Kumble’s retirement a right decision in more ways than one
by Partab Ramchand

Player:A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh
Event:ICC World Cup 2006/07

DateLine: 1st April 2007


He will no more be seen in coloured clothing though he will continue to don whites. The formal retirement of Anil Kumble from one day cricket was surely only a matter of time. He himself had hinted before his departure for the West Indies that the World Cup could be his last bow in the limited overs game. To be candid Kumble could not have timed his bow from one day cricket a day too soon. While he still remains a skilful bowler in Test cricket Kumble had ceased to be a force to reckon with in ODIs for some time now. In a way he was a bit fortunate to make the trip to the Caribbean to play in his fourth World Cup.


As the well known saying almost cruelly goes ``you’re only as good as your last performance.’’ For all his great achievements and the heights he reached in the shorter version of the game Kumble’s bowling towards the end of his ODI career had lost its sheen. A couple of facts and figures underline this. For starters it was clear for some years that Kumble was only the No 2 spin bowler in the land with Harbhajan Singh having taken over at the top ever since his great deeds in Kumble’s absence due to injury during the 2000-2001 season. In the last few years Kumble’s strike rate had taken a nosedive, his average had gone up and his appearances became more sporadic. In the World Cup in South Africa four years ago he played in just three of the eleven matches while Harbhajan figured in ten. For about 15 months in the 2005-2006 period he was out of the Indian ODI squad. Even in the just concluded disastrous campaign in the Caribbean Kumble played only one game against lowly Bermuda while Harbhajan played against the stronger opponents Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Before the game against Bermuda in eight ODIs Kumble took just six wickets at almost 60 apiece and at an astronomical strike rate of 74. So his ODI career ended with a whimper. The fiercely competitive Kumble would not have liked that. After all he was always the slow bowler with the fast bowler’s attitude. The limp career to a great career notwithstanding Kumble remains India’s leading wicket taker in ODIs with 337 scalps from 271 matches. His figures of six for 12 when he bowled the team to a famous Hero Cup triumph against the West Indies at Calcutta in 1993 is still the best for an Indian. His career average of just under 31, an economy rate of 4.3 and a strike rate of 43 with eight four wicket hauls and two five wicket hauls are all pretty impressive even if the figures took a bit of a beating in the last few matches.


But of course to look only at the end of his career would be churlish. For a decade he was India’s champion bowler as he strove manfully to win matches in both Tests and ODIs. Given his style of bowling it was always on the cards that Kumble would be a success in one day cricket. Accuracy was his forte and that is the top most criteria in the shorter version of the game. Batsmen found him hard to get away and when they tried a forcing stroke they were outwitted by a bowler good enough to make adroit use of flight, turn and change of pace. Yes, he was never a big spinner of the ball but he spun it enough to get the edge of the bat and that was good enough to get the better of batsmen and win matches. Extraordinarily his bag of tricks was unfathomable for an extended period as he mixed the leg break with the googly and flipper cleverly all sent down with a wicked bounce and never giving the batsman any respite. That was the Kumble the cricketing world admired but he had other qualities going for him as well – great mental strength, fierce determination, immense courage – remember him bowling in the West Indies five years ago with a broken jaw - and he was a team man to the core. His retirement from ODIs means that Kumble is free to concentrate on Test matches and that can only be a welcome augury for Indian cricket.

(Article: Copyright © 2007 CricketArchive)


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