The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Conquered: Magic mountain

New Delhi, March 11: It has often been said nice guys don’t win, but Anil ‘Jumbo’ Kumble has emerged a champion: Low on profile; very high on performance. No tantrums, no controversies.... Just a lot of wickets, 501 in Tests alone.

It has been a jumbo effort from the 35-year-old.

Only recently, Kumble told The Telegraph, “I don’t carry a hype... I’m pretty clinical,” but there was no bitterness. He is happy wearing the Elder Statesman’s hat without having to prove anything.

The thick-rimmed spectacles (they wouldn’t, by the way, have impressed Nasser Hussain) have given way to contact lenses and an ice bag rests on the right shoulder after every session at the nets and long spells.

However, little else has changed for somebody with all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

Actually, there’s much more to Kumble than records and wickets. He’s a wildlife enthusiast, is concerned about animals, is a compulsive shutterbug and follows current affairs. It won’t feature in his CV, but he does guard his private life rather passionately, too.

A smart package, not just a leg-spinner.

Now that Kumble has parked himself in such a select (500 or more Test wickets) club, he will, perhaps, get the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, the cynical won’t even privately sneer that he doesn’t turn the ball.

Even if Kumble has never got one to break like Shane Warne, he has weathered quite a bit ' surgery on his bowling shoulder... dropped when there was space for one spinner in the XI ' to reach where he has.

His mental toughness is legendary.

Kumble touched on the criticism, which hasn’t always been veiled, while interacting with the media in Mohali: “When I began, people questioned my kind of bowling.... People do so even now... I guess after 16 years, that has still not been answered and I find it strange....”

Strange, indeed, as only four have preceded him to Club 500.

Moreover, it’s debatable whether they consistently exhibited the same intensity ' something which encouraged John Wright to declare (on his penultimate day as the Team India coach) that Kumble was excellent captaincy material.

Owing to circumstances, he has captained in one ODI, that’s all.

Kumble began the year 15 short and straightaway ran into two belters (Lahore and Faisalabad). The green-top in Karachi didn’t help either and he wasn’t menacing in Nagpur ' first Test against England. He reached Mohali with 496 in the bag and, because of the weather, needed two-and-a-half days to vault past 500.

Even engineers have limitations.

It’s a pity that successive selection committees (and captains) have lost faith in Kumble’s abilities as a one-day bowler. Perhaps, a good many need to be reminded he has 329 wickets and isn’t the worst fielder around. He adds more value than spinners being projected as one-day specialists.

Kumble was diplomatic (in Mohali) when asked about the ODIs, but what he told us not many weeks ago stays relevant: “I’ve played for 16 years and want to enjoy the cricket that comes my way....”

We’re enjoying his spell.

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