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Tough for one team to dominate: Kumble
- Ex-India captain on SA’s rise and Test cricket
Anil Kumble in Bangalore on Saturday.

Bangalore: Anil Kumble dropped in at the NCA on Saturday morning, his visit coinciding with the Team India cricketers’ conditioning camp, and he looked as fit as the fittest among his one-time teammates.

Kumble retired last November, but has continued training, one reason being that he’s still playing in the IPL. Kumble, who’ll turn 39 in October, laughed when complimented for being in such perfect shape.

In between greeting one-time teammates, the former India captain (and a member of the very elite 600 Test wickets-club) spoke to The Telegraph.

The following are excerpts

Q This has been a great year for South Africa’s cricket. Did you expect the Proteas to soar to the top, both in Tests and ODIs, rather quickly?

A South Africa has always had a good team, capable of challenging the best... With Australia not having an invincible look about them for the last couple of years, there was always the thing that South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and (more recently) England could go on to become No.1... That possibility had existed... Today, as I see it, India has got a great opportunity to become No.1... We’re No.3 in Tests (fractionally behind second-placed Sri Lanka) and No.2 in ODIs.

Would trying to remain No.1 in both forms be the bigger challenge for South Africa?

That’s always so, whether you’re a player or one is talking about a team... Staying at the top doesn’t come easy... Getting into a national team, for example, is easier than remaining in that team for a length of time... The difference between the top three-four teams is marginal and, so, I expect to see a couple of years of great cricket. Now, it will be tough for one team to dominate.

Is it, then, the end of domination by one team — like by the West Indies for a decade from the latter part of the Seventies and, then, in more recent years by Australia?

Perhaps, yes... It will be tough for any one team to hold sway and, even if that happens, I doubt if it will be for periods of about a decade... Actually, I don’t see that bit happening at all.

How has it become so very competitive now, with little separating the top teams?

It’s because of the quality of bowlers and the balance that such quality has given to teams... Australia has been struggling because the balance hasn’t been right... India has been doing well because our attack is balanced... As most of the pitches are in favour of batsmen, if you have the right combination, then you’ll do well.

The Australians haven’t been getting the playing XI right too...

People are saying that with the benefit of hindsight... Nathan Hauritz may have made a difference at the Oval, but there’s no guarantee that he would have.

Is there a lesson to learn from Australia’s fall?

It hasn’t been a sharp fall... The Australians haven’t had great success over the past year-and-a-half or so, which is why it’s such a challenging time for them. You can’t be at the top forever... It’s a cycle... One shouldn’t forget that quite a few teams travel quite a lot nowadays and, so, are more used to playing in conditions overseas... Till a few years back, it was assumed that it would be difficult to beat Australia, that has changed and India took the lead in bringing about that change... We showed the way by beating them in India and winning Tests on Australian soil as well.

In Tests, we’re fractionally behind No.2 Sri Lanka. What needs to be done to displace Kumar Sangakkara and Co. and, then, South Africa?

We need to play more Tests... If you look at the 12-month period from last August, Australia played 17 Tests, while India played 10... To get to No.1, you first need to play more. Then, obviously, you’ve got to do well consistently... Once we get to No.2, getting to No.1 will be taken care of.

Are you concerned that T20 could, eventually, hurt Test cricket hard?

I don’t see Test cricket threatened, but it needs to be made more exciting... Except Australia and England, there aren’t many countries where people come to the ground to watch a Test match... That’s something which definitely needs to be looked at...

There’s talk of four-day Tests, as a way forward. Would you welcome such a change?

Why not? At the end of the day, though, it’s the nature of pitches which will determine results... For a good Test match, you need a good surface... It’s not about the number of days, but the pitches must be such to challenge both bowlers and batsmen.

Day-night Tests...

But they’ve got to first find the ball of the right colour, one which will last... I know they’re working on it. It’s a challenge (to keep Test cricket alive and kicking) and, I know, people are looking ahead... Working at it.

The final one: Have you begun preparing for the T20 Champions League?

(Laughs) Come on, it’s a long way off (in October)...

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