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Kumble - Is it the end of the road?

AT THE CREASEBy Venkat SundaramForm is temporary, class is permanent. This cliche comes to mind as we assess the recent performances of Anil Kumble. The fulcrum around which the Indian bowling attack revolves, Kumble has an impressive record. A consistent performer, Anil Kumble is a match winner in sub-continent conditions.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2002 11:29 IST

Form is temporary, class is permanent. This cliché comes to mind as we assess the recent performances of Anil Kumble.

The fulcrum around which the Indian bowling attack revolves, Kumble has an impressive record. A consistent performer, Anil Kumble is a match winner in sub-continent conditions. The wear and tear on a five-day pitch makes for the top-soil progressively becoming loose, and when this happens, Anil Kumble is able to extract uneven bounce.

Which raises the point, is Kumble only effective on under prepared dust bowls?

His record also highlights his relative ineffectiveness in foreign conditions. He has taken only one third of his wickets in foreign conditions. He is certainly not as penetrative overseas.

A bowler with over three hundred Test victims, why is Anil Kumble an enigma?

Basically, Anil Kumble does not belong to the classical mould of a spinner. He has a beautiful action, a high delivery, but very little by way of flight and spin. In his formative years, Anil was a fast bowler who later turned to spin.

Leg spin bowling is, at the best of times, a difficult art as it involves using the wrist to impart spin. Controlling such deliveries, and being consistent in length and line are very difficult.

Anil Kumble bowls at medium pace, and is very accurate. He is not a big spinner of the ball; actually his stock ball comes in to the batsman. His ‘googly’ is more pronounced than his leg spin. Most batsmen prefer playing him as a slow in swing bowler!

The recent operation on his bowling shoulder has left Anil Kumble struggling to get ‘nip’ off the wicket. He has, rather craftily, tried to bowl a shade slower and try and get his leg spin to turn across the face of the bat.

Kumble is an experienced cricketer, and has played in all conditions. He has taken a hundred wickets in his first season as a professional county cricketer. His biggest challenges are, however, ahead of him.

The accuracy apart, Kumble will have to deliver in foreign conditions. A tour to New Zealand beckons, and the Kiwis are not exactly famous for the way they tackle spin.Yet, under Stephen Fleming, New Zealand may well be considered the dark horse as far as the next World Cup is concerned.

Kumble in New Zealand would be up against the likes of the dangerous Astle, Chris Cairns and many others who are at their best when the ball comes on to the bat at consistent pace and bounce.
Kumble would be severely tested and his performance, or lack of it, would be a harbinger to his chances for the World Cup.

Over the years, nil has been a capable, if unspectacular, fielder and his batting exploits have bordered on the premise that there are better things to follow. On both counts, Anil Kumble would have to fine-tune his game.

What then should Anil do? Many sessions of hard work in the nets are necessary so that the consistency is maintained. The googly, his stock weapon, must be accurate. Anil has a tendency to drift to the batsman’s pads. This means easy runs and lack of effectiveness.

Anil with all his experience must introduce variations, such as the slower ball, the wide half volley, and the ball of yorker length, which when he gets it right does get him wickets.

Anil will also be well advised to take his batting more seriously, as runs at the tail end of the batting order are often the difference between winning and losing a game. He should also improve his running between wickets.

International cricket is rather remorseless, and only the fittest survive. The next few months may well decide the fate of a very fine cricketer. Anil Kumble would have to stand up and be counted.

First Published: Oct 14, 2002 13:37 IST