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!