I have no regrets. Whatever happens, happens for good. I have done everything I could on a cricket field. 10 wickets in a match… A century… 600 wickets… Captaincy… I have done everything.
– Anil Kumble after retirement
He missed adding ‘and beyond – to perfection’ to those above words – or did he leave it to me to add them, the modest soul that I have come to know him to be?
To be geographically accurate, Kumbla (often referred to as Kumble or Kumbala in the local dialect) is a small town located thirteen kilometers to the north of the Kasaragod town in the similarly named district of Kerela in India. Once the seat of the Kumbla kings, it lost out its war of independence to the British in 1799 and gave up its throne in exchange of a meager annual pension.
Approximately 190 years later, a young descendant of the town, though born in a faraway city of Bangalore, decided to take revenge on the British for the injustice met out to his ancestors. When a lanky bespectacled boy of 19 years took to the field at Old Trafford, (England) in 1990 India v. England series, little did Allan Lamb know about the cycle that was about to start. From the first scoreboard that read caught at silly point – bowled by Kumble to the milestone of the scoreboard which read caught at slip – bowled by Kumble for his 600th wicket (of Andrew Symond), it has been a long journey and truly the one worth telling to all our grandchildren and generations beyond.
When Kumble scored his maiden test century Harsha Bhogle had commented – ‘It is perhaps the most romantic moment of Indian cricket.’
Through the 18 years of his roller coaster career, I believe that our Jumbo must have heard many praises, countless critiques – but yet to me there’s no other quote but the above, which suits him perfectly. One look at his love for the game and you would know that perhaps there’s no other romantic affair that could be so pure and committed so that to stand all the tests of time.
While I have admired many cricketers time and again more than Kumble, he has somewhere remained special to me in ways more than one. For a child like me who started her arithmetic lessons in life with her dad teaching her out of the cricket scoreboard, Kumble to me with his on field and off field charisma came to be one those out of the book long lost cricketers who had been described in the old Wisden volumes my uncle had introduced to me.
In life we meet professionals who awe us with their skills, who awe us with their passion for a hobby, but then again you wonder how is he behind the closed doors? To fit that image perfectly would be to describe this six feet something who is not one of only three bowlers to have taken more than 600 Test wickets, a advisory chairman to the wildlife board and a father of three who discusses strategies while changing his son’s diapers in the dressing room.
He started off as a medium pacer before he decided to switch and tread the path which in the early 90’s even the angels dared to tread! But then one look at all those years that have passed by and you would bow down to such a switch and again look with awe at one of the most unoxthodox leg spinner who stands before you, all humbled like the boy next door.
There were some like him too the critiques say, but then the likes of Venkatpathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan faded away too fast. Yes, Javagal Srinath did stay and manage to create havoc for sometime, but Kumble lived on. Reasons if you seek for the same – galore! While some critics attribute it to his natural skills, the others to his adapting the 3D’s of the game to the core, and majority to persistence, hard work and passion, there are a few like my father who beyond all this attribute his game to his being an engineer!
Years ago when I deliberated over taking up my passion as a career, my father, a mechanical engineer by profession, was not really ecstatic. While today the avenues galore, those 90’s days were tough for girls taking on unconventional field. So as my father coached me to go for a professional degree that winter evening I recall him talking about Kumble, about another engineer like him who took the precision and accuracy he learnt at his lectures in college to a different level altogether. To him it was his education, which somewhere helped Kumble to be the meticulous tweaker that he is and bowl darting deliveries with googly and leg spinners as his variations. As I debated on whether my professional education would ever contribute to my passion, he gifted me CD’s with games designed by Stump Vision. He led me to the knowledge of the various Manhattan curves and the Worms, which Kumble’s company had designed for the betterment of the game. He introduced me to a man who was not only precise and dedicated to the game on field but also off the field where he put his educated mind to use. And trust me today as I stand here, I know he wasn’t wrong and neither was the example he had cited to me!
If I have followed Kumble’s ‘perfect 10’ against Pakistan in 1999 haul with breath holding suspense, somersaulted when he scored that match winning 88 in 1996 – a partnership to remember with my idol Azhar against South Africa, celebrated his maiden century via a thin edge through Matt Prior’s legs with estatic clebrations, there has been a moment when I have felt humbled by his Indian-ness. When the news channels followed his heroic journey back home for corrective surgery, the plastered man on the screen, who despite pins in his jaw had uprooted Lara’s wicket, spoke oodles about partiotism. He then was the picture of the perfect smiling assassin and of winning the battle his ancestors had failed to almost two centuries back. He still was when he bid goodbye at Kotla in 2008 doing the final rounds – when I looking at the television screen had wispered that ‘You came, you saw, you conquered- you were, you are and you shall always remain!’.
So does he have a life he’s lived out of a dream book? Guess not; guess this is what we shall never know. The apparent regret although at times as told by him is not to have a consistent spinner from the other end to support him from the other end, a true professional he has never let personal regrets rule his life on the ground. If he’s done a cameo in a flick or if he’s been a part of one of India’s most prestigious photography campaigns he’s never wanted media to cover things close to his heart, yet not close to cricket!
An epitome of strength for all the juniors around, a mentor who despite his own ill health was there at the nets to train the young Harbhajan, he’s also the one during whose over everyone is wary of a slip – for a single error and Jumbo’s stares are sure to burn you down they swear.
He’s one who’s handled all the deadly deliveries which his cricketing life has bowled to him. And just like all the deliveries in his repertoire, the googly that zips through the batsman’s defence stands to be his potent weapon, his cool and confident demeanor with the un-daunting belief in his ability and commitment towards the game has seen him through 18 years which hasn’t been a breeze. If at times he was told that he never really ‘turn and flip’ on the pitch, other times hinted at the poorly managed team under him. But then the composure with which he handled his critiques and all those who raised eyebrows at his team during the Harbhajan-Symonds issue, spoke about how matured he had come to be as a player!
A lot has transpired within those 124 Indian test caps he has adorned, but still he has emerged out to be one of the cleanest cricketers this game has ever seen. He has strived to be the flag bearer of the dying art of spin in the world – he has been the reason while thousands of kids have for once picked up the ball just to see whether they can ‘turn’ it like Kumble! It didn’t matter to them then if the headlines of newspapers lying strewn on the floor carried snippets of how Kumble couldn’t really spin, for to them the man who created havoc on screen was more than mere printed black critical letters. And so those newspapers were picked up instead to gleam and shine the ball and try to bowl the straight one, the flipper ‘Kumble’ style!
He’s stuck to the basic principles of the game of basing it on the doctrine of line and length, to the basic principle of life of keeping it simple and honest and to the basic principle, which his profession demands of being the gentleman, which is usually associated with the game of cricket but sadly being lost now!
Although the stadiums look a bit emptier now that he is not there to bowl is 6424th over, but then again the cult called ‘Kumble’ is to live on amongst the people who love him. He has lived a life to win a battle of his own kind for his country – shut the critiques up who had once commented that spinners like him wouldn’t last two matches to prove that he’s here to stay and be remembered for decades more than two that he ruled the ground – instead for an entire lifetime to come!
And so after many years when sitting by the fire to narrate to my children stories about heroes of our times, there’ll be a story about ‘Mera wala cricketer – Anil Kumble’ aka ‘Jumbo’ who apart from his unusual shoe size has indeed left quite big a pair of shoes to fill with his aura on and off the field!
So, here’s to the true Man in Blue – Cheers and Kudos!!!!
This entry is a part of the contest organised by Blog Adda and Canvera for winning Anil Kumble’s latest pen down – The Wide Angle. I know this might not be upto standards but couldn’t help but pen this tribute.
This entry is posted as a part of the Contest by BlogAdda.com