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Jan 18, 2008 at 02:05am IST

Captain Courageous: fair play for Anil Kumble

Indian captain Anil Kumble on Thursday became the third bowler in history to break the 600-wicket mark. He reached the milestone by dismissing Andrew Symonds on the second day of the Perth Test.

Kumble picked up two wickets to join Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne as the only bowlers to take 600 Test victims. And the skipper has reached that milestone without any hullabaloo.

As former Australian captain Steve Waugh wrote in his column: "Kumble has taken 600 wickets with a fraction of the publicity afforded to Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan but he has been a much admired performer among his rivals."

Has India really never given Kumble his due? Has his achievement been ignored because of India’s batting legends? CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey asked this on Face The Nation to former cricketer E Prasanna and Ayaz Memon, senior cricket journalist and Associate Editor with the DNA newspaper.

“Let us face it, cricket is a batsman’s game and bowlers have never been given a fair due. That is true of Indian bowlers bowling in India, as it is wrongly said that the wicket is fair to them. Kumble, by his brilliant performance in India and overseas, has proved a point but he has definitely not been given his due,” said Prasanna.

People said Kumble bowls well only in India—a perception that doesn’t match up with his bowling record. Kumble has captured most number of wickets against Australia. He has taken 105 Australian wickets in 17 matches.

Kumble has proved that he is one of the “greatest of cricketers who have set foot in the field,” said Memon. “He is closer to Muralitharan than Warne. He and Muralitharan have been the driving force of their teams. Warne has had Glenn McGarth, who took heck lot of wickets, but Kumble and Muralitharan didn’t have same kind of support.

“Kumble would have had 50-70 wickets more if had been supported by better fielding and bowling in the first half of his career,” said Memon.

And when Kumble started getting support, like in the form of Harbhajan Singh, people started doubting whether India needed him any longer. Kumble was dropped from the team in 2002-2003.

“The fact is Indian selectors have never believed that two spinners should play together. Harbhajan and Kumble have not played many matches together and rarely have they bowled in tandem,” said Prasanna.

“Both of them have done exceedingly well but the mode of selection has always been that it should be a one-man show at all times.”

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Kumble was given captaincy of the Indian team almost reluctantly, but he has done the job superbly. He has handled the controversies in the Sydney Test well and earned respect for his gentlemanly conduct.

Memon regards as Kumble as the “best thing” that has happened to Indian cricket in terms of leadership. “I will admit that I wanted M S Dhoni to be the captain of the Test team too. I eat my words and I think Kumble is the best thing that has happened. The cricketing world has rallied behind India because of his maturity, resolve and his bowling,” said Memon.

Has this great leader, bowler and gentleman been given his due then?

“Getting him to be captain of India was a tremendous decision though that might have been done by default. In terms of endorsements and star power Kumble probably has not got his due, but in the annals of cricketing history he will shine like the North Star,” said Memon.

Prasanna said Indian faces a problem: “When Kumble retires there is going to be a “big void which will be extremely difficult to fill up.”

SMS poll on: Has Kumble never quite got his due?

Yes: 88 percent, No: 12 percent

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