by Kartik Kannan
Anil Kumble has been India’s long serving hero, who has bowled India to many of its famous wins since its resurgence in the 90′s under Mohammed Azharuddin. One wonders, going by his recent spells of bowling, whether the long serving hero, has gone past his expiry date. In the recent series, Anil Kumble has been struggling hard to find that rhythm to send ripples of fear across the opposition. One could see through his frustration as he was easily driven away for runs by a lower rung batsman like Chaminda Vaas. One can also brush it off, saying that this may be one of the many troughs in Kumble’s skyscraper career, but an in-depth look at his bowling stats reveals a lot more than just numbers would.
Anil Kumble’s main weapon in his armoury has been his deliveries that just skid on, allowing batsmen no time to execute the horizontal bat shots, followed by an impeccable line and length on a “you-miss-I-hit” philosophy. He’s also added the googly and the leg spinner(for a bowler who hardly spins, that’s more than just the stock delivery). Now with such an armoury and a statistic of 600 plus wickets, he’s more than asset to the Indian team, but here’s why it becomes relevant to read between the lines.
Anil Kumble in this series so far averages a whooping 52 runs per wicket taken, and has scalped only 6 wickets, going into the third Test match. His strike rate too has gone down to a wicket per 18 overs, which is far from his overall statistic where he’s had a wicket every 11 overs and an average of 29 runs a wicket. He has been trifle unlucky with a few decisions going against him. The most important aspect is that he has lost the sting in his bowling, and all those deliveries he has had as weapons are now like snakes without their fangs. Adam Gilchrist grassed a couple of catches and knew that his moment was up, and called it quits. Anil Kumble is witnessing something similar, but he needs to feel it from inside and take a call on his career. That was Kumble the bowler, but if one were examine him as a captain, there is a lot more to suggest that Anil Kumble may not be the right choice for India, going forward.
Anil Kumble, on overseas tours generally is the lynchpin when others struggle around him, and he has often acquitted him self well in an overseas tour. For starters the way he handled the Sydney Test Drama was admirable, but still the way India played out for a draw at Adelaide suggested that India as a team, and Kumble as a captain lacked the guts and gumption to go for a target at the cost of losing the series.
Kumble also seems to fall in line with captains who are reactive to a loss, and thereby get the inspiration to win, not quite like Ponting or Graeme Smith who are always on a high, and where winning becomes a habit. India need to get into that mode of attacking cricket, if they need to be world beaters. Anil Kumble has been there for India in all its victories since the 90′s and has largely been responsible for masterminding many victories with his bowling, but the time has come to garland this man for his yeoman service and pass the baton on to Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is more proactive than Kumble.