March 13, 2008
As professional as ever, India’s cricket captain Anil Kumble was all glee when I popped up with the inevitable question, “How does the Indian cricket future look now?”. Without mincing any words Kumble quipped with a broad smile, “The team is looking solid and very promising. If we perform to our potential, it will be difficult to beat us.”
Anil Kumble was in Dubai to inaugurate the new engineering courses introduced by Mahe University. Being an engineer himself, Kumble is also the brand ambassador for the prestigious Manipal University. During his inauguration speech, Kumble emphasized the need for good education for every human being including cricketers.
After almost 18 years in international cricket, Kumble still looks hungry and ready for another grueling day on the cricket field. He is all set to lead the Indian side against the South African team who are due to land in the sub continent for the test series. Interestingly, former South African batsman Gary Kirsten will take over officially as the India coach just in time for the South African series. When asked about Kirsten’s role as coach, Kumble said, “Yes, he is an experienced cricketer. Especially being a part of the South African dressing room he will surely tell us some dressing room secrets which will be helpful.”
Commenting on the Indian team Kumble said that the team has been strong for the last few years except that the results were not there. He said that the team is keen to perform well against the South Africans and prove their superiority. “The forthcoming series against South Africa will be the key. We are performing at home which is an advantage. South Africa are a tough side and it is important to do well against them. We should get the right results which we are looking forward to.” Kumble continued, “We have the skills and the team is highly experienced. I am sure that the results will be coming. It is important that we carry the momentum.”
Kumble gained fame when he took 10 wickets for 74 runs on 7th February, 1999 against Pakistan in an astonishing match that went India’s way. Similar spinning spells have always been Kumble’s main weapon which have resulted in victory for his preferred team. A perfect team man, he even faced the mighty West Indies bowlers as a batsman on a day when he should have been in the hospital. Such is his team spirit.
When asked about the controversial incidents in the recently concluded test series in Australia Kumble felt that they were a closed chapter now. “So much has been said and written and we must put an end to everything. There has been plenty of talk on the subject. It is important that we move on.” “Cricketing wise there is plenty to remember and our victory in the Perth test and the one day wins should be remembered more than anything else on the Australia tour. Not many teams have won in Australia and it is important to remember our achievements.”
When asked if winning the Under 19 World Cup and the one day series against Australia was a good sign Kumble had to agree. “Yes, it is good. It augurs well for the country. We have done well in international cricket. We have to carry that belief and continue winning. We have the future in good hands. It is good to step up and nice to have those kind of results as a team which is good for the country.”
Being a Karnataka player first and India captain later I could not help asking “There are not too many players in the Indian team from Karnataka” Kumble said “But then this is just a transition period. It is a normal phase which every state undergoes. Karnataka has some very promising cricketers who will surely play big roles. Robin Uthappa is already right up there. He will play for India for a long long time. Then we have very talented Vinay Kumar who has done exceptionally well in the zonal matches. And also there is Bharat Chiply who looks promising. Then there is young Appanna who is already in the Under 19 India team and a very bright prospect for India from Karnataka. This apart, there are some quality youngsters who should be in the news soon.”
India’s greatest spinner of all time, Anil Kumble is impressed by Dubai’s progress today just like his own progress in international cricket. “Looking back, I came here to Sharjah in 1990 I don’t think anyone expected me to be still playing in 2008 and also leading India. But I always had the faith and it has been a very satisfying career for me. I thank everyone who has supported me.”
Lanky and still looking as fit as anything, I asked Kumble how long he would continue to play for the country. “As long as I can” said the ever smiling spinner. As we bid adieu, I admired the staying power of Karnataka’s spin king who always has a trick or two in his spinning trade that mesmerizes the best of batsmen in the cricket world. Cool as a cucumber, educated to be an engineer, grown to be a cricketer of repute, Kumble continues to be a role model and ambassador not only for the university but also for all his admirers all over the country.