Kumble, obviously past his best, is calling it a day when the figures are still respectable.
Anil Kumbles announcement that the World Cup could well be his last
one day tournament could not have come a day too soon. While he still
remains a skilful bowler in Test cricket Kumble is clearly over the
hill as far as dealing with the intricacies of the one day game is
concerned. He is fortunate to be making the trip to the Caribbean and
playing in his fourth World Cup. Ramesh Powar should have been on the
flight instead of the 36-year-old veteran.
As the well known saying almost cruelly goes ``you are only as good as
your last performance. For all his great achievements and the heights
he has reached in the shorter version of the game Kumbles bowling has
lost its sheen. A couple of facts and figures will underline this. For
starters it has been clear for some years now that Kumble is only the
No 2 spin bowler in the land with Harbhajan Singh having taken over at
the top ever since his superb deeds in Kumbles absence due to injury
during the 2000-2001 season. In the last few years Kumbles strike rate
has taken a nosedive, his average has gone up and his appearances have
become more sporadic. In the World Cup in South Africa four years ago
he played in just three of the eleven matches while Harbhajan figured
in ten. For about 15 months in the 2005-2006 period he was not in the
Indian ODI squad. With Harbhajan ruling the roost Pawar took Kumbles
place as the second spinner in the series in the Caribbean last year.
The Mumbai off spinner performed reasonably well and did even better in
the recent home games in the Champions Trophy and in the ODI series
against the West Indies and as I said was distinctly unlucky not to be
picked in the World Cup squad.
Kumble is obviously past his best and gained selection for the World
Cup purely on past glory. On current form there is no way he can
command a place in the side. In the last eight ODIs he has taken six
wickets at almost 60 apiece and at an astronomical strike rate of 74.
Kumble just does not fit into the scheme of things in limited overs
cricket anymore. He is far from athletic, his batting has deteriorated
alarmingly, his fielding is mediocre and as indicated his bowling has
seen better days.
In the Caribbean Kumble is unlikely to get many opportunities just as
his appearances in South Africa in 2003 were limited. With the team
management almost certain to go ahead with three seam bowlers and one
spinner in the playing eleven Kumble is bound to sit out for most of
the matches or at best get a game against Bangladesh and Bermuda. So it
is on the cards that his ODI career could well end with a whimper. One
is sure the fiercely competitive Kumble will not like that but there
does not seem to be any other scenario on the horizon.
If indeed thats the way it happens it will be a limp ending to a great
career. After all Kumble is Indias leading wicket taker in ODIs with
334 scalps from 270 matches. His figures of six for 12 when he bowled
the team to a famous Hero Cup triumph against the West Indies at
Calcutta in 1993 is still the best for an Indian. His career average of
just over 31, an economy rate of 4.3 and a strike rate of a little over
43 with eight four wicket hauls and two five wicket hauls are all still
pretty impressive even if the figures have taken a bit of a beating in
the last few matches. At least he is calling it a day when the figures
will continue to remain respectable.