For someone who only occasionally got his due and spent most of his 18 years in international cricket under scrutiny despite being among the most successful of his peers, Anil Kumble remains remarkably calm. He doesn't show his emotions unless he gets a wicket and that he has fire in his belly becomes evident only when he takes the ball in his hand.
It was no different at the WACA ground on Thursday when he became the third man in history to take 600 Test wickets and in the process, led his team to a strong position to win the third Test. Speaking to the media after the day's play, he was nonchalant, as if nothing had happened, and admitted that the landmark was special only after being asked specifically what it meant to him.
"You do come across landmarks if you play for so long. It means a lot. You never think of how many you'll get when you start playing and it was the same with me. There were ups and downs, difficulties, moments of joy, they've all contributed… The criticisms and accolades, everything helped, as did the desire to get better," Kumble's words hardly betrayed emotions. "I thank my family, all my teammates, from my early days. It was a nice coincidence that Rahul (Dravid) took that catch (that took him to 600), he has taken most catches off my bowling."
For someone bestowed the 'spin-less wonder' tag early in his career, the mechanical engineer has worked his way forward with such amazing precision and dexterity that what others thought of him never became an obstacle. "It's about creating doubts in the batsman's mind. Doesn't matter whether you do that with a straight ball, a spinning one, a swinging one or a bouncer. As long as you create doubts, you'll be fine. Right through my career there has been a lot of criticism but these critics are important to egg you on."
Curiously enough, the 37-plus attributed his phenomenal success rate over the last few years to the shoulder surgery he underwent in 2001. "Once the shoulder got stronger, wickets started coming. Having said that, I've to acknowledge the support I've got from the other end. Whenever Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) has played, he has made a big impact, and probably that's why the last three-four years have been so good."
A man of few words but big deeds, Kumble is a rare phenomenon in contemporary cricket. All, including opposition batsmen, knew he couldn't turn the ball a great deal, but kept watching with awe the staggering rate at which he has struck. A tireless worker, he never flinched in the face of a challenge, often ending up bowling 30 overs on the first day of a Test match. Six hundred wickets is just a small appreciation of the splendid service he has rendered to cricket. The man with the golden shoulder deserved each one of them.