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In honour of Jumbo

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Anil_Kumble_India_cricketIndia has always been known for the magical spinners it has produced. They have always enchanted us with their magical spells and have left behind a long lasting impression even after their retirements. Erapali Prasanna, Bishen Singh Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar are some of the legendary spinners who tormented opposition batsmen for years and ultimately left a legacy behind for the coming generations to look upon them as their idols. However, It was on this day in 1970 when India was blessed with the birth of a boy in present day Bengaluru, who would later go on to become India’s ace spinner in the coming years. He was none other than India’s very own ‘Jumbo’-Anil Kumble!

 

“Anil wasn’t extraordinarily gifted in the way we normally define it, had to work very hard to get whatever came his way given the cards dealt to him and ended up becoming the best he could ever be.”-  Harsha Bhogle

No one could have ever described Anil Kumble in the way that Harsha Bhogle has! He was not someone who was gifted with some innate natural talent and definitely not someone who had an intimidating character. Yet he was extraordinary in the way he achieved everything with his gentle nature and ability to work hard.

The year was 1990 when a tall and well-built young man with large spectacles made his first appearance for India in the Austral-Asia Cup. It was just the beginning of a saga that would continue for another 18 years down the line. Anil Kumble did not belong to that conventional category of leg spinners who had the ability to spin the ball square like his contemporary Shane Warne. Yet, his gentle variations and bounce generated off the pitch were enough to haunt the batsmen even in their dreams. It was due to his physical stature and nature of bowling that he came to be known as ‘Jumbo’ among the Indian players and fans.

Kumble, a veteran of 619 Test wickets and 337 ODI wickets, has made the world sit up and down with many jaw dropping and eye-catching performances. Be it his bowling spell of 10-74 against Pakistan in 1999 or the match when he bowled with a broken jaw, the world has always seen something special and gritty from Kumble. It was only Jim Laker who had the record of claiming all ten wickets in an innings before Kumble did it in 1999. When the world would have expected someone like Shane Warne, arguably the best spinner of that time, to achieve this feat after the Jim Laker, it was only Kumble-the guy often criticized for his unconventional leg spin, who achieved this rare feat.

Years went by and Kumble broke record after record. It was in 2004 that Kumble became India’s highest wicket-taker in Tests surpassing Kapil Dev’s record of 434 wickets and that was just the beginning. By the time he retired in 2007, he already had over 600 wickets to his name in Tests, thus topping India’s bowling chart as the highest wicket-taker and the third highest in the world.

Besides being an ace with the ball, Kumble also was a good Test batsman lower down the order. Although, he didn’t have a century to flaunt in his record even at the near end of his career, it was in 2007 and in his 118th Test match that he finally scored his maiden Test century against England. At the age of 37, Kumble still was working hard and his century was testimony to the fact that nothing can stop you from achieving what you want if you have the right temperament and desire to work hard.

Kumble was not someone who would be afraid of challenges as he took up the captaincy of the Indian cricket team when no one was eager to take it. It was in 2007 that he was appointed the captain of the Indian Test team. Kumble lead India for a short period of 14 Tests winning three, drawing six and losing five before retiring in 2008 with a grand farewell.

The story didn’t end there as Jumbo would again return to international cricket eight years down the line in 2016; this time not as a player but as a coach of the Indian national cricket team. In a short span of his career as a coach Kumble has made a bright start winning two back-to-back Test Series against West Indies and New Zealand. And now he looks good to win more with a talented bunch of cricketers at his disposal.

In a country of a billion people where every individual needs to have an X-factor to stand out among the others, Anil Kumble was the best thing that could have ever happened to India. With his indomitable spirit, hard work and determination, he proved that even an ordinary person can become extra-ordinary if he is willing to go that extra mile to achieve greatness. Kumble will always be an inspiration to the budding cricketers and his legacy will always be there scripted on the golden pages of Indian History. Happy Birthday Jumbo!

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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