Tour Diary: Doubters still - despite the 16 years and 501 wickets

Even today people still question my kind of bowling
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Anil Kumble was as modest in assessing his formidable achievement last night as his wonderful bowling could possibly permit. For a man who had become only one of five bowlers to have taken 500 Test wickets in a career, was already one of only two to have taken all 10 in a Test innings, and is the only Indian in either category, it was a tour de force of reserve.

"A lot of doubts about my bowling have been expressed," the 35-year-old said after taking 5 for 76 (including the last three wickets in four balls) in England's first innings in the Second Test here to take his tally of wickets to 501.

"I think if you play for 16 years there are bound to be doubts. But I never doubted myself and I don't think my team-mates or family did. The support during the tough times, especially when I had my shoulder injury, was crucial."

Among others Kumble thanked a yoga guru from his home town, but he sounded as sincere as a devout novitiate taking vows in paying tribute in order to fielders, fellow bowlers and batsmen.

He is different kind of leg-spin bowler, operating in small margins. "Even today people still question the kind of bowling I do," he said. "I guess the same questions were asked 16 years ago and still haven't been answered. It's pretty strange.

"You need to evolve constantly. The day I've had enough of experimenting I won't be playing this game. You try and set up the batsman, try and get him to play a few shots, play a mental game with him."

The fact that he has a better average, strike rate and economy rate than the other 500-club members should not conceal the fact that he is an exceptional, maybe unique bowler. Perhaps he is the most unsung of the quintet, but they would have been composing bhajas in Bangalore last night.

Food for Ganguly's thoughts

Two of India's more celebrated restaurants are the trendy Tendulkar's in Bombay and Kaptain's Retreat, Kapil Dev's place in Chandigarh. Should he be short of future prospects, the deposed captain, Sourav Ganguly, the Prince of Bengal, may think along similar lines. Ganguly's Palace in Calcutta, anyone?

Ancient and modern

The team playing in the Second Test have broken probably the most enduring record in England's history. They are the youngest to represent England in their 844 Test matches.

At Melbourne on 30 December, 1882, 834 Test matches ago, the 23-year-old Ivo Bligh led out a team with an average age of 26.4. His team's oldest member was the wicketkeeper: Ernest Tylecote, 33. Andrew Flintoff, 28, is leading a side with an average age of 26.2, some 65 days a man younger than Bligh's, with nobody over the age of 30.

At Nagpur in the First Test, England fielded their fifth youngest side, but the selection of Liam Plunkett, 20, ahead of Ian Blackwell, 27, has sent the age plummeting.

Overall, however, this England are positively ancient. All other countries have sent out younger sides and this one, overall, comes in at No 361.

Low light

The ground at Mohali has a record 18 (very squat) floodlight pylons. This is not to shed more light (as demonstrated during this gloomy match), but because tall pylons are not permitted. The ground is close to the Pakistan border and (very) low-flying military aircraft pass over regularly.

A bevy of maidens

Three maiden centuries were scored in the Nagpur Test, by Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Wasim Jaffer. This was the first instance for five years (Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, Chittagong) and the 10th in all. In addition, four maiden hundreds have been registered in four matches.

Junior master Cook

Back to age, Cook, at 21 years 69 days, might be merely the fourth youngest player to have made a century for England, but he is the youngest to have done so for MCC.

On 4 May 1999, MCC arrived at Bedford School, where Cook was then a pupil, a man short. Cook's services were suggested. According to the report by the MCC's match manager, DCR Waterfield: "The offer was gratefully accepted and Alastair was rescued from a double physics lesson in time to change and get his pads on just as MCC lost their first wicket."

He moved through the nineties in seven balls, reaching his hundred with a pull drive for four. The report concludes: "For a 14-year-old to play the way he did against his own school's first XI is something no one who played in or watched the game will ever forget." There may be more unforgettable stuff to come, though probably not in the advancement of physics.