Kumble Shocks Nation with Kotla Farewell

November 2, 2008

It was a regular Sunday afternoon. The spirited Kotla crowds were cheering the stroke play of Laxman and Ganguly’s trademark six. Suddenly they fell very quiet. No, it was not the fall of an Indian wicket. Anil Kumble, the King of Kotla, had just announced that he would retire at the end of the day’s play.

Kumble did not shock the Delhi crowd alone, but shell-shocked a cricketing nation, just like he bamboozled batting greats throughout his career. We all knew it was coming, and soon, but it seemed to fans to come out of the blue. Why you may ask? Perhaps because there was no time to let it sink; maybe because he has been such a regular fixture in an Indian line up; perhaps because we admire him so much; perhaps because this is the end of a Golden Era in India cricket. The numbness and lumps in the throat are justified for this is no mere bowler. This is Anil Kumble. The Kumble who took all 10 wickets in one innings; the Kumble who took over 600 wickets in all; the Kumble who bowled with a broken jaw; the Kumble who never gives up; the Kumble whose statesmanlike captaincy through an acrimonious tour of Australia made him the best ambassador of the gentleman’s game; the Kumble who bowled with a stitched up finger and the Kumble who took his last international wicket from a return catch with an injured hand.

Kumble, the cricketer, has been special to me in many ways. Aside of inspiring me to experiment spin bowling with a tomato, he’s done much inspire any average Joe that with hard work, one can scale great heights as Anil Kumble’s career is a tribute to this. As a bespectacled young man who took the field, he did not take the cricketing world by storm. He did not spike to success either. Kumble’s career progress has been almost boringly gradual, one nurtured by sweat, blood, toil, unrelenting hard work, a craftsman’s talent and soldier’s spirit. Yet underneath it all, there is a good human being, a man who managed the impossible task of staying clear of controversy in a cricketing nation that thrives on and devours it with voracious appetite. His manner was distinctly south Indian: low-key, polite, and humble. His success is testament to the fact that one does not need showmanship or bravado to reach great heights. All that is required is a committed soul that always gave a hundred percent to the task at hand. Success will automatically follow.

Dravid and teamates throne Kumble

Dravid and teamates throne Kumble. Picture Source: Cricinfo

To an extraordinary man, one of the Fabulous Five of Indian cricket, and an excellent ambassador of the gentleman’s game, here is a shoddy free verse of praise:

Oh Captain, My Captain!
You have stunned us all
With your adieu today
Created a void
that will take more
than just talent to attempt to fill.

Though we shall cry a river today
we know that you deserve better
For you are a man who’s won us
so many matches
given us so much joy and
made us proud to be Indians

We will forever remember
the rhythmic stride
the baritone voice
the “got-cha” celebration
and the Jumbo spirit

While you may be missing
From the cricket field
we will take pride and solace
that when the name of bowling
legends are flashed across
the screens in the years to come
we will read the name
Anil Kumble
etched with a grace that is
gentlemanly and so wholesomely Indian.

Hail Kumble!


India Draws – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5, 1st Test, Bangalore

October 13, 2008

After what seemed like an eternity, India has managed not to lose a match batting 4th. I had mentally written them off and that mostly due to the poor show in Sri Lanka. I’m still trying to tweak Cricinfo’s statsguru to spit me the results of India’s draw percent when batting second. I’m pretty sure this must be low (esp in the last 3 years). From memory I recall only 2 from the last 3 years – the one at Lords (which really shouldn’t count) and one against South Africa.

Going by that, this is an achievement. But what that also says is that the Aussies have lost some of their sting without McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist (behind the stumps). Haddin has a long way to go. Watson, Haddin, Cameron White (who also plays for Bangalore Royal Challengers) don’t really strike me as great Test cricketers. Unless they go the Symonds way with their game, we may see some mediocre results from them in the near future.

As for India, NB from Soulberry’s TCWJ puts so succinctly, what seemed so muddled in my mind. To me, here are the worries:

  • Middle order: Granted, we’re getting some stinkers from the umpires from time to time, but the middle order isn’t really on strong footing. There are flashes of brilliance, but only flashes, and that’s causing anxiety. Ganguly seems best of the four at the moment. Doesn’t that tell a story in itself (with due respect to Gangs of course)? Meanwhile at the top order, Gambhir has not had too many answers either.
  • Spin bowling: We all know about Harbhajan’s “I-need-a-wicket-to-start-thinking”. That apart, Kumble has been very worrisome.
  • Fielding: Allright, we’ve never really been a great fielding side, not even when the Fab four where in their prime. Gambhir’s dropped catches were atrocious! So much for the “young-agile-fielding-sides”

Interestingly this time, both teams have seen some decline from previous glory. Can India put a 300 plus total? Can the middle order post 200 runs by themselves? Can India bat better than Australia? Can Australia take 20 wickets? Will they bowl better than the Indian quicks? Strange how it can become isn’t it?

Maybe we will get only 2 results from this series.


Congratulations Indian media, you’ve bettered the Aussies!

October 3, 2008

The Aussies have been very quiet this time. There were no proclamations of whitewash, announcements of thier “targets” and the like. Whether it’s the IPL cash or a new strategy, we might never know. But the Indian media have taken their place with what I like to call “senior ragging”.

The Indian media has the rumour mills working overtime with the “Ganguly retirement deal” and the VRS pact with seniors to plan retirements by December. What’s more appalling is the tone.

“Plan your retirement and you will be accommodated [irrespective of form and performance].”

“We want to give you are farewell, so take it now.”

That was on today’s Times of India. Is there a worse way to disgrace a sportsman? or a self-respecting human being? This is disgusting, Indian media! Shame on you!

If you need more, check this out on cricketnext. If you look through the entire set of picture, you will note that the seniors are “attempting” to take catches and Dhoni plays with the football. Why the uncertainty surrounding the senior’s capability and the certainty around Dhoni’s? Why this exaggerated age bias? Granted some of the Fab Four/Five might be past their prime, but we all see that, and they perhaps know that too. Why the disgraceful tone? Rambling a bit off-topic, what disappoints me the most, is that, we as Indians, historically have been known for “respecting elders” have now seemed to have forgotten our values. Why is young India so rude? This isn’t specific to cricket alone. There’s an obvious age bias in everything. Though, as a youngster, I reap the benefits of it, I think there is something wrong with this.

Meanwhile, a starkly different toned article has surfaced on Cricinfo – this one by Rohit Brijnath. Thank you Mr. Brijnath! In a very romantic article, Brijnath captures the essence of why the Fab four/five are entitled to their “hurt” on being “rubbished off” and told to shut off. They’ve been fighters all along. We’ve always wanted them to be that way. Why are we now expecting them to go tamely? While I’ve had different thoughts on this as late as last fortnight with my bid for a farewell to them, I’ve changed my mind on this matter. Perhaps the most fitting way for them to go in on their own – be that by being dropped or an unprovoked retirement announcement – not by a forced retirement scheme, certainly not with this tone. I also enjoyed Rohit’s nicknames for the Fab five: The Great One, the Precise One, the Defiant One, the Intense One and the Elegant One. Definitely Indian cricket will be different without them and it will take some stomach for some of us fans to read an India scorecard without Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble. But while they’re around, why not treat them with some respect, for all the joy they’ve give us?

With all this, we’re bound for one hell of a series!