainly been infected with Kumble's never-say-die attitude, and his clinical approach. Also, unlike a certain other "No.1" Indian spinner's whingings, Kumble has always come on to bowl to the big hitters(Hayden, Yuvraj, etc.) and performed. Its almost certain, tomorrow, he will come on to bowl to Gilchrist and Gibbs, if not in the second over then certainly in the PPs.

    Vijay, I agree with you. Kumble was being harangued when he was Test Captain and suddenly all sorts of virtues have been discovered. Nothing has changed except perceptions. Kumble was and will always be a fighter to the core.

  • Santhosh Kumar on May 20, 2009, 6:06 GMT

    Anil Kumble, a mature head with the guile of youth. He is the man in control of things and you can see the way he leads. The attitude of never-give up man is rubbing on to other team members. RCB is a surprise pack this time round as it was RR the last year.

    Watch out and if there are any upsets this year, it can be from the so-called Test team RCB. Definitely, it is a test team which has the steel to steal the thunder.

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