All along, while we were singing praises of the Haydens and Gilchrists, Warnes and de Villiers, our very own Anil Kumble was scripting a magical odyssey of his own — he was defying age, retirement and the long-held belief that captains and spinners past their use by date are a bizarre combination in Twenty20 cricket.
Warne's has been a different tale. He too has been a spinner and a captain but he had the advantage of an adoring bunch of youngsters whom he had catapulted to stardom in the first season itself. Kumble, in contrast, was asked to pick up the baton midway and his side, at one stage, was just a defeat away from capitulation. He led a stirring revival, fashioning five wins in a row, including four against semifinalists of the previous year.
His performance was nothing less than standout. He began with 5 for 5 in the first game and finished with 4 for 16 and was rarely collared. A season in retirement had neither dulled his aggressive instincts nor rusted his beguiling ability.
A man universally admired in the cricketing world and a model sportsperson for every kid growing up on the game, Kumble has got used to others being showered with praises and riches. We all need to stand up and applaud this hero.