Sunday, December 18, 2005

Spinning it straight on

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!


Anonymous said...

well written

he is i think today the most decent cricketer of all time and not just indian, mind you.

a real human being. Dravid comes a second close.

So its not only software that bangaloris are good in, they also produce gentlemen cricketers, in a day and age where the word gentlemen has been removed from the dictionary (well not literally)

Anonymous said...

Thats very well written Sunil. Wish you had pursued that moment when you saw him outside the temple and maybe we would have had a personal anecdote to add to the memories.

Anil Kumble is someone who I have respected as a cricketer ever since I saw him on the same tour of South Africa you mention. He doesnt draw your breath as a Sachin or Sehwag, but the sheer effort and committment when he dons the country's colors, are there for all to see. Hope he goes on to break and set many records and win more matches for India!


Minal said...

Well written Sunil. At times I've been a culprit of criticising him in his performance abroad. He has comeback so strongly after his shoulder injury and shut us all up:-)

Just the other day when my husband and I were watching his fiver in the Delhi test, I told him, the day Anil Kumble went really high on my respect list was when he played the Test In WI with a broken jaw and even took a wicket. He provided such a valuable lesson to blokes who fake injuries!

Btw on another note, when Ajit made his debut I had hoped to write something similar on him having been in the same building as his! Sigh, doesn't look like I'll have much to write but the support will always be there:-)

Sunil said...

Thanks Arzan, Mangesh, Minal.

Kumble certainly has carried himself on and off the field remarkably well. But he comes from an "old" Bangalore.....shy, quiet, polite and reserved. I'll be amazed if Bangalore has many more players with the conduct of Dravid or Kumble anymore.

Mangesh, Minal....yes, Kumble bowling with a broken jaw was more than inspiring. I can't remember when Kumble was handed the ball and he didin't come charging in with all his heart. Quite a performer. And his performance abroad actually isn't nearly as bad as it's made out it. In fact it's better than the overseas record of the famed quartet, or Harbajan or any other spinner from India.

Too bad about Ajit Agarkar though.....he's given few reasons to believe that he'll really "arrive" as a super cricketer. Still....he's still in the team....

oh well.

Sourin Rao said...

Nice piece. I'm stumped that Kumble does not get even quarter of adulation or the hype, despite being India's greatest bowler, that was accorded to a Kapil Dev or SRT. Its really a shame. This guy is not a natural talented spinner, but its more hard work and perseverance. Remember when he broke his jaw and came out to play.

What has always been my grouse is that Kumble had the ability, like Kapil Dev, to be a pretty handy batsman. He never let that aspect of his skills develop. Kumble has the height and the build to win mathes ala Flintoff, Patan, Imran, Shastri, and KD. Sad that he chose not to focus on it.

I really enjoy your posts.

Anonymous said...

Never had been a cricket fan, don't think I ever will be. But I did happen to watch the England-vs-India series in India .. was it 92 or 94. Anil Kumble made me sit and watch.

Ever since, even as my friends pinned their hopes/sarcasm on SRT/Azhar/Dada/Jadeja etc I secretly wished Kumble gets lucky.

Srinath was another decent bloke.

Anonymous said...

Test. Damn blogger never prints my blog url.

Sunil said...

Nema......try leaving your blog url in your comment, that should work :-)

Srinath was a very nice bloke. Have a good story about him too....for another day.

Anonymous said...

A very courageous cricketer..
i can never forget the incident where he fractured his jaw while batting but still went on to bowl in the test match..
ironically we have players in the team like ganguly who has been known of faking injuries

Sunil said...

anonymous....Kumble's definitely the kind of cricketer any team will die for. Dedicated and selfless are two adjectives that always pop up.

But we'll keep the conversation to Kumble, shall we? Why bring in other cricketers and their qualities or lack of it?

Anonymous said...

I have caught sight of Anil Kumble a few times while visiting cousins in Bangalore. And each time I didn't have anything substantial to say to him, to strike a conversation. I suppose everything that needs to be said, has been.

I believe he still maintains residence at Kumar Paradise Apartments, BP Wadia Rd, Basavanagudi. Sometimes even Rahul Dravid is seen there.

Sunil said...

kumar Paradise sounds more like it. His old home was rather modest.

I last saw R.D when he was still a state cricketer, on the verge of national selection, years ago. Met Venkatesh Prasad also. Both very nice chaps (chatted with them for a while after some small time cricket match).

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
That's cool that you have seen and even met some of the best cricketers in India. Kumble is an amazing player. Indians take him for granted but when he retires and no one replaces him, they will know what a great player he is.