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Judge Kumble after Mohali - Renin Wilben column
by Renin Wilben
Oct 16, 2008
On the eve of the Mohali Test all the focus is on Indian skipper Anil Kumble whose recent form and fitness is a big worry. It seems as though most observers in Indian cricket, and there are a billion of them, are calling for the skipper's head. While it is expected considering the leggie's recent struggles, it would be nice to see the Indians backing him instead of humiliating him.

We all know Kumble is a committed cricketer and if he feels he will be able to perform in the Mohali game we must stand behind him. After all, the team has been announced for the first two Tests so the swords can be out if Kumble puts up another miserable show. But if people are asking the Indian great to step down on the basis of his Bangalore performance it is highly unfair. And if so why don't people have the guts to say the same things about Sachin Tendulkar. At the start of the Sri Lanka series, he needed less than hundred runs to break the world record for most Test runs. And after the Bangalore Test, he is still 15 short. Ironically, he is getting praise from all quarters for crawling towards the record!

Just because Kumble is not a superstar it does not mean people degrade him when he is struggling. It is really sad to see that in India we have different rules for different people. Agreed, Kumble has not been having a great time of late. But this was the same man who led India to a series win in England last year and bowled and batted with great heart amidst all the controversies down under. Again, one cannot live on past laurels. But it has been only a year since he has taken over the job of captaining the Test team and he has just about settled into the scheme of things.

Those asking for Kumble to be replaced by MS Dhoni as skipper need to be shown how the Indian wicket-keeper was cleaned up by a part-timer Michael Clarke at Bangalore. Again this is not judging Dhoni on one performance but it is a known fact that he is not yet an established Test player. Also people have made a judgment based on the short stint he had as a stand-in skipper when Kumble was off the field due to his injury in Bangalore. Well, he was impressive no doubt but so has been Kumble expect for Lankan series where his batters struggled. To hand over the reins of the team to Dhoni on the basis of his 'stand-in' job in the first Test would be the height of stupidity.

Kumble is known to be a fighter and he has proved his critics wrong innumerable times over the years. When he started people laughed him off saying this spinner cannot turn the ball. But he answered all the criticism in the best way possible – letting the ball do all the talking. There was a time when he struggled to pick up wickets abroad and was termed as a match-winner only in home conditions where the pitches favoured him. The stats too reflected this point clearly but to Kumble's credit he reinvented himself adding variety to his bowling. And the result has been that he has tasted success abroad as well. And then no one can forget the sight of a bandaged Kumble in West Indies claiming Lara's wicket. He had come out to bowl against medical instructions. What more can you ask for from a player?

The Indian Test skipper will turn 38 on Friday – day one of the Mohali Test. He doesn't have anything to prove to the cricketing world considering that he is the third highest wicket-taker of all time. Kumble will go all out to silence his detractors one last time. But what remains to be seen is whether the ageing body is able to support the mind.
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