We had only some months ago moved in to that house, some fifteen or sixteen years ago. As I was heading out for a walk with our dog, I met out old landlord, Devraj uncle, downstairs. As our dog eyed him suspiciously, we started chatting about my school and such like. Then he gave me the latest news on our little street, by Yediyur lake in Jayanagar. Apparently some guy called Anil, who lived a block away down the street, had been selected to the Indian cricket team.
“Who’s Anil?” I asked. “That tall fellow with spectacles, who goes out for cricket practice every morning?”
Devraj uncle nodded affirmatively.
Anil went to England, came back, and was dropped from the team. But early every morning, as I head out to school with my backpack, I would see this tall, lean, intelligent looking guy heading out in cricketing whites, with a kitbag, for cricket practice. Earlier I thought he was just one of those many league or club cricketers in the area. Now, I looked at him with new respect. I used to think the guys on my school cricket team were supermen. That meant Anil Kumble was something more. When I saw his name in the newspapers, as some Ranji exploit was being described, I started paying more attention. Still, the guys who had seen him bowl on TV didn’t think much of it. He looked like a medium pacer who didn’t spin the ball much.
Two years later, he was back in the team, and this time when neighbors mentioned it, I knew who it was. South Africa, a bagful of wickets, and Anil Kumble was here to stay. I’d see him less often heading out for cricket practice (since obviously he’d be with the team, touring), but he would head out on a shiny new motorcycle now (a Hero Honda, I think), as his mom would be washing out the steps of the house ritually every morning. When we played cricket in the nearby ground, us wannabe’s who couldn’t bowl fast or spin the ball would lumber up in a mock-Kumble run-up and hurl down the ball, saying it’s Anil Kumble style.
A couple of years later, as I was walking to the bicycle repair shop behind the little Ganesha temple on Kanakapura road, just beyond it’s intersection with our little street, I saw him again outside the temple, chatting with the priest. He had a brand new Maruti 800, four lemons strategically placed beneath the wheels, and a small garland of flowers in front of the bonnet. I thought I should go up to him and speak to him. But what would I say? That I’m one of the kids who lives down the street? Not much of an introduction for sure. The moment passed, I walked on, and I never spoke to him.
We moved from that house to our own house a couple of years later. Anil Kumble too must have moved to a larger house somewhere else. But I continued to cheer him every time I saw him on screen, bowling his heart out for India.
Now he’s taken more wickets than any Indian bowler, and has “spun” India to victory more times than can be remembered. At the threshold of 500 test wickets, and established as an all time great, Anil Kumble’s now playing his 100th test, something only a handful of bowlers have managed. He’s earned the respect of players around the world, and has continued to inspire with his simplicity and total commitment to the team.
Well done Anil Kumble!