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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2759

New Kumbles, Where?

By Tusharcharan - Syndicate Features

He 'retired' hurt after an on-field injury that required stitches. Spinner Anil Kumble’s decision to retire from international cricket has come at a time when the whole world of cricket has spun almost out of recognition with the latest incarnation of cricket, called Twenty20, threatening the continuation of leisurely five-day 'Tests'. As a Test match spinner he was certainly among the greatest in the world, as his record of over 600 hauls will show.

There is speculation that Indian cricket may witness a tsunami of sorts as more of its greats announce retirement. This guess is said to be based on the form of the players. Expectedly it raised some hackles and sparked off a controversy in some quarters. The senior players resent questions being raised about the quality of their present level of game and thought such questions were in bad taste.

Batsman Sourav Ganguly, many believe, announced his retirement plan only to free himself of media pressure after his string of poor performances that led to speculation about his ‘imminent’ retirement. How long will the other veterans, including Kumble’s fellow Bangalorian Rahul Dravid and the Hyderabad star VVS Laxman, be playing international cricket? It is also no longer considered blasphemous to ask when will Sachin Tendulkar hang his boots.

A transformation is definitely taking place in the Indian cricket team, which now consists of young players. They look as talented as the present set of veterans when they entered the international cricket scene.

Kumble’s decision comes when the world is experiencing many momentous changes in various fields. India has become the undisputed ‘superpower’ of the cricket world (certainly after trouncing Australia 2-0 to lift the Border-Gavaskar trophy), much to the discomfort of the ‘original’ cricketing superpowers who happen to be ‘white’ nations. This is a change that is market driven and has nothing whatsoever to do with racial considerations. With the number of cricket-crazy fans in the country far outnumbering those anywhere else, cricket in India yields a kind of mouth-watering revenue the ‘original’ cricketing superpowers could not have even imagined.

The entry of fast bowler Kapil Dev (since retired) saw Indian cricket undergoing a metamorphosis. It looked incredible that India had a fast bowler who could win matches for the country. Instead of the spin, the Indian bowling strength has now come to depend largely on quickies. If there was still some respect or fear of the spinners in the Indian team it was largely confined to the presence of the 38-year-old ‘leggie’, Anil Kumble. With more than 600 Test wickets he is the third highest wicket taker—after Murlitharan (Sri Lanka) and Shane Warne (Australia). Significantly, both are spinners like him.

Cricket-lovers in the country have been worrying that India’s ‘traditional’ weapon of spin bowling has been considerably blunted. Cricket fans will watch the after-effect of Kumble’s departure as avidly as the outcome of the other ‘changes’ seeping the world. The global economy is bound to return to the path of growth sooner or later. The new president in the US may turn out to be nothing more than a change in the tenancy of the White House as the American political character is unlikely to acquire an altogether new hue. For the hapless Indians a change in regime in state capitals or at the centre generally turns out to be more of the same.

But what worries Kumble’s fans is that the Indian team will no longer be able to have a spinner who can be truly called ‘world class’—in the league where Murlitharan is now the undisputed leader. India cannot boast of a spinner who can outclass the rivals with the guiles of a spinner alone—as Kumble did against Pakistan at the Delhi Test in 1999 when he took all the 10 wickets.

For a nearly half a century spin alone had lent strength to the bowling department of Indian cricket, sometimes in pairs and once in the nature of a quartet who with some luck and effort by the batsmen could have converted the Indian cricket team into ‘real’ world champions, though India did win important overseas series. Kumble, however, achieved the great feat of becoming India’s highest wicket-taker with little or no help from spin at the other end; if there was any help it came from the quickies.

In recent years off-spinner Harbhajan Singh acted as the perfect foil for leg-spinner Anil Kumble but the two perhaps did not achieve their potential when they bowled in tandem. Kumble may or may not have a worthy ‘successor’ but that alone should not be a matter of undue worry. There is no dearth of talent in the country. What is needed is unearthing it and grooming it with some patience.

- Asian Tribune -

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