'Never thought it would take so long'

Veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble says he had always believed that he had the batting skills to score a Test century.
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Updated on Aug 12, 2007 05:16 AM IST
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PTI | By HT Correspondent, London

Anil Kumble had always believed that he had the batting skills to score a Test century but the veteran leg-spinner never thought that his long-cherished dream would take so long to realise.

"I've always believed a hundred was possible. I got pretty close to it (88, in 1996-97 against South Africa), but never thought I'd have to wait for 117 Tests. It is special," said Kumble, who scored an unbeaten 110 in the third Test against England.

"There's a sense of fulfilment in that I've achieved what everybody dreams of achieving. Throughout my career I've put a price on my wicket because, as a bowler, I know how difficult it is to get a wicket," he added.

The 37-year-old bowler said the celebrations will have to wait as the team was focused on winning the Test and with it the series to complete a rare triumph on English soil.

"We'd like to go and win this Test match. We're capable of doing that. We still have three days to go, and the wicket can only suit us. We have a great chance to go 2-0," he said.

On a day when his more illustrious colleagues had somehow failed to score a hundred, Kumble said he had a hunch at tea time that it might well be him.

"We had a team meeting a couple of days back and I just mentioned that it's about time our batsmen scored a hundred in the series, but I never thought I'd have to do it," said Kumble, breaking into a laugh.

"Jokingly, I mentioned it again at tea time when I was batting on 60, saying 'Maybe it's my turn to go out there and get a hundred'," he added.

"I thought maybe one day I'd get a Test hundred, but I never thought it would be this late. It's something very special to get a Test hundred," Kumble said.

The degree of difficulty for Kumble was duly underlined by the fact that he had to rely on relentless support from the tail and they did not disappoint.

After Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth stuck it out to feature in a 73-run last wicket stand to help Kumble reach his crowing glory moment.

"Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth supported me throughout. Sree kept saying 'You deserve a hundred and I'll hang around. You don't worry'," Kumble recalled.

Kumble said as he approached his hundred he was haunted by the Australian spinner Shane Warne's predicament. Warne was dismissed on 99 in a Test.

"Warnie came very close. That thought was definitely there when I was batting, that I shouldn't slog on 99 and get out," the leg spinner said.

However, Kumble did just that as he gave the charge to Kevin Pietersen, got a thick inside edge but the ball somehow found its way between the legs of England's doomed wicketkeeper Matt Prior and travelled to the fine leg boundary.

"You always get four runs when you score there," said Kumble sharing another big laugh.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scored 92, gave a first hand account of the scene in the Indian dressing room when Kumble approached his hundred.

"We were enjoying every stroke, but we were pretty worried when Sreesanth was on strike," Dhoni said.

"We enjoyed it all the way and you can make out by his expression when he got that hundred. You don't see 'Anil bhai' laughing and celebrating like that very often. It was a really remarkable moment. We really enjoyed it," he added.

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