When Anil Kumble picked up his 500th Test wicket, against England in Mohaliin 2006, Adam Gilchrist, then in Bangladesh, had hunted down his number to give him a call. Kumble hadn't forgotten the gesture, when he became only the third bowler to break the 600-wicket barrier, and was to jokingly tell Gilchrist: "It would have been great if you had been my 600th victim."
Gilchrist, though, was very much part of the action, watching the moment from the non-striker's end. Kumble, playing his 124th Test, joined his spin colleagues Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan after dismissing Andrew Symonds. He would have seen Kumble appeal, not once but several times. A fastish legbreak caught Symonds' edge, deflected off Mahendra Singh Dhoni's glove before popping up to Rahul Dravid at first slip. Asad Rauf didn't seem too convinced by the appeal but finally raised his finger after a prolonged thought.
Kumble, almost on his haunches during the long appeal, couldn't hide his joy: clenching his fists and punching the air. He was soon mobbed by his team-mates and received a warm applause from a sizeable crowd here. Taking the ball from Rauf, he held it up to the stands and let out the characteristic modest smile.
"It was important we broke through," he said referring to the counter-attacking partnership that Andrew Symonds and Gilchrist had engineered. "After that you had to appeal and look at the umpire to give the decision. I'm happy he did. It was a crucial moment."
While his 400th and 500th wicket came at home, in Bangalore and Mohali respectively, his 600th was achieved on a hot day in Perth. Coming on to bowl in the 28th over, on a pitch more suited to pace than spin, he was smashed for ten runs in his first over before returning to undo Symonds with some extra bounce.
It was a happy coincidence that Rahul Dravid was the catcher. The duo, state-mates in Karnataka, have a combined tally of 54 victims. Both proud competitors, they bring a similar work ethic to the table. "It's an irony that Rahul had to take the catch, he's probably taken the most catches off my bowling."
Kumble talked about the hard times. With a smile on his face, he spoke of his experience as a 13-year-old, trying to impress the selectors in just a couple of balls. "It's the kind of selection we have back home when you're a 13 or 14 year old," he said. "You have 1000 kids showing up to display their talent. It's probably why I became a bowler. You get more than three or four balls, unlike a batsman."
Long been riled for not being a big spinner of the ball, Kumble has always valued substance to style. "It's all about creating doubts in the batsmen's mind," he said, "and at the end of the day you needn't bother about how you do it. You can spin the ball, bowl straight, swing it, bounce it ... as long as you create doubts, you'll be fine ... Right through my career there have been a lot of criticisms but these critics are important to egg you on."