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His rise as a leg spinner

He was always known as the spinner with a fast bowler’s attitude. Probably, this came about because Anil Kumble started his career as a medium-pacer in schools cricket. Being tall and energetic, he did a passable job, but when he was 15 his elder brother Dinesh persuaded him to switch over to leg spin. Kumble was to recall later that there was no one to guide him or coach him or show him how to grip the ball.

But he did have the determination, the will to succeed, the burning ambition to make it to the top and the aptitude for hard work besides a certain amount of talent. These qualities helped him overcome any hurdles that might have occurred because of a lack of technical cricketing education and very soon with his energetic arm swing and powerful shoulders he was making the deliveries bounce like a tennis ball. Around the time he made his Ranji Trophy debut in 1989-90, Kumble was being compared to BS Chandrasekhar and not without good reason.

For one thing, he too was not an orthodox leg spinner. Like Chandra, the googly was his stock delivery and the leg break and the top spinner were the surprise weapons. He did not send down the unplayable delivery as much as Chandra did but he was less likely to bowl the number of hittable balls that the renowned member of the spin quartet did.

Kumble was certainly the more accurate of the two. Any similarity assuredly came by chance for Kumble was too young to have made a study of Chandra’s bowling. The selectors deserve all credit for giving Kumble the big break at 19 and he never looked back. In only his third ODI he bagged the man of the match award against England at Leeds taking two for 29 off 11 overs. Read moreread more

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He cemented his place in the Indian team on the tour of South Africa in 1992 and was the leader of the pack till Harbhajan Singh’s dramatic deeds against Australia in 2001 (in the absence of Kumble following a shoulder injury). His match-winning spell of six for 12 against the West Indies in the Hero Cup final at Calcutta in 1993 was his most memorable feat and remains the best figures by an Indian in an ODI.

Over a decade and a half, he maintained his position as one of the three leading spin bowlers in the world the others being Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralitharan. He is also among only four Indian bowlers to have captured over 1000 wickets in first class cricket the others being Bishen Bedi, BS Chandrasekhar and S Venkatraghavan.

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