My article on Anil Kumble’s latest exploits, written specifically for Desicritics.org and crossposted here.
There are a couple reasons why Anil Kumble comes to my mind every time I walk around M.G.Road in Bangalore. First, there is this road intersection named after him right in the heart of the city. When I first came to know of it, I was amused to find something like it. Cricket administrations and associations have a habit of naming stands in the stadium on state cricketers who made it big but this is an altogether different way of showing gratitude.
Second, not very far away is Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium. The sixteen runs Kumble made here, in company with Javagal Srinath’s equally valiant thirty, that made India defeat Australia in the third league match of the Titan Cup back in 1996, cast a shadow on an innings that was perhaps one of the best, if not the best, of an illustrious career â€” Mark Taylor’s only century in One Day Cricket. I like to think that the unbeaten innings of 16 runs that Kumble made that very night was his greatest contribution with the bat to the shorter version of the game. In Delhi that night, how I wished I was at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The four towering flood light towers of the stadium are something that I envy to this day for they have been witness to such glory.
In Delhi’s Kotla, when Kumble got his 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan, his first reaction had been that India had won. It took a moment or two for the feeling to sink in, that he had got all 10. It must have been a typically modest Kumble, dealing with yet another achievement. But the Oval test, in many ways, has shown us a side of the man that we have never come across.
This is probably why I have a feeling that for Kumble, his only century at this level must rank higher than his 10 on 10. Think like a bowler and you would probably discard a possibility of taking 10 wickets in an innings. A feat like that, if it ever came one’s way, is served with a big slice of luck. Furthermore, one does not plan for miracles. But deep inside, you won’t discard easily the feeling of hitting the cherry all over the ground like a top order batsman and contemplate hitting a ton. And if you happen to be one of those in the pavilion who shoots the defining moments on an SLR, while the Sachins and the Dravids raise their bat, the wide open arms towards the sky and say a silent prayer â€” you probably have played the sequence in your head and tried to live the moment countless times.
Moments after Anil Kumble tucked the bat while coming down the track on the London Oval, it seemed like Kumble had not, for a change, come of age. Instead, the man had turned into a child, a 16 year old child who had somehow made it big finally. His helmet came off as if it were the biggest but the last obstacle to a celebration marking the realization of a personal dream that he had been secretly nurturing for years.
And that is why, after what was witnessed on 10th August 2007, “Anil Kumble Circle” â€” that intersection at Bangalore’s MG Road, will mean more than one thing to me. Not only will it indicate one of the busiest traffic intersections in Bangalore named after India’s greatest matchwinner, but it will also mark a life that has finally come full circle, for a man who has played the role of an unsung hero for most of his part in Indian cricket.