Monday, 24 November 2008

Anil Kumble - India's Greatest Cricketer

The retirement of Jumbo comes as a shock to me (well not really, considering the way he has been hounded the past month). And my admiration for the man goes up by one more notch. Here's why. He is the captain of the team, in the midst of a winning series against the World's No. 1 team. The next team India would play is England at home. Tailor made for Anil Kumble, right? Jumbo doesn't think so. Without any dramatics, long farewells, emotional press conferences, he just says - thats it. That's Anil Kumble for you. That's Jumbo - a man with a jumbo sized heart and humility and very little ego or drama. He didnt play well, he quit since he wasn't getting any younger at 38.

But he doesnt lack in emotion, he just doesn't care to wear it on the field. Look at the venue, where he decides to announce his retirement. Feroze Shah Kotla - the venue where he has taken 10 wickets in an innings.

Many may not agree with me here, but I would rate Jumbo among the Top 5 bowlers ever and the Best Cricketer India has produced. Let me just state a few statistics to establish my claim. I am not talking of his unique spirit here in bowling with a broken jaw, a bandaged finger, of the statesmanship shown on India's last tour of Australia. All these together would catapult him into the best cricketer ever league!

Anil Kumble has 619 wickets in a career spanning 18 years in a highly competitive sport like cricket! Remember the careers of talented spinners Sivaramakrishnan, Hirwani, Maninder Singh, Venkatapathy Raju? Of course you remember them! They are all over TV and in the selection committees! Now you understand where Kumble stands! He was definitely never touted as talented as any of them! He just quietly played 18 years, took 619 wickets over 132 Tests and spun India to victory after victory at home and abroad!

Its not just the longevity of his career that makes him the greatest ever Indian cricketer. Heard of someone called Shane Warne? Joking. Shane Warne is treated at par with a legend in Australia. There is no doubt of his standing in Australia or World Cricket. Look at his statistics. Warne has 708 wickets from 145 Tests. Mightily impressive, wouldnt you say? Of course it is! Now look at Anil Kumble's statistics. 619 wickets from 132 Tests. Just 89 less wickets from 13 less Tests!

Kumble is a legend not just for the length of his career or the wickets he has taken. Its for the wins he has given India. And its not just at home. Of course at home Anil Kumble was the King. But he was instrumental in many of India's memorable wins abroad after 2002, wins at Headingley, Adelaide, Multan and Kingston. He took 20 wickets at Australia to be the highest wicket taker there in the last tour to Oz. Winning 43 of the 118 he played, he was undoubtedly India's greatest match-winner. Before 2002, he never had a score to bowl to abroad. Its only after 2002 after Rahul Dravid started his golden run, Kumble could bowl his bouncers and googly with aplomb. And the results were for all to see. Here are some of Kumble's match winning statistics.

Career Statistics Here

For me some of the greatest Kumble moments were his leading the side to win at Perth (India were supposed to be blown aaway there!), his century at Oval (Murali and Warne havent got one!), his ten wicket haul versus Pakistan at Delhi, his playing with a bandaged broken jaw at West Indies...

For me he is real God of Indian cricket!