Bangalore v Chennai, CLT20, 1st semi-final, Durban September 24, 2010

Kumble's dark night of despair

Anil Kumble's face usually mirrors such an intense cocktail of anger, intensity, the fierce intent to win, even the odd bout of sulkiness but rarely does it display such utter gloom as it did tonight

Shock. Pain. Anger. Hurt. Sorrow. Utter misery. It was the dark night of the soul for Anil Kumble. Everything crumbled around him. In the end, he looked helpless. We have seen him get angry, dejected and even look very miserable but rarely has he looked so helpless. You almost felt sorry for him. It was the night when Suresh Raina hit a violent 94 and Albie Morkel bowled a quality spell, but it was Kumble's visage that stayed with you. It was like looking at a drowning man gasping for breath and slowly realising that he is going to go down; that there was to be no escape.

Kumble's first enemy was the rain. It threatened to wash out the game, in which case Chennai would have gone through. As the rain teased, Kumble pottered about the outfield. The clouds eventually relented and the game began. It was the beginning of the dark night when Kumble would be mugged by Murphy's Law.

It all began with a catch. Great catches usually win matches; this one derailed Bangalore. Michael Hussey spiralled one over mid-off and Dale Steyn chose to furiously backpedal. Mistake. The ball had gone so far back that he should have turned around and run to take it as it fell over his shoulder. Instead, he chose to keep backpedalling. At some point he must have known he was going to have a bad landing. He must have hoped it wouldn't be too painful. Unfortunately it was. As Kumble ran towards him he must have got that terrible sinking feeling of doom when he saw Steyn lying motionless.

The pre-match talk had revolved around how Steyn could possibly harass the Chennai middle-order. Instead, we saw Virat Kohli bowling gentle floaters in the seventh over of the game. But Kumble wasn't even allowed that luxury. Kohli's back gave way and he couldn't bowl anymore. Kumble had two holes to fill. And his teammates were widening those into bottomless pits of despair. They dropped catches, they didn't go for catches, they misfielded, they let through byes and they bowled utter tripe.

It was left to Kumble to try and pull off a heroic one-man show. He nearly did it too. He lured Raina, on 18 then, to swipe one to deep midwicket but the young restless Manish Pandey had moved too far inside the boundary even before the shot was played. And the ball of course had to go exactly where he had moved away from. Manish tried to make up with an acrobatic effort but could only save the boundary. Raina had escaped and Kumble was left seething.

Anger was to give way to utter despair. The catalyst came from the most unlikely quarter; old and trusted aide Rahul Dravid. Kumble had beaten Raina in flight again, inducing him to edge towards short third man, but Rahul seemed to suddenly freeze instead of rushing forward. Perhaps he lost the ball in the background. Perhaps he chose safety over valour. Either way, he chose to stop rather that go for the catch. Raina was on 45 then. The game was yet to slip away completely. The camera panned to Kumble, who couldn't even summon up the anger because he seemed surprised and confused about why Dravid didn't go for that catch. In the end an utter glumness settled on his face.

It was the moment when Kumble must have known that it was a night of the devil. It was an endearing moment in some ways. Kumble's face usually mirrors such an intense cocktail of anger, intensity, the fierce intent to win, even the odd bout of sulkiness but rarely does it contain such utter gloom to evoke a feeling of pity in you. Tonight was one of those nights.

Top athletes like Kumble don't like sympathy. He didn't offer any excuse at the press conference. He praised Raina - "It was a very good knock; he made things look easy for it wasn't that easy out there." He hoped Chennai would go on to the win the final. And he said it was one of those nights when nothing went right. That was the biggest understatement of the night.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Senthil on September 28, 2010, 16:55 GMT

    Dhoni is very lucky indeed. Having 3 bowlers in the top 4 of the tournament, and 2 batsmen in the top 5 is very lucky, for sure. What a laugh! I just had to wait this long to post this, because now it is not about RCB at all. CSK have won the CLT20 and handsomely. They strangled both the teams in the semis and the finals. They were focussed on making this memorable for their remarkable franchise. RCB fans should enjoy this as a victory for an IPL team with an Indian captain, rather than crib about how RCB deserved to win. As long as Kumble takes life so seriously, his team will be found wanting in tense situations. He is unimaginably unimaginative, just like Tendulkar. Captain Cool, Dhoni on the other hand, has got it right, and yes, he is lucky to be so intelligent, too.

  • Sibhi on September 26, 2010, 5:32 GMT

    @RogerC - Knew it .... what i was Trying to say was Juz Dravid is Better than the rest in playing Short stuff .... He has pull,Cut to his arsenal .... Yea its sad that most of em are bad ..... i saw Vijay playing commanding Pull Shots But its far From Proven for em ..... needs to prove ...



  • kumar on September 26, 2010, 3:34 GMT

    Hope cries for uthappa and kohli in the national team stops given their unability to perform in important situations and end up producing an embarrasing quality of cricket on display (RCB as a whole). absurd game which was totally one sided. utterly useless!

  • SWAMINATHAN on September 26, 2010, 2:29 GMT

    Rain-storms & Raina-storms ... I feel sorry for Siddhartha Mallya & Co. Anyway, they put up a good fight with their limited resources (3 injuries) ......But My prediction of "namma Pasanga" from Chennai winning the cup is gonna be true ...

  • Roger on September 26, 2010, 1:59 GMT

    @Razor88: It is misleading to say that only Dravid, Sachin or Laxman are the only ones who can play short pitch bowling in India. In fact, these 3 duck or sway the short-pitch balls. They don't play shots of them. It will work in test matches and probably some one dayers, but in T20, these 3 players are as bad as others. The last Indian player who scored runs off short pitch balls is Mohinder Amarnath.

  • Shashank on September 25, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    @dineshcc finds the likes of Murali, Bollinger,Ashwin,Morkel as the weakest bowling lineup and likes of Hayden,Dhoni,Hussey,Raina as the weakest batting liup.No doubt he shares his name with probably India's most talented cricketer(Dinesh Karthik) who has been around since 2004 and still not able to cement his place in the team. ... lol

  • Priya on September 25, 2010, 20:18 GMT

    ok guys u need to stop looking at this trophy so seriously. Kumble was always most passionate about winning for india. This article is saying how he has never seen kumble looked so despaired...well thats what happens when u loose a match!! u dont laugh out loud, u gracefully accept the other team has won!! stop making a big thing out of a sad face...its life!!

  • Nagaraja on September 25, 2010, 20:02 GMT

    If Dhoni is lucky, so be it. Let us give him credit for being lucky. Our only expectation is that he should make use of this luck while captaining India and win against opponents having quality bowling instead of just winning on flat, batsman-friendly pithces.

  • Rohit on September 25, 2010, 19:45 GMT

    Kumble did add to his own misery by having Balachandra Akhil as the 12th man.Akhil,a terrible fielder spilled a sitter at deep-midwicket.Mithun should have been the first choice as the substitute.He has fresh legs and a strong arm.This goes to show that most Indian captains have never considered fielding as one of the criterions for selection. Worse is the fact that Akhil got 2 games in this series(Guyana and MI) while young Mithun was warming the benches.Akhil really should not fetaure in RCB's scheme of things.A medium pacer with no variations,a terrible fielder where ever you place him should have made way for a young, aggressive bowler with lots of promise. As far as Dravid's approach to Raina's catch,iam not surprised.He feels that even if he gets there,he is going to drop it anyway.Remember the simplest of catches he dropped against Guyana??Looks very nervous to me on the field.Age is getting better of him

  • Sibhi on September 25, 2010, 18:45 GMT

    Oh sorry Forgot abt the Short Stuff ..... All of the Indian Test playing batsman in the present Squad is a Suspect in Short Stuff Except For DRAVID even Sachin or Laxman Can't Match Him So ZIP it guys .... Its all because of the Pitches they have played on ..... Abt Raina ..... he will get better in the Future .... I still rem him in the Early ages of his career ....... HE IS THERE TO STAY

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