Sourav Ganguly says ‘put his foot down’ for Anil Kumble’s selection for Australia
Sourav Ganguly has admitted that the Indian selectors were not too keen to pick Anil Kumble for the 2003-04 Australian series but the former Indian cricket team skipper was adamant that he would not sign the team sheet without the legspinner’s name.cricket Updated: Dec 01, 2017 14:11 IST
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Thursday admitted that it was he who had compelled the selectors to opt for Anil Kumble during their tour Down Under in 2003-04 despite them planning to drop the leg-spinner ahead of the series.
Ganguly, who was in town for a promotional event, said: “I will give you the example of Anil Kumble, who was probably the biggest match-winner India has ever produced in the last 20-25 years. I remember attending a selection meeting before the tour of Australia in 2003. I was the captain of the side and I knew selectors were not very keen on having Anil in that tour.”
Arguably one of the greatest Indian captains, Ganguly had led India to the 2003 World Cup final a couple of months prior to the tour. He was also known to have clear-cut roles for his teammates and thus put his foot down when it came to picking Kumble for the tour. “As I entered the selection meeting, I could sense the selectors had made up their mind to leave Anil Kumble out. I kept on requesting and insisting that he is such a match winner, he is done so much good for Indian cricket. He must be in Australia and the selectors just didn’t agree,” Ganguly said.
Kumble, who also went on to coach India and helped the side reach the final of the Champions Trophy earlier this year, has 619 wickets to his name in 132 Tests besides another 337 ODI wickets in 271 matches. “The selectors wanted to pick a left-hand spinner because Australians don’t play left-hand spin well, and this went on for a good couple of hours. It was getting late and John Wright came up to me and said Sourav let’s finish this and go with what they said and I am sure we will do well,” he said.
However, Ganguly didn’t change his stand and wanted to back the leggie who was going through a rough patch at the time of the selection meeting. While the selectors eventually agreed to the captain’s call, it wasn’t without being warned of his own place in the side. “I told John if you leave Anil, he may not play for India again. I said I am not going to sign the selection sheet till Anil is in the side,” he added. “The selectors got fed up with me and said if I don’t play well, if the team does not play well and if Kumble does not play well, I will be the first person to go before anyone goes. I said fine, I am ready to take that risk and we will see what happens,” he added.
“Anil had an outstanding series, an outstanding year as well. He went on to pick 80 wickets that year, which was the most by any spinner in a calendar year in history of Test cricket,” Ganguly said. India had drawn the four-match series 1-1 and had taken the lead by winning the second Test at Adelaide. Kumble not only had a fantastic series, he also emerged as the highest wicket-taker in the series, grabbing 24 wickets in three matches at an average of 29.58.