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Anil Kumble, in the course of his ten wicket haul at Kanpur, became only the third Indian bowler to cross the 250 wicket mark. Kumble is the second spinner and first wrist spinner to achieve this feat, having overhauled the tally of his legendary predecessor from Karnataka, B.S.Chandrasekhar, in the First Test at Mohali. Since Kumble is a very similar type of bowler to Chandra, it would be interesting to compare their careers.
Chandra was the faster of the two, indeed at times he was the fastest bowler in the side! His stock ball was the top-spinner which fizzed through and he also bowled the googly but he rarely bowled the leg break. He extracted a lot of bounce because of his extra pace and his high arm action. Indeed as Ray Illingworth said he bowled a quicker one that was a genuine bouncer.
Kumble, like Chandra, is not an orthodox leggie and he too relies on the ball that nips quickly off the pitch and goes straight on. The googly is another weapon in his armoury and he used it to devastating effect at Kanpur.
But while there is not much to choose between their career records, statistically, Kumble's is slightly better. However while Chandra succeeded on all types of wickets, Kumble has built up a reputation of being a match winner on friendly tracks at home that are made to order.
The comparative figures between the two bowlers make for interesting reading. Chandra took 242 wickets in 58 Tests at an average of 29.74. Kumble has taken 253 wickets in 55 Tests at an average of just over 27. Now to the break up of wickets taken at home and away. Chandra took 142 wickets in 32 Tests at home at 27.69 apiece. Away, Chandra took 100 wickets in 26 Tests at an average of 32.66. Kumble has played 28 Tests at home in which he has taken 157 wickets at 21.31 apiece. He has played 27 Tests abroad in which his haul is 96 wickets at an average of 36.83.
Chandra has taken five wickets in an innings at home eight times and 10 wickets in a match once. The break up is idential for Tests he played abroad. As regards Kumble, in home Tests, he has taken five wickets in an innings ten times and ten wickets in a match three times. Away from home, Kumble has taken five wickets in an innings four times but has not taken ten wickets in a match even once.
A glance at Chandra's performance abroad shows that he played an important role in four Indian victories in four different lands. His 6-38 bowled India to victory at The Oval in 1971. He also bagged 6 wkts in an innings in two Indian overseas triumphs in 1976 against New Zealand at Auckland and West Indies at Port of Spain. And his 12-104 at Melbourne in 1977-78 against an Australia denuded of its Packer stars was another reminder of his value to the side.
Kumble has shown his mettle abroad as seen during his tour to South Africa in 1992-93. He followed it up with a brilliant season with Northants in 1995 when he was the only bowler to top 100 wickets. But on India's subsequent tour to England in 1996 he failed to reproduce that form. Though he did have two five wicket hauls in an innings at Kingston and Port of Spain on the 1997 tour of the Caribbean, he was by this time largely sorted out by international batsmen who treated him as a medium pacer.
There have been several ups and downs in Kumble's career since. His ten wicket haul in an innings against Pakistan earlier this year should have heralded a new lease of life for Kumble but disappointingly for him he lost his place in the one day side later in the year.
While the Kanpur haul will have done Kumble's confidence a world of good, the Australian tour that follows is the ideal opportunity to prove that he is not merely a bad-wicket bowler. With the googly now becoming his main strike delivery and with the challenge of going one-on-one with Shane Warne in his backyard looming ahead, Kumble is ready to bowl for a place in the pantheon of Indian spin legends.