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Old warhorse gears up for another battle

He is the leading Test wicket taker of the country, and another rare milestone beckons -- the 100th Test. Yet, stardom has eluded Kumble.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2005 18:08 IST

He is the leading Test wicket taker of the country, and another rare milestone beckons -- the 100th Test. Yet, after more than 15 years of international cricket, stardom has eluded Anil Kumble.

But, as he readies to don the India cap for the 99th time in the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka starting at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground from Saturday, Kumble typically played down any suggestion of disappointment at having remained on the backstage throughout his colourful career.

"I think it has got to do with the media. As a cricketer I have to perform, I have a job to do. I look at it as a profession and try to do best what I can. People writing and speaking about it is not in my control."

"The team knows what I am capable of. I have the respect of the team and the opponents as well, and the adulation I have received has been tremendous. So I have no qualms," the 35-year-old veteran leg-spinner said after the team's practice session at the Palam ground today.

When he steps on to the Kotla on Saturday, the Bangalorean will be on par with his former captain Mohammad Azharuddin who played in 99 Tests.

Only Sachin Tendulkar in the current team has played more matches than him. With 124 Tests under his belt, the Mumbai batsman himself will be equalling Sunil Gavaskar's tally of 125 matches.

Kapil Dev has the most matches for an Indian, 131, while Dilip Vengsarkar has played in 116 Tests.

"It is a great feeling. To think back, I started in 1990 and to have got this far ... Feeling a part of elite group," he said.

"It definitely helps your confidence. It shows your sustained kind of performance at international level. It acts as a motivational factor.

"Then your responsibilities are far greater as a senior player. Looking back, having been part of many successes, it gives immense satisfaction."

Kotla is also the venue where he became only the second bowler in the history to claim all 10 wickets in an innings, against Pakistan in 1999.

Kumble politely put down any talk that he was attempting a repeat of the feat over the next five days.

"It is the people who have been talking about the 10 wickets. Not myself or the team. As a cricketer we know it happens once in a life time," he said.

"I don't think I have gone with that in my mind into any match. It is a good feeling, I don't deny that. And I know that the expectations are high and hopefully I will live upto that."

Kumble said that a combination of factors have made things difficult for the slow bowler in modern cricket.

"No matter what you do, there is lot of pressure at the international level. Even before you bowl the first ball, a debutant knows what you are going to do."

"He has studied your leg spinner, top spinner, what angle you are going to bowl. There is so much one gets to know from the media. The challenge is to adapt.""

"You don't see very often that a team is 40/2 at lunch anymore, it is usually 100 for no loss. The batsmen's approach to the game has changed, they attack a lot more now."

He, however, said it was not correct to say that the present lot were better than those of the past merely because they have pushed the benchmark higher.

"I don't think you can judge different eras. There have been better performers before. What you have to look at is the standards in that scenario, we have to judge them on the standards of that era."

Kumble felt that whatever change that Indian cricket has gone through in recent times was for the good.

"You need different ideas and different people if you need to change. Change has been good. Having been there for 15 years, whatever happens, I have learnt to take it positively and focus on improving my game and better my performance."

The leg-spinner said Sri Lanka deserved credit for the way they played on the last day of the rain-marred first Test in Chennai but added that it was not a true indicator of the strengths of the two teams.

"You should not read too much into what happened in Chennai. The groundsmen did a great job to get the match started."

"The whole city was under water, and to have a match in that situation takes a lot of hard work. Chennai pitch usually has good bounce but then they could not work on the pitch for 10-15 days."

"Test cricket is hard. Their batting is something we respect. Sanath has a good record against us and it definitely makes you feel comfortable when he is not there. But then they have other quality players."

"They are a good side. You have to give credit to the way they bowled on that wicket (in Chennai). But as I said, don't read too much into that performance, we knew they will be coming hard at us."

From Chennai, usually a spinner friendly wicket, to the Kotla, it will be a huge shift in bowling conditions. But the battle-hardened Kumble said he was ready for it.

"In different conditions, you have to bowl differently. You have to bring your experience and keep varying. And variety is not only the different balls but most importantly the angles and the pace."

"In a playing XI, everyone's contribution is important, no matter what wicket we play on. If there is pace and bounce, it is good for the spinners as well."

India's leading Test cricketers in terms of most matches played (read under matches played, runs scored, batting average, wickets and bowling average):

Kapil Dev 131 5248 31.05 434 29.64

Sunil Gavaskar 125 10122 51.12 1 206.00

Sachin Tendulkar 124 10156 57.05 37 48.83

Dilip Vengsarkar 116 6868 42.13 0 -

Md. Azharuddin 99 6215 45.03 0 -

Anil Kumble 98 1679 16.95 468 28.29

Rahul Dravid 92 7903 58.11 1 39.00

First Published: Dec 08, 2005 18:08 IST