In India’s rich cricketing history there have been few bowlers who have managed to create such a significant impact as Anil Kumble has. The lanky leg-spinner from Bangalore remains one of the finest products that the country has produced and shall always be counted amongst the legends of the game in world cricket history.
With close to a 1,000 international wickets, Anil Kumble was one of Indian cricket’s greatest servants and played a pivotal part in countless victories for the team during his time. With a career spanning close to 18 years, Kumble, in his unassuming ways, troubled the best with his famous flippers and leg-breaks and the void he has left behind will be difficult to fill even for the best.
Born in Bangalore on the October 17, 1970, Anil Kumble celebrates his 47th birthday today. On this special day, let us relive some of the best performances by the legendary leg-spinner.
10-74 v Pakistan at Delhi, 1999 (Test):
It simply does not get better than this. In the second Test of Pakistan’s tour to India in early 1999, it was Kumble who completely bulldozed the opposition with a performance of a lifetime. Chasing an improbable target of 420, Pakistan had actually begun pretty well and were 101-0 at one stage. However, the pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla was just starting to generate rip and bounce and Anil Kumble made full use of it. Kumble first removed opener Shahid Afridi and then Ijaz Ahmed off successive balls which opened the floodgates. One batsman after the other succumbed to Kumble’s relentless lines and could not cope with the prodigious bounce he was extracting. Kumble’s last wicket was Pakistani skipper Wasim Akram who edged one to short-leg to give Kumble spectacular figures of 10-74. Those were the best figures by an Indian bowler ever and only the second instance in history – after Jim Laker’s 10-53 – of a bowler taking all 10 wickets in an innings. Courtesy of this phenomenal performance, Pakistan were bundled out for 207 and India achieved a memorable 212-run victory over their arch-rivals.
6-12 vs West Indies at Eden Gardens, 1993 (ODI):
This will undoubtedly rank as the best performance by Kumble in the shorter form of the game. The Hero Cup Final between India and the West Indies was expected to be a cracker of a contest as the West Indies then were a pretty good unit consisting of the likes of Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Carl Hooper and Curtly Ambrose. India, after batting first, had posted a decent 225 from their 50 overs. After the early jolts provided by Kapil Dev, Kumble took over. The wicket was slow and sticky and the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat easily. Run-making was difficult and Kumble thrived on it. It was the leg-spinner’s day as he literally ran through the West Indian lower-middle order and the tail-enders with his flippers, yorkers and faster ones. Kumble finished with 6-12 – then the best ODI figures by an Indian – in just 6.1 overs that gave India a memorable 102-run victory and, with it, the Hero Cup. The Eden crowd went ballistic into the night their trademark ‘torches’ and the country celebrated the triumph with great aplomb.
8-141 v Australia at Sydney, 2004 (Test):
The value of this effort is paramount as it came in overseas conditions and it helped break the myth that Kumble could only perform on tailor-made pitches at home. In the 4th and final Test of India’s tour to Australia in 2003-04, Anil Kumble was all over the Aussies on a flat deck at Sydney. The home side were trying to overhaul India’s mammoth first innings score of 705 and were going well but Kumble stood in their way. The pitch at Sydney had considerable bounce but there was no spin on display. But the Indian leg-spinner troubled the opposition batsmen consistently. He used subtle variations, gave the ball a lot of rip and bowled excellent channels. Even though the batsmen made runs, Kumble did not get bogged down and kept the pressure on and ultimately ended with a terrific 8-141 – his second-best figures in international cricket. While the match ended in a draw, Kumble performance on such a placid surface was pretty exceptional.
6-53 v South Africa, Johannesburg, 1992 (Test):
This effort will always remain special as it came when Kumble was still taking his initial strides in international cricket and was against a pretty robust batting unit. He managed to strangle South Africa in their own den with his spin helped boost his reputation as a bowler across the world. In a low-scoring second Test of the series at Johannesburg, South Africa, in their second innings were attempting to set India a mammoth score to chase. However, a very young Kumble brought their plans to a screeching halt as he ripped through six batsmen with his array of flippers, straighter ones and leg-breaks on a pitch that had enough bite. Interestingly, 5 out of his 6 victims were bowled which gave us a glimpse of how accurate and incisive Kumble can be on his day. South Africa eventually folded for 252 courtesy Kumble’s magnificent spell of 6-53 and the match resulted in a draw. Kumble’s performance, though, was talked about for years to come.
6-72 vs Pakistan, Multan, 2004 (Test):
Kumble loved performing against arch-rivals Pakistan and some of his best performances have come against them. This was another special match-winning effort that helped India achieve an unforgettable victory over the arch-rivals in their own backyard. The 1st Test of India’s historic tour to Pakistan 2003-04 was lit up by Virender Sehwag’s incredible 309 in the 1st innings that had allowed India to set the tone of the match. But it was Anil Kumble who clinched the victory courtesy a special performance on a relatively flat surface. With Pakistan following on on the last day, India needed to get the opposition out quickly. Kumble rose to the occasion and even on a docile Multan wicket, was outstanding with his googlies and subtle variations that bamboozled the batsmen. Like always, Kumble’s bounce troubled them the most and he eventually accounted for six Pakistani wickets. The spinner was especially lethal for the lower-order and finished with 6-72 that resulted in an emphatic and historic innings victory for Team India.