Amid the joy of a victory that was long in coming and the subsequent tribute to youth, the veteran of this Indian team was quietly trying to make his way back home. He wanted to be with his wife in Bangalore for a few extra days before jetting off to England for a stint with Surrey.
After 16 years in international cricket, Anil Kumble is not tired and, in fact, is doing his job with increasing intensity. He is just as busy and focussed as he looks while starting his run-up — the sharpness of his skill reflecting in his eyes.
After emerging from a steady start to wrap up the series for India with a six-wicket blitz, Kumble has to take a break till India play their next Test series, in South Africa in December. Not part of ODI side because of the focus on blooding them young, India’s most successful bowler wants to keep himself fit by playing in the county circuit.
“I have come to terms with being out of one-day cricket. It hurt when I had to sit out practically the full World Cup in South Africa,” said Kumble. “But it doesn’t hurt anymore. I find it strange, though, when people who thought it was right to keep me out of the XI in World Cup 2003 ask whether I would play the one in 2007.”
Kumble appears to be a private person — someone who’s reluctant to allow strangers into his thinking process — and likes spending time with family, which is awaiting a new member in the form of his second child. He will miss them in England, but the fact that he has still chosen to play for Surrey shows how eager he is to return to the top of his run-up.
“As long as the body and mind are fine, I will keep going. The day I think I can’t take wickets I will stop,” he said. “I know what I am capable of and what I have to do. I have never shirked responsibilities, like bowling 30 overs on a flat wicket on Day 1 of a Test match, and I have enjoyed those challenges. I am not thinking about playing in the World Cup as that’s still some time away. I am focussing on playing for Surrey.”
The most successful bowler in the series was part of the last two squads that returned defeated from the Caribbean. “I didn’t have happy memories of this place. We lost a close one in Barbados in 1997 and in 2002 it was the same,” said Kumble, who returned with a broken jaw from the last tour.
“I am very happy to return victorious from my last trip to this wonderful place. This has been my most satisfying tour after Australia in 2003-04. While that was memorable, we couldn’t seal the series. This is more significant because we have won it,” said the player who played crucial 40-plus knocks in the last two Tests. Rahul Dravid acknowledged the importance of his 93-run stand with the leg-spinner in the first innings at Sabina Park, which played a huge role in India’s win.
“I always knew I had a pretty decent defence. With experience I have learnt when to take my chances and it’s good to see that at some point of my career the runs are counting,” said Kumble, whose best of 88 came against a South African attack comprising Allan Donald, Fanie DeVilliers and Brian McMillan.
The most senior member of the Indian team is happy to help out the youngsters. “Only myself and Harbhajan (Singh) have played over 50 Tests, the rest of our bowlers are very young, including Irfan (Pathan). It was important for me to share my experience and thoughts with them on this tour.”
That summed up the effort of the Indian bowlers. It was apt that Kumble finished them off after coming close in the first Test. The fast bowlers did get vital wickets, but no doubt who had the last laugh.