The sluggish pace of the Test and the comforting November sun had left almost everyone in the stadium drowsy. The Sunday crowd was contemplating retiring to the comfort of their homes when a line on the giant screen left them rooted and rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
The line 'Anil Kumble has decided to retire after this match' left everyone wondering if they had seen the last of Kumble. Even as people were engrossed in trying to rewind the image of an angry Kumble throwing the ball after holding on to the catch of Mitchell Johnson, and after proving a point to his critics on Saturday, the skipper declared the innings, with the obvious intention to take the field for the last time. As he stepped on to the field, flanked by his teammates, the stunned spectators sprang to life, cheering relentlessly for the departing hero.
The Indian skipper gave himself four more overs to add to the thousands he had already sent down, and, for once, he also allowed himself a smile when a fielder didn't hold on to what could have possibly been a catch.
When the umpires called it a day, the entire stadium was on its feet, cheering and trying to catch a last glimpse of one of the finest cricketers ever. The teammates then jostled to try and lift their skipper as he went around the stadium, bidding a final goodbye. Given how the players jostled to lift Kumble and how Sachin Tendulkar guarded the flanks, trying to fend off overzealous shutterbugs, one could easily see the kind of respect and popularity he enjoyed in the side.
"It's been a privilege for all of us to play alongside Kumble. He has been a great fighter and a role model for one and all. He would be an inspiration for the coming generations," said VVS Laxman, summing up the respect Kumble enjoys amongst his peers.
The feeling was not confined to his own team. "He has been a great opponent for Australia and everyone in my team enjoyed the way he played the game. He is one of the modern day greats of the game, not just for Indian cricket but world cricket," said Australia captain Ricky Ponting.