Anil Kumble has announced his retirement from cricket, saying the finger injury he sustained on the third day of the Test helped him make his decision. The news was made public minutes after the tea break on the final day; Kumble then bowled four overs before the match was called off as a draw.
"The body was asking questions every day," he said. "It was not easy to keep bowling the way I have been bowling the last 18 years, to keep going. The injury I had on the third day probably helped me make the decision."
The captaincy now passes on to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who already leads India in the shorter forms of the game.
Kumble made the formal announcement at the post-match press conference, at which he received a standing ovation from the journalists crowded into the room. He doffed his cap and sat down to speak to the media one last time as an India player and captain. He stayed composed throughout the conference, which took place minutes after the emotional farewell he had received on the field.
Kumble had decided to quit last night but took his time in letting his team-mates know, lest it took their focus off the match. "I did inform my team-mates, who I have played with all these years, one by one during the day," Kumble said. "Then I informed the chairman of the selection committee just after lunch. I did inform the board as well."
It took a "nasty injury" to finally push Kumble into retirement. He has had a shoulder injury before, and has been troubled by it, but at 38, the "pretty deep" cut proved too much. "You could see the flesh. There are 11 stitches," Kumble said. "The doctor said I had to undergo the procedure under general anesthesia. I told him, 'If you give me general anesthesia I'll lose time, I'd like to go there and bowl.' He said 'Look, it's a medical decision, not a cricketing decision."
"The stitches will come out only on November 8, which is the third day of the Nagpur Test. I don't think it was easy for me to bat or field. I wouldn't have been 100% and I didn't want to let the team down. Anyway I had more or less decided this would be my last series."
Kumble has never given the team less than 100% and he said wanted to be remembered most for that. "I definitely put the team above self, right through my career," Kumble said. "I believe Indian cricket has certainly gone further from the time when I started, in terms of results, not just in India but also abroad.
"And I am confident that with this young team, with a few of the experienced senior players still being a part of the team, we have an opportunity to dominate world cricket and be No. 1 in all forms of the game. In one-day cricket we're pretty close to the top, in Twenty20 we're No. 1, I don't think we are that far behind in Tests as well and it will be great to see that happen."
An important part of that surge towards Test leadership would be a series win against Australia. Kumble said he will there in Nagpur to see whether the team can do that. "Ideally I would have liked to finish in Nagpur," Kumble said. "At this moment, I don't think I will be traveling with the team, but I will certainly go to Nagpur. I want to see Sourav's last Test match, and also wish Laxman on his 100th. And win the series. That is the ultimate goal for all of us. I would like to be a part of that."
It has been a long road for Kumble - 18 years - on which he has come across many highs and lows. "I had to go through a lot of things in the early part of my career," Kumble said. "People questioning my ability, my fitness, my form, my bowling and the effectiveness of my bowling. I had to go through that then, now right at the end of my career, and even in the middle.
In that sense, after the shoulder surgery [in 2001], I've done exceptionally well to have played eight years. To have bowled so many overs and to have got so many wickets, the second phase was certainly more satisfying. We had a lot more victories, not just in India but also abroad: especially the Australia series in 2004, the Pakistan series after that, West Indies and England where we won. All of them were a challenge and to come out triumphant was special."
The retirement decision, in the end, came easy for Kumble. "The body tells you how far you can go," he said. "I kept challenging - as a cricketer you are always competitive, always saying, 'I can do it'. Whether you can or not only time will tell. I kept getting responses from the body saying that you can't. I fought that, I took various painkillers and tried all sorts of things, but ultimately one injury to the hand said 'enough now'. I was also not bowling at my best and you want to keep performing at a level that you are satisfied with. That was not happening so I thought this was the right time to move on."
For a moment as emotional as this, Kumble ended on a humorous note. "At this moment I would like to thank my family, my parents, who gave me all the encouragement, supported me and asked me to bowl legspin. Although I am still trying to find out how I can bowl legspin.
"Thank you all for all the support I have received right through my career. I've built some great friendships and met some fantastic people along the way. You'll probably start calling me from tomorrow for quotes about somebody else. Give me a break for a couple of days and I'll certainly take all your calls." Like he has unfailingly answered the Indian team's calls for the last 18 years.