Cricket: Kumble top of India's spin crop

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND lost this series so overwhelmingly because their batsmen were unable to play spin. Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan took 45 wickets between them in the three matches.

Yet the principal reason for their downfall lay in the fingers of just one of them, Kumble's. By the end, the Englishmen were no nearer understanding leg- breaks, googlies and top-spinners than they had been at the start. He was deservedly named as man of the series.

Kumble is an unlikely looking fellow. He is quite tall with glasses which give him a bookish appearance and he is most gentle and unemotional in manner. He is not the sort of leg-spinner who, like so many of his breed, and Abdul Qadir in particular, is always anxious to snatch the ball back, angry at his failure with the last delivery and itching to have another go.

Kumble began the series with two weapons, the googly and the top-spinner, which he pitches through at a fair pace. At the start, he almost never turned his leg-break and this should have made him easier to play with the ball only turning one way.

The ball that got him his wickets then was the top-spinner, which he pushed through quickly so that it skidded off the pitch. Batsmen who tried to play that one off the back foot were always in trouble.

As the series progressed Kumble gained in confidence and during the Madras Test he began to give his leg-break a little more air and suddenly it began to turn. This, of course, made him a much more dangerous bowler, although he still has to learn not to give the right- handers so many chances of scoring runs off their legs.

He will do this soon enough judging from the way he has learned in this series. Raju will improve too, although he will never be a Bishen Bedi - who ever will? - while the off-spinner Chauhan, though the weakest of the three, dismissed Mike Gatting, an excellent player of spin bowling, three times in this short series. I shall be surprised if Kumble does not go on to make the biggest impact of all three.