When India wraps up the three-Test series in England, Anil Kumble’s maiden century at the Oval last Friday will probably be one of the most talked-about innings. It was an incredible effort by any yardstick, as Kumble walloped a dispirited English attack all over the park and carried his bat through the innings to help India amass their highest total ever in England. Kumble remarkably did not lead a charmed life either, but for a pert inner edge that he got past the wicketkeeper to reach his personal milestone.
Just as he doesn’t owe the phenomenal success of his bowling to any repertoire of ‘mystery’ balls, Kumble plays with a straight bat most of the time and waits for the loose delivery to be sent to the ropes. That he took the longest time ever to notch up his maiden hundred must have been poor consolation for the fielders who were forced to watch eight partnerships in the Indian innings cross the 50-run mark. It is unfortunate that the only bowler in Test history with over 500 wickets (561 now, and going strong) to have scored a Test ton has already quit the shorter version of the game. Few doubted there was plenty of cricket still left in Kumble — his Oval effort underlines this. Of course, one could argue that Kumble’s batting average of around 18 in Tests resembles that of any other lower order batsman and that it is even less remarkable in ODIs.
But then statistics don’t always tell the real story. And in this case, it has to be the story of a resurgent Indian team that has a rare series victory virtually in its grasp. Well done, Kumble.