Spinning his way to glory

When India take the field at Ahmedabad for the third and final Test against Sri Lanka, Anil Kumble, the country's highest wicket-taker, will play his 100th Test. Cricinfo takes a look at some of the highlights of a charismatic career

Jamie Alter
Jamie Alter
When India take the field at Ahmedabad for the third and final Test against Sri Lanka, Anil Kumble, the country's highest wicket-taker, will play his 100th Test. Cricinfo takes a look at some of the highlights of a brilliant career

A bespectacled mechanical engineer bowls against South Africa in 1992 © Getty Images
Debut v England, 1990
A bespectacled and studious-looking Kumble makes his Test debut against England at Old Trafford in 1990. Bowling first change, he takes 3 for 105 - his first wicket is Allan Lamb, snared at silly point for 38 - as England rack up 519. Goes wicketless in the second innings, and does not play in the third Test. An inconspicuous entrance into Test cricket, and Kumble does not get another opportunity until more than two years later.
Putting a spin on things v Delhi, 1992
Playing for Rest of India against Delhi, Kumble takes 13 for 138 in the Irani Trophy game, a performance that the selectors cannot ignore when the team for the tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa is selected shortly after. The Feroze Shah Kotla, as only time will so beautifully tell, proves to be Kumble's fortress as the years progress.
First five-wicket haul v South Africa, 1992
Back in the Test side after a long gap, Kumble's 6 for 53 - from 44 overs complete with 22 maidens - dismisses South Africa for 252 in its second innings during the second Test at Johannesburg in November of 1992. Five of his victims are bowled, beaten either by his zip off the pitch or else frustrated into playing across the line by his accuracy. The match is drawn, but the wily legspinner proves he is here to stay.
Man of the Series v England, 1993
Plays his first home Test series, against England, and also produces his first series-winning performance. He takes 21 wickets in three Tests, and establishes himself as India's frontline spinner. Opens the bowling in the second Test at Chennai - trapping Robin Smith leg before for 17 - but it is his second inning's 6 for 64 that really leaves a mark. Admits that the first delivery he taught himself was the flipper, the lethal ball that tends to embrass the Test world's batting elite, and it is with this gem that he runs through England, despite Chris Lewis' best efforts.

Anil Kumble has been an irrepressible force at home © Getty Images
50th wicket v Zimbabwe, 1993
His 8 wickets in the match - including 5 for 70 in the second innings - helps India to an innings and 13-run victory over Zimbabwe in a one-off Test at the Kotla, Kumble crossing 50 wickets in the process, in only his 10th match. After helping force Zimbabwe to follow-on, Kumble licks his lips, gives the ball a flip in his nimble hands, and takes centre stage.
Homespun goods v Sri Lanka, 1994
Takes his first 10-wicket haul, in his 14th Test. 11 wickets in the match, replete with his first seven-wicket haul, gives India a thumping win over Sri Lanka at Lucknow, and Kumble, 23, his first Man of the Match award. Bounding in, shoulders arched and eyes ablaze with intent, Kumble is a sight to behold on the third and fourth days, sending down over after over of fizzing, ripping legspin that utterly confounds the hapless Sri Lankans. Four vital scalps in the first innings forces the tourists to follow on, only for Kumble to relentlessly continue his mastery - despite a bleeding nose and heat exhaustion - on the fourth day.
100th wicket v New Zealand, 1995
Takes his 100th Test wicket, that of Martin Crowe, in his 21st Test, in front of his home crowd at Bangalore. Complements his 4 for 39 in the first innings with 5 for 81 in the second, as a struggling New Zealand side succumb for 233. His 100th, 300th and 400th wickets all come at this venue, to the immense pleasure of the supportive Bangalore fans.
Perfect Ten v Pakistan, 1999
Undoubtedly Kumble's finest moment on the cricket field, becoming only the second bowler, after Jim Laker, to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings, claiming 10 for 74 in the second innings against Pakistan at Delhi. Strikes decisively to dismiss Shahid Afridi and Ijaz Ahmed off successive deliveries after Pakistan, chasing a record 420 for victory, begin with a century partnership. Wasim Akram, the second man in the innings to survive a hat-trick ball, becomes Kumble's tenth victim by pushing a catch to short leg. History is made, and India gain their first Test win over Pakistan for 19 years.
250 and counting v New Zealand, 1999
When he traps Matthew Horne, New Zealand's opener, leg before in the second innings of the Kanpur Test, Kumble completes his 250 wickets - the fastest Indian to do so. Becomes just the third Indian bowler after Kapil Dev (434 wickets in 131 Tests) and Bishan Singh Bedi (266 wickets in 67 Tests) and the 21st bowler (fifth spinner) in Test history to achieve this milestone. Playing to his strength and seldom offering any width to the batsmen, Kumble's 6 for 67 shatters New Zealand's top order in its second innings, setting India up for a clinical eight-wicket win inside four days. Match figures of 10 for 134 earn him another Man of the Match award, and as India go on to win the series, Kumble is fittingly dubbed Man of the Series for his 20 wickets.
English summer v England, 2002
Kumble, often derided for being ineffective in away Tests, takes 7 for 159 in the third Test against England at Headingley, as India win by an innings and 46 runs. In a fine fifth-day spell, Kumble provides the killer blows, removing century-maker Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart, as India snuff out England's dream of a miracle escape by completing a series-leveling win. This performance comes as a forceful reminder to his critics as Kumble, who goes past Allan Donald's tally of 330 wickets, proves that he can win India matches abroad.

Anil Kumble is all smiles after taking eight wickets against Australia at Sydney © Getty Images
Unbreakable v West Indies, 2002
A fine testament to the determination of the man. Nursing a broken jaw - heavily bandaged from beneath the jaw, over his head and across the back of it - Kumble takes the field on the third day of the fourth Test at St. John's and sends down 14 numbing overs, dismissing one Brian Charles Lara lbw with one that rips from off. None can deny the efforts of Kumble, whose grit and resolve are there for all to see. The match ends in a tepid draw, and Kumble flies home - a hero, no less - to have his jaw sorted out.
Impeccable Kumble v Australia, 2003-04
Gets a chance to play the second Test against Australia after Harbhajan Singh is injured, and delivers one of his best performances, taking 24 wickets over three Tests as India draw the series. Inspired and inspirational on this tour, Kumble's spells at Adelaide - ignore the runs, his 5 for 154 reigns Australia in magnificently - and Sydney - where he almost single-handedly bowled India to victory on a final day dominated by Steve Waugh's farewell - are among the best by an Indian overseas. Throughout the series, Kumble demonstrated that he could be as potent a strike bowler overseas as at home, and it was befitting that one colossus (Kumble) claimed the other (Waugh) in a thrilling final day's play.
Paving the way to glory v Pakistan, 2004
Four wickets on the fourth day of the third and final Test at Rawalpindi scripts India's first ever Test victory in Pakistan. With India's young pace brigade putting in a stunning performance on day one, Kumble is, surprisingly, left in the shadows. On the fourth day, however, he comes back for the kill, dealing swift, crushing blows at the death to submit the hosts to an emphatic innings and 131-run defeat. The series produces exciting cricket all the way and consistent performances from Kumble - who again tops the wickets tally for both sides - helps India break the damning barrier of a first overseas series win in well over a decade.

Anil Kumbe celebrates his 434th Test wicket © Getty Images
400th wicket v Australia, 2004
Takes his 400th wicket in his 85th Test, against Australia at Bangalore, bowling Simon Katich off the hip, becoming the first Indian spinner to do so. Pumping his fists and losing himself in the embrace of his team-mates, Kumble, before his home crowd, evokes a lasting image of a hero destined for this mark. "Obviously another 35 wickets is probably the target...my immediate goal. I just like to keep getting wickets and I am feeling good at the moment," says the 33-year-old Kumble after getting to the milestone on the opening day. Australia win the match by 217 runs, but Kumble, still donning the withered, faded cap handed to him in 1990, holds his head high and continues to bound in, irrepressible as only Kumble can be.
Drawing level v South Africa, 2004
Kumble, in his 90th Test, equals Kapil Dev's record of most Test wickets by an Indian bowler, against South Africa at Eden Gardens. Achieves the feat when he has last-man Makhaya Ntini caught by Rahul Dravid in the slip cordon for 12 to signal the end of the South African second innings, setting up another Indian victory on the fifth day. A grand achievement for a legend who serves his country unfailingly, and whose dedication and determination help him turn up day after day and perform with unflinching consistency.
Going past Kapil v Bangladesh, 2004
Goes past Kapil Dev as India's leading wicket-taker with the wicket of Mohammad Rafique, trapped in front of the stumps, on the opening day of the first Test against Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu Stadium. Needing just one wicket to overtake Kapil before the start of the match, Kumble takes two to boost his Test tally to 436. Has a chance of a hat-trick after removing Tapash Baisya via a catch at first slip but Mashrafe Mortaza safely defends the fifth ball of his 12th over. Accolades pour in from current and former cricketers alike, including a congratulatory message from Kapil himself.

Anil Kumble leaves the field after his 6 for 72 routed Sri Lanka at the Kotla © Getty Images
The colossus delivers again v Pakistan, 2005
Six wickets on the final day at Kolkata scripts a splendid 195-run win over archrivals Pakistan, giving them a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series. Despite a belligerent onslaught from Shahid Afridi that propels Pakistan to an ominous start, Kumble holds his nerve to dismiss the swashbuckling pathan just before stumps on day four, and returns the following day to skittle the tourists out for 226. Stands tall with 10 in the match, his 7 for 63 being the standout bowling performance of the match. Once again, Kumble proves that at home, there is no greater matchwinner.
Just another day at the Kotla v Sri Lanka, 2005
Playing his 99th Test, Kumble takes 10 wickets for the eighth time in his glorious career, and hands India a comprehensive 188-run victory over Sri Lanka in the second Test at Delhi. Goes past Muttiah Muralitharan as the bowler with the most caught and bowled dismissals with a stunning, session-turning return catch off Marvan Atapattu on the fourth evening. Two more wickets on the final day signal a thumping win, and Kumble heads to Ahmedabad with the mantle of India's premier matchwinner resting lightly on his shoulders.

Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo