How many years to go? In the twilight of his career, that’s a query Anil Kumble has become an expert at warding off. Prior to the second Test in Kolkata, the question had been placed before him. Pat came the reply, “Whenever I play, I think I am playing my last Test. That’s the only way you can give of your best.”
Leading from the front and bowling his heart out on an Eden Gardens track that flummoxed everyone with its flat nature, Kumble opened a window of opportunity by reducing Pakistan to 65-3 and Misbah-ul-Haq’s early dismissal appeared to be another indication of the glory ahead.
Till, the ‘Yo-Yo’ factor stepped in to have a say for the first time in the series. The final day was essentially a battle of resolve. If Kumble looked to force an improbable if not impossible verdict, his counterpart Younis Khan was determined to take the path chalked by Misbah and Kamran Akmal to save the Test.
The brand of batting dished out by Younis and Mohammad Yousuf may not have been pleasing to the eye, pushing the players and spectators alike into somnolence. What other explanation could there be for the lack of reaction from close-in fielders to a bat-pad offering from Yousuf, off Harbhajan Singh.
The colourful words the off-spinner spewed subsequently were more of an outlet for the brewing frustration as by then the duo had put victory beyond reach and left Kumble ruing the dropped chances in the first innings.
The pressure was intense. Kumble left no stone unturned in trying to dislodge them — shuffling his bowlers, changing their ends and persisting with an attacking field. Bowling in tandem with Harbhajan, the pair tried their best to exploit the footmarks on both sides, but were undone by rock-solid defence and the unresponsive pitch. Curator Kalyan Mitra may have scored a point over his detractors by preparing a track that lasted the duration, but his offering was a disservice. With Bangalore not expected to be any better, this is not the ideal preparation for the taxing tour of Australia ahead.
Given their patchy form in the run up to this innings, not many would have anticipated a 136-run partnership for the fifth wicket (143 minutes, 222 balls). For long, the mainstay of the middle-order, the veterans’s form, or lack of it, hurt Pakistan deeply in Delhi but their coming good on Tuesday allowed the visitors to strive for an equaliser in Bangalore.