His final Test at the Kotla may not have evoked the fond memories Anil Kumble has of Delhi. It is here that he conjured up magical moments that led India to many famous victories in the past. It is here he pulled off the Perfect Ten. Today, it is here that he decided to quit, something he may have never visualized when he stepped out for the toss on the first day.
It is a decision he may have liked to take after the Nagpur Test, but fate had willed otherwise. He has been a standout performer, the like of which India may never see again. Yet, a time comes in every man's life when he has to decide when to say that one final line which marks the end of one life and beginning of a fresh one.
Watching Kumble, in the shelter of a mellow sun, trying his best to find that one final spell of inspiration, which would have turned the clock back, has not been a happy experience. It was obvious that his body was no longer responding the way he would have wanted it to, and he had also lost those subtle variations that made him the match-winner he was.
It was also obvious that he was aware of the limitations a creaking body can impose on your skills. There is a possibility that he may have called it a day after the Nagpur Test. Or he may have thought he would play against England and then call it quits? What he definitely would have not bargained for is the cruel blow he suffered on his hand that give an unexpected twist to the final chapter of his career.
Those of us, who may have wondered why he was risking greater injury to his hand by bowling on the fourth day, may not know that Kumble once bowled with a broken jaw. Here, he came on to the field, when Amit Mishra was showing that he wasn't ready to don Kumble's mantle.
Mishra may turn the ball much more than Kumble does, but he lacks the control and the guile of the master. In addition, he is too slow through the air and a slow pitch made him that much easier for the batsmen to handle.
Kumble, with a fractured finger and 11 stitches, was not a happy picture to view. He was more like a tragic figure who knew his end was fast approaching but wanted to exit with his pride and dignity intact.
Running backwards off his own bowling, he took the catch of the match and threw the ball hard on the ground in a display of emotion that suggested he had proved a point, if not to the world, at least to himself.
Kumble does not need to prove anything to anyone. He has done more than enough for us to respect him for his cricket and the dignity with which he handled the highs and lows of a truly great career.