Dec 21, 2007 at 12:14am IST

'Captaincy has given me a shot in the arm'

We are at the National School and College in Bangalore to meet a special person, someone who truly is a legend of this game. He is the country's highest wicket-taker, the only Indian to have taken 10 wickets in a Test match innings, the captain of the Indian cricket team, Bengaluru's favourite son - Anil Kumble.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, welcome to the show! The warm reception that you got, you are truly the son of the soil. This is the school and college where you played the game. It must make you feel nostalgic?

Anil Kumble: Yes, very much. I studied here, and then played a lot of cricket at the grounds here. I actually started playing with a cricket ball on this ground for the first time.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Were you a good student? It's very unusual for a sportsman to be good at studies. You were a genuine all-rounder.

Anil Kumble: Only in that sense. But I was probably a bad example for a sportsman. So in that sense a lot of cricketers used to hate me because I was pretty regular attending the classes.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You are pretty regular now with taking wickets. So you make regularity your signature tune. But we have introduced you and call this programme Captain Kumble. Be honest: did you, in your wildest imagination; just a couple of weeks ago think that you would one day be the captain of India? Did you think the chance had past you?

Anil Kumble: Definitely. I think the chance had past me, because when I was vice-captain in 1996, maybe I thought I had a chance then, and later on there was a possibility. But never in my wildest dreams had I thought that it would come at such a stage in my career.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You've scored this first series win against Pakistan, the first in 27 years, and you seem to be smiling a lot on the cricket field. You are actually enjoying being captain?

Anil Kumble: Yes. I think it gives you a sense of involvement. The involvement would be much more when you are bowling, but now you have to think for the other guys on the field as well. So, the involvement is much more. I'm always someone who will love to be involved in the game and this has definitely given me that.

Rajdeep Sardesai: The myth was that bowlers don't make great captains. And then, along comes Anil Kumble and you seem to make all the right changes. It worked most of the time; Yuvraj Singh worked, few of the others changes worked. Do bowlers make good captains?


Anil Kumble: At the end of the day, the bowlers have to get 20 wickets to win a Test match. So, I'm sure they do have a little bit of brains to get those wickets.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think you have sent out a message to all the bowlers of the world. Maybe Shane Warne, who's watching this programme, might hope that he should have one day been made captain of Australia. But winning this series against Pakistan, how important was that for you? The bigger challenges will obviously come ahead and we will obviously talk about those later, but was there a decisive moment where you felt in your captaincy in your first series?

Anil Kumble: I think the first Test match, I have always believed that the first Test match of a series is very crucial. And I thought having lost the toss at the Kotla and to get Pakistan out for less than 250 runs as very important and then, we didn't bat really that well in the first innings, but then we got back really well in the second innings to get them out with a lead of 200. So, in that sense, yes. The first Test win and then things went on.

Rajdeep Sardesai: And then that declaration. Maybe you could have won your first Test match in your home town of Bengaluru had you declared earlier?

Anil Kumble: Possible, but having lived in Bangalore for so long, I still couldn't forecast the weather. So, I didn't realise that the weather will intervene.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, I just want to know from you, you might as well tell us, Sourav Ganguly said in an interview to us that you told the team something on your first day as captain. What did you tell them?

Anil Kumble: Nothing. It was just the usual team meetings that we have.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You must have told him something. Did you tell Ganguly that if I win a match like you, I'll also take remove my shirt? I can't imagine Anil Kumble removing his shirt after a victory.

Anil Kumble: No. Yesterday I had to do that, because that was a lucky shirt and we have this habit of pouring all kinds on it. So I wanted to ensure that the shirt was safe. After we won the match yesterday I ensured that I wore a different shirt, but it had to be on the field.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But you are aggressive. The interesting thing what Sourav Ganguly said is that you are aggressive. The best description of you someone gave me was that you are a smiling, silent assassin, till you have a cricket ball in your hand.

Anil Kumble: I think aggression is not just the emotions that you show on the field, but at the end of it, you have to ensure that you play the game aggressively and the ball has to do the talking. If the body language to the batsman is mild, then obviously the batsmen will dominate. So, it's important as a bowler to be really aggressive in that.


Rajdeep Sardesai: You sometimes think like a fast bowler. I have always thought Anil Kumble is a spinner who thinks like a fast bowler.

Anil Kumble: Most of the times. I wanted to bowl a bouncer yesterday. I have been trying that and I keep telling the bowlers to keep giving those bouncers because it's important. As a bowler, you need to be aggressive.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Is that something you learnt in school? I hope school didn't teach you aggression. Were you a bit of a bad boy in school or were you the good guy? There are photos of you, which show you as a 19-year-old, a bespectacled 19-year-old. You look like a professor working in a laboratory. Nobody would have thought you are going to be this terrific cricketer at that time. But which is the real Anil Kumble?

Anil Kumble: I have mellowed with age. I was pretty angry initially, but I think I have mellowed with age.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Because most people in this city, like the weather, are pretty gentle people.

Anil Kumble: I am gentle. Till you said 'with a ball in my hand', I am different.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I have got a better word for you now than the silent assassin, is the Gentle Giant, because you really are a giant in Indian cricket, and what you have achieved in the game is quite remarkable. Has it ever sunk in, all that you've achieved over these years?

Anil Kumble: When you look back, it gives you a sense of satisfaction, pride, and also, all the hard work that I have put in, I think when you look back at the record, it gives you a lot of satisfaction.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I know that Sachin Tendulkar, for example, in the kitbag of his mind, knows every hundred that he's made. Do you also know your every five-wicket haul, 'which batsman did I dismiss', when?

Anil Kumble: Not really, but if I look at the scorecard then obviously I know how I got him out. I do remember certain dismissals and I can't really pinpoint.

Rajdeep Sardesai: So, once you're 80, you'll be telling your grandchildren 'I got him out here, I got him out there.' So that's possible.

Anil Kumble: It is possible. It is important to have a good memory otherwise you'll get hit all around the park.


Rajdeep Sardesai: Has captaincy given you a fresh lease of life? In a sense, has it made you even more enthusiastic about a game in a peculiar way? At the age of 37, you almost seem to be running around the field like a 19-year-old.

Anil Kumble: Captaincy has definitely given me a shot in the arm in terms of the enthusiasm. And it is definitely a motivation for me at this time in my career. And it's come at a time when probably it's right. So, I've enjoyed it so far, and there are tough tours ahead.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You're 37. Some people in the team must not have been born when you started playing the game for India. What do they call you? Anil daddy or Anil sir?

Anil Kumble: Not yet. I think it's still bhai, it's still fine. I don't want to get to that stage where they start calling me daddy.

Rajdeep Sardesai: For someone who has virtually shouldered the team for all these years, not even a single grey hair. Is that something peculiar of Bangalore that you all don't grey like me quickly?.

Anil Kumble: I think it's the air and the water possibly.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, you had broken your jaw, and you kept bowling for India. I don't think any other cricketer can get greater praise for that for just your sheer resilience. It is remarkable. If I were to ask you about that match, when I see those images, did you ever think that you didn't want to bowl or you were determined to play irrespective even with a broken jaw for India?

Anil Kumble: I think the only thing that can stop me from bowling is my shoulders. So if the shoulder was fine, then I would go out there to bowl.

Rajdeep Sardesai: We have your yoga teacher here, and he's going to probably tell us a secret. What is the secret of Anil's success? How do you keep his shoulder fit for bowling day after day?

Onkar: Especially during the rehabilitation of his shoulder, he really worked so hard, and it is perhaps an eye-opener and a lesson for every sportsperson in the world. He was very sincere, very hardworking. In fact, more than I taught him, I have also learnt a lot from him as to how to face life. I would like to complete the caption of your programme: Captain Kumble, wickets tumble, batsmen tremble, he is very humble.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think the humility always strikes out. You make it all sound very simple. You have always been this extremely unassuming person. Is that the kind of person you are?

Anil Kumble: I am like that. It is in people and me who are around me; my family. Even when I was announced the captain, and also after I got 10 wickets, people wanted me to show emotions. But that didn’t happen. So, it's just the way I am.


Rajdeep Sardesai: How good is your yoga?

Anil Kumble: I don't know. It's pretty bad, but thanks to Onkar, it certainly helped my shoulder well.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Looking back at this 18-year-old career of yours in Test cricket, what's your favourite moment? I'm going to give your choice of two: Was it the 10 wickets against Pakistan, or was it scoring that century at the Oval? Because when you scored that century you were running around like a schoolboy. It was almost like this was what you wanted to prove to someone that you can bowl and bat.

Anil Kumble: Yes, I always thought that I had it in me to score runs and get a Test hundred. The choice is tough, to choose from a 10-wicket haul and a Test hundred. I think 99 out of 100 times I would choose the 10 wickets. But this time I will choose that Test hundred.

Rajdeep Sardesai: When you were taking those 10 wickets, was there a time when you took five, six, seven, when did you start thinking about 10?

Anil Kumble: After I got six, then I thought I have a great chance. Before that the best haul I had was a seven-for. So I thought this was a great opportunity to better that. And then six happened, seven came, and then eight and nine happened in two balls. So, then I thought it was a great chance now.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I asked (Javagal) Srinath this and he said he deliberately bowled wide balls because he wanted you to get your 10 wickets. He made it very clear that he wouldn't have been able to return to Bangalore had he taken that 10th wicket.

Anil Kumble: Yes, he did do that for one over. It would have been really embarrassing for me to ask Srinath to do it again. So, it was important that I wrapped it up in that over when I got the opportunity.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You started off your career as a medium pacer. And then you became a spinner. When did you decide? Was there a stage when you decided that? Leg-spin is the most difficult thing in cricket. Why did you choose the most difficult thing to do in the game?

Anil Kumble: I was bowling medium pace, and then the club cricketers and the senior cricketers in the club said that I had a suspect action. So I had to change. My brother at that point in time said, 'Why don't you take up leg-spin? There are not many leg-spinners around.' So that's how I started. And then, immediately I played for the Karnataka Under-15 team. And then I kept bowling leg-spin from then on.


Rajdeep Sardesai: You kept bowling leg-spin, and you kept on bowling. You have taken 584 wickets. Have you set yourself a target? Muralitharan has taken 700-plus wickets says he wants to take 1000. Has Anil Kumble set a target for himself?

Anil Kumble: I think at this point in time, 600 is definitely around the corner. But other than that, I am not really looking at anything else, other than ensuring that we go out in Australia and get a victory there.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I sometimes think that there is an engineer's mind in you. So you are thinking, '600 by the end of this year, 700 next year, and 800 after two years'. Are you going to continue till 40-45?

Anil Kumble: No. I think once you are 37, you start saying, 'okay, next match I'm going to play, then the following match I'm going to play,' that's how it is. So, you start counting match by match and then pick off the number of overs that you have bowled.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You say you are playing match by match but your teammates don't agree. They all say you're special, they all say you're a legend. I guess praise from your peers at the end of the day must matter a lot to you?

Anil Kumble: Yes. The respect that you gain not only from your teammates but also from the opposition, and the cricketing fraternity, I think that's the most important thing. If you can get that respect even after you are finished, then you go and meet up, but the respect always remains.

Rajdeep Sardesai: What I sense that there's respect from your own teammates, there is respect from the opponents, but your opponents also fear you. I asked this to Adam Gilchrist, and he said the one cricketer he feared playing on Indian wickets was Anil Kumble. They are terrified of you.

Anil Kumble: It's a compliment coming from someone like Adam Gilchrist. I hope that the fear continues for the next four Test matches.

Rajdeep Sardesai: What's the secret? What's the secret of your success as a bowler? You might as well now tell us. You see, once you are 37, you can let out your secrets. What is the secret of getting 584 wickets? Is it hard work, tenacity, that killer instinct?

Anil Kumble: I think it's the preparation. Basically, try and prepare the same, the way I used to prepare probably 17 years ago in terms of the mental make-up, and try and go out there and do the job. As long as that is happening, then I know that I'm involved and if there is a problem there, then I know that it's not going to happen. So, it's very important for me to prepare the way I prepare, not just for a Test match but also for any cricket match that I go for.


Rajdeep Sardesai: So, in a way, it's good that we are in your school. Did you prepare for every match like you prepared for a school exam?

Anil Kumble: I prepared generally to ensure that I get the maximum. So, whatever I did, I still use that in cricket. A lot of planning to get maximum marks in an exam. So, it's the same. You prepare to get maximum wickets in a match. So, you try and impress the invigilator who's correcting your paper. So to ensure that you do all things first, and then you start answering the things, which you feel, you are not really comfortable with. So, the same thing goes with cricket, to try and bowl to whatever your strengths are.

Rajdeep Sardesai: And do you have a plan for every batsman?

Anil Kumble: Yes, and try and stick to it. Some days it works, while some days it doesn't. But then at least you go back thinking that this plan didn't work. If you don't have a plan then you can't go back to anything else.

Rajdeep Sardesai: We have been privileged in this generation to not only see great batsmen but also been able to see great spinners across the world. There's Muralitharan, there's Shane Warne, and there's Anil Kumble. Who's the greatest? Do you have a personal favourite?

Anil Kumble: Shane Warne, certainly.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Any one cricketer who's inspired you over the years, any hero that you had when you were growing up?

Anil Kumble: When I was growing up, certainly GR Viswanath, BS Chandrasekhar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev. I grew up watching them. And then to share the same dressing room with some of them, and then also, during my growing up years in the Ranji Trophy, I had the opportunity to see GR Viswanath a lot.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Karnataka has produced great batsmen, but they have also produced great spinners. And this school has produced three of the greatest spinners who taken almost 1000 wickets between them - Anil Kumble, Chandrasekhar and EAS Prasanna. What is it again about the air of Bangalore?

Anil Kumble: I think it's only about spinners. It's probably because of the matting wickets. I grew up playing cricket on matting wickets. So, maybe that was the reason where I got a lot of bounce and the pace that I had to bowl at to bowl on a matting wicket. So maybe that was the initial secret.


Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil Kumble has a very special relationship with Karnataka and some very special people who knew Anil as a young man. Mr Rama Rao, you are the Principal with the National Education Society, do you remember any story about Anil as a young man?

Rama Rao: We know Anil Kumble from the very beginning. When it comes to Kumble, the first important point is, there was one BT Ramaiah Shield, meant for the entire Karnataka High Schools. Anil Kumble as captain, he has won that at that point in time, maybe about 20 years back. So he was going to be a good captain.

Rajdeep Sardesai: We also have Principal with the Engineering college. What is it in Karnataka that you make them engineers first and then give them to cricket?

Principal Hola: Anil was not an engineer, he was into cricket. But he was a distinction student throughout. And whenever he got time, he used to study hard and get it done. And when I arranged some extra coaching for him even at nine o'clock in heavy rains, after cricket practice, he went to his house, tapped at the door and attended tuition. And that is Anil. He is the rarest of rare diamond I got. I have taught thousands of boys, but Anil is Anil, nobody else can match up to that.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, did you ever think that you were going to study and become and engineer, or were you always determined to be a cricketer?

Anil Kumble: I knew that I would study and become an engineer. But I never thought that I would become a cricketer. I always wanted to become a cricketer and play for India. But it all happened when I was doing my second year at the RV College of Engineering. So, it all happened suddenly. One year I was playing club cricket and then the same year I was playing international cricket. And then after six months I was dropped and then I was out of international cricket for almost a year. Things happened too quickly, but that opportunity came at the right time.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You've reached this stage, I don't know any other living cricketer who has a road circle named after him. In the heart of Bengaluru we have the Anil Kumble Circle after you tool 10 wickets. So you are a son of the soil, much like Sachin Tendulkar in a sense is a son of the soil in Mumbai.

Anil Kumble: Yes, I think it is very special. I'd like to thank all the people who have shown a lot of affection and support all these years, and I'm really thankful to all of them for giving me such a great honour in the city that I live.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Ever thought that maybe one day after you retire, you might want to join politics? Any political ambitions?

Anil Kumble: None whatsoever.


Rajdeep Sardesai: Did you ever feel that you should have been the captain much earlier than at the age of 37?

Anil Kumble: Definitely. When you look back, yes there were a couple of opportunities where probably I could have got a chance. But then I have always said this that it's not in my control. I you had asked me saying that 'would you have got that Test hundred much before,' I would have said yes, because that was in my control. But captaincy and selection was definitely not in my control. But having said that, I think it's come at the right time.

Kumble's English teacher recalls, "It is always my regular routine when I enter my classroom for the very first time when students join this college, to ask them to write about their dreams. I did not know who you were. After a few minutes, I went around the classroom and read your paragraph. I remember you spoke a great deal about your passion for the game and your dream about becoming the captain of the Indian cricket team someday. And being a cricketer myself, I admired your passion for the game, but I did laugh at your lofty ambitions. But today, I'm extremely proud of you, personally, and the entire college, along with the rest of the country is extremely delighted and proud of you."

Rajdeep Sardesai: You are a remarkably hard working individual. In that sense, you are a role model. This is a world of page 3 celebrities where you have to shout out to say 'I'm a great guy.' You've never had to say that. Your achievements have told that story. Have you really recognised that?

Anil Kumble: I think it's commitment. Whatever I've committed to, I've tried and gone and done that. If I had a commitment to go at four o'clock for practice I would go.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Let's get to the other side of Anil Kumble. You are not the pin-up boy like Yuvraj Singh. But I can tell you a lot of girls at least in my office think you are great. Like other cricketers, we have never heard about your off-field activities. You are Mr Nice.

Anil Kumble: I'm happily married, Rajdeep. Thank you so much.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But even when you were not married, even Anil Kumble the bachelor, we didn't hear about your off the field, nocturnal activities.

Anil Kumble: I like to keep the balance.


Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, let's look more seriously to the challenges ahead. Australia is going to be a tough, tough tour. Do you really think we can beat the Australians?

Anil Kumble: Yes, we can. We have the potential, because we have the batting line-up to put the runs on the board. If we can put the runs on the board, I've always believed that we have the ability to get 20 wickets.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You actually think that beating Australia in Australia, is that the final frontier really? Is that the Mount Everest of cricket today to beat Australia in Australia?

Anil Kumble: It is, in a sense, to do well against Australia, is everybody's challenge, because they are the top team in world cricket. And to do that in their home ground is something very special. We came very close to doing that in 2003. We had our opportunities, which we didn't take. Maybe this time around, if we repeat the performance in terms of our batting abilities there, I'm sure we can do that again.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Have you targeted any Australian batsman? Are you already making your plans for the Australians?

Anil Kumble: A little bit. The thinking process has started since yesterday, a day after the match here in Bangalore got over. But the discussions will only start once we get together in Mumbai before we got to Australia.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You said it's batting that will make the difference. Do you believe that if you put up 400 runs against the Australians, they are beatable?

Anil Kumble: Yes, definitely. If you look at the Sri Lankan series as well, Sri Lanka came close to chasing 500 runs on the last day, almost did that in Australia. So, if we put runs on the board, like we did the last time, we have a great chance of beating them.

Rajdeep Sardesai: So the bottom line whenever you go on a big tour, you believe you can go to a tour, even to Australia with the belief that you can win.

Anil Kumble: Yes, 100 per cent. You walk out to a field, no matter what the situation is, thinking that you are going to win the match.

Rajdeep Sardesai: If we beat Australia, will you then think that that's the final frontier, 'should I think of retiring'? Have you ever thought of retiring?

Anil Kumble: I thought of retiring a long time ago. Things have crossed my mind. But like I just mentioned, this captaincy has certainly given me shot in the arm and a great motivation. So, it's important for me to think the next four Test matches are crucial, not just for me personally, but also for Indian cricket, because the challenges are that not many in the team would probably go back to Australia four years from now. So, it's very important that we go out there and get the job done.


Rajdeep Sardesai: And you are going to look at this now match by match, as far as your future is concerned, or series by series?

Anil Kumble: I think this series, yes. And from there on, think ahead. So, at this point in time I'd like to look at Australia.

Rajdeep Sardesai: We have discussed Anil Kumble the cricketer, we have discussed Anil Kumble the captain. What about Anil Kumble the family man? You are a strong family man.

Anil Kumble: Yes. It's tough when you are touring, to be away from the family. But I think my wife holds the household in order and all credit to her the way she is managing.

Rajdeep Sardesai: So after retirement, are you going to be a cricket commentator and travel the world? Are you going to sit back?

Anil Kumble: I'll sit back and enjoy family life.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Have you thought of starting an Anil Kumble cricket academy?

Anil Kumble: Yes, probably. But then not immediately as soon as I finish my career. But yes, thoughts are definitely there.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Anil, to your eternal credit. You have always been a magnificent cricketer simply because you have been so unassuming and humble, whether it's about your family or whether it's about the game. You are a magnificent cricketer - a tribute to this country. Any final word you want to tell your young admirers, some of whom may want to become Anil Kumbles one day?

Anil Kumble: I'd like to tell them that go out and be committed, be focussed and ensure that you give your 100 per cent. I'm sure the results will come. For some it comes early, for some it comes late. But as long as the commitment is there then I'm sure it will come. Thank you very much for all the support that I have received for all these years, and it's been wonderful being a part of this.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You are talking about 100 per cent, I think you are the one cricketer who's given 200 per cent every time you have stepped out for India for 17-18 years of international cricket of his life. I think, just for our sheer dedication Anil Kumble, you are a remarkable cricketer. Captain Kumble: a one of a kind cricketer.

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