04 November, 2008

Anil Kumble is without doubt India's greatest spinner of all time - not only in terms of wickets but also by being a member of the winning team on more occasions than any other bowler in the history of Indian cricket. Be it Test matches or ODIs, Anil has always been a match-winner. If in Test matches he is a no-nonsense wicket-taking bowler, in ODIs, he can attack and contain at will. Quiet, precise, ruthless - Anil goes about his business of demolishing the opposition with clinical efficiency, based on the simple principles of line and length, and the desire to make the batsman play every ball.

Trained as a mechanical engineer, Anil discovered early the virtues of precision and accuracy, which he has put to telling effect on the field.

Luckily for India, he opted to pursue a career in cricket with equal zest. A strong will and strong Ranji Trophy performances for Karnataka made him force his way into the Indian team. When he was 19, Anil made his debut on 9th August, 1990 against England. Two years later he took his first five-wicket haul (6-53) against South Africa at Johannesburg, to announce his arrival on the world stage. In 1993-94, he bowled a magical ODI spell (6-12) to crush the West Indies in the final of the Hero Cup in Calcutta.

Never termed a classical leg-spinner (primarily because he is not a huge turner of the ball) in the real sense of the word, Anil has proved in his 15 long years in international cricket, that his style was equally effective. With a clever mix of top-spinners, googlies, leg-breaks, flight and a variation of pace, he has outwitted many a batsman. Facing a vary tall spinner, hurling deliveries at short of medium-pace, with every ball on target, can be a very daunting task. As his record suggests, he has won many leg-before-wickets by fooling many batsmen into playing across the line.

The mid-nineties saw the emergence of Anil Kumble as a mature strike bowler. With state team-mates Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad sharing the country's new ball, India finally had variation in its bowling department - pace, swing and spin, and much-needed support for him in the absence of Kapil Dev. But even though he was a proven match-winner, he needed that one performance which would take him to cricketing immortality. It didn't take him long as on an eventful afternoon at the Ferozshah Kotla, in early February of 1999, he single-handedly spun out the entire Pakistan team in the second innings to become only the second bowler in Test match history to capture all 10 wickets in an innings.

Around this period, another prodigious spin-bowling talent emerged in the form of Harbhajan Singh. Funnily, it was Anil who spotted him. Today, they form the most lethal spin combination in the world; and the mighty Australians can vouch for that. Since 2000-01, they have toyed, teased and tormented the Aussies with fantastic results. To do so with such remarkable consistency against the best team in the world speaks volumes.
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