Anil Kumble, the current Captain of the Indian Test Cricket team and the Country’s most successful bowler of all times announced his retirement from International Cricket today bringing a great career to an end.

For records, Kumble got 619 test wickets. When we consider that the next best amongst past cricketers was Kapil Dev at 434 and amongst the current players is Harbhajan with 299 wickets, his achievement stands apart as stupendous.

I always felt that if he had got all the LBW decisions which he should normally have got and the umpires denied him on various occassions, his final tally would have been much more than what he ended up with. Some how umpires felt that there were too many LBW decisions already given and hence felt hesitant to give more. But actually, his bowling was of that type where the predominant means of dismissal was LBW and hence it was natural that he should make lot more LBW claims than others.

Apart from the number of wickets he took, Kumble was always considered an epitome of what we used to visualize as an ideal “Gentleman Cricketer”. There are only a few specimens of this type in the world today.

I distinctly remember a few years back during the World Cup in South Africa,  I felt he was being illtreated and he should retire. He however absorbed the shocks and ultimately achieved several additional milestones including retiring as the Captain of the team.

In the very early days of his career, I remeber having made a strong suggestion to a Company to use him as a brand ambassador and had created a sample corporate ad campaign for an ad agency in which his qualities to succeed in India and abroad, with leg spin or googly,  etc.,  had been highlighted. Those were early days of sponsorship and Kumble was too junior to even think of any commercial contracts. The Company however failed to notice the potential of this Cricketer who went on to become of the greatest ambassadors of an ideal sportsman and lost a great opportunity. Though the suggested campaign was consigned to the dustbins, I am happy that the statements that I had crafted in the copy ultimately was proved many times over.

Kumble also showed his greateness outside the Cricket field and was a role model in his personal life too. When Cricket historians document his life story, the future Cricketers will know what it is like to be a  person like Anil as he was called in his close circles. As a complete person, Kumble will remain one of my favourite Indian Cricketers of all times and wish he will continue to be associated with the game in India and influence emergence of other similar Gentleman Cricketers.

Vijayashankar

2nd November 2008

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