Cricket: Kumble takes his place in history

By matching Jim Laker's feat, India's genius has made an indelible impression on Test cricket
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The Independent Online
THE NICKNAME "Apple Crumble" conjures up an image of a slightly chaotic, disorganised person, a roly-poly figure of a man, a trifle on the portly side. But it sits sloppily on the shoulders of someone who could claim to be, if not the best leg spinner in the world, then almost certainly the next best.

Anil Kumble's historic performance in New Delhi yesterday, taking all 10 wickets for 74 runs in Pakistan's second innings was only the second time the feat has been achieved in Test cricket, the first being by England's Jim Laker (an off spinner) at Old Trafford, Manchester, in 1956. It should place India's leg spinner a step behind Australia's Shane Warne in the world rankings, but help him to shade it over Pakistan's tricky wrist spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, followed by another Australian, Stuart MacGill.

His match haul of 14 for 149 surpassed his previous Test best, a more modest 11 for 128 against Sri Lanka in Lucknow in January 1994, the only other time he has ever taken 10 or more wickets in a Test. His best return in first-class cricket remains 16 for 99 (8 for 58 and 8 for 41) for Karnataka against Kerala in the 1994-95 Indian season.

But while his contemporaries are for the most part orthodox leggies, employing a varied armoury against unwary batsmen, Kumble is anything but orthodox. For a start he is a qualified engineer, who has spent his spare time mending watches and more recently, designing a computer game on cricket when he is not playing for his club.

Kumble is an upright man (in every sense of the word) standing as he does at 6ft 11/2in and being able, therefore, to deliver the ball from a good height, and, on hard wickets, to generate sometimes unplayable bounce.

He has a long delivery stride, possibly a hangover from his days as a medium pace bowler, and has a wickedly quick ball, once timed at around 60mph in a one-day international. And while the orthodox members of this select fraternity will employ the leg break as their stock ball, Kumble has always reckoned that his old reliable is the flipper, with the odd googly and leg spinner thrown in.

Kumble does not get much "rip" on the ball; it will not turn square as it does for Warne and Mushtaq, because Kumble is still more of a finger spinner, but the advantage he has is phenomenal accuracy. Few bowlers can drop the ball on the same spot for hour after hour as can Kumble. In that respect he has much in common with Laker, and perhaps accuracy is the key to taking all 10.

Both bowlers certainly benefited from their team-mates. When Laker was on his way to all 10 (and 19 in the match) his bowling partner, Tony Lock, stifled an appeal from the other end because he sensed history in the making.

In New Delhi, India's captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, instructed pace bowler Javagal Srinath to bowl wide deliveries to ensure Kumble could equal the record and surpass the previous Indian Test best of 9 for 69, set by another leg spinner, Jasu Patel, against Australia in 1959.

It was his Northamptonshire colleagues who dubbed Kumble "Apple" when he spent a fruitful year at Wantage Road in the summer of 1995, standing in for the West Indies fast bowler Curtly Ambrose. By the start of that season he had made 17 Test appearances, but was something of an unknown to cricket followers in this country.

His studious appearance belied a tough competitor, who can bat. The spectacle-wearing Kumble was set an extremely stiff challenge by Allan Lamb, the then captain at Northamptonshire - he was told he had to take 100 Championship wickets in the season. Lamb would not have done so had he not believed Kumble capable of the feat, and his perspicacity was rewarded when Kumble finished the summer on 105 wickets at an impressively mean 20.40, having sent down more than 900 overs.

It was the first time a bowler had reached three figures since Essex's Neil Foster and Surrey fast bowler Waqar Younis had reached their hundred wickets in 1991. It left him ninth in the first-class bowling averages and helped Northamptonshire to third in the table. He was also the first to pass 100 wickets for the county since another Indian spinner, Bishen Bedi, in 1973.

A landmark in February is at odds with Kumble's apparent love affair with October. He was born in October 1970; reached 100 Test wickets during his 21st Test in October 1995 and joined the more exclusive 200-wicket club in October 1998 while winning his 47th cap (for the record, Warne reached this landmark in his 34th Test). In his 51 Test appearances to date Kumble has taken 234 wickets at a most respectable 27.28.


1970: Born Bangalore, on 17 Oct.

1990: Makes Test debut for India, against England at Old Trafford.

1991-92: An unbeaten 154 for Karnataka against Kerala at Bijapur confirms his batting prowess.

1993-94: Takes 7-59 for India against Sri Lanka at Lucknow.

1995: Joins Northamptonshire and tops 100 wickets in the Championship, with an average of 20.40.

1996: Ever-present for India in the 1996 World Cup and is not out in Calcutta semi-final debacle when a collapse of seven wickets for 22 runs results in victory for Sri Lanka.

1999: Becomes only the second man in Test history - after England's Jim Laker - to take 10 wickets in an innings, against Pakistan at Delhi. Kumble's 10-74 is second only to Laker's 10-53.