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Worthy successors for Anil Kumble - Partab Ramchand Column
by Partab Ramchand
Oct 28, 2008
It is always a cause for some alarm when a cricketing great is in the twilight of his career. And in Indian cricket this cause for alarm is intensified when the player concerned is a spin bowler. After all spin bowling has always been this country's finest tradition. Indian cricket has produced an assembly line of outstanding spin bowlers just as the West Indies used to produce great fast bowlers. The most fascinating variety of tweakers have come from India. Other countries too have thrown up world class bowlers renowned for their flight and turn, skill and accuracy but it is Indian cricket that symbolizes the ethereal quality of spin bowling. The best among the Indian spin bowlers have held the cricketing world spellbound and the praise they have rightly earned has been the effusive kind.

Given this background the fact that Anil Kumble cannot be around for too much longer should normally be a cause for considerable alarm. How do you replace a bowler who has been around almost two decades, been the highest wicket taker for India in Tests (and the third highest of all time) and won more matches for the country than any other bowler. A great bowler, a fiercely competitive cricketer and lately a father figure captain Kumble should normally be well nigh irreplaceable. Fortunately the rich tradition of Indian spin bowling has always seen to it that even when the greats have called it a day their replacements are adequate to start with and then with experience they become worthy successors.

One remembers how in the late fifties and early sixties the first great Indian spin trio of Vinoo Mankad, Ghulam Ahmed and Subash Gupte played their last Tests. There was trepidation as to how replacements would be found for such great bowlers. But through the early and mid sixties Chandu Borde, Bapu Nadkarni and Salim Durrani kept the flag flying before the famous spin quartet took shape. The era of Bishen Bedi, BS Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkatraghavan constituted the greatest phase in Indian cricket but once the inevitable break-up occurred in 1979 alarm bells rang again. But through the eighties and early nineties, Dilip Doshi, Maninder Singh, Narendra Hirwani, Shivlal Yadav and (very briefly) Laxman Sivaramakrishnan kept the spin attack going.

By the time the careers of these bowlers ground to a halt Kumble had already made an impact on the international scene and through the 90s he had the support of Venkatpathi Raju, Rajesh Chauhan and (briefly) Sunil Joshi. But Kumble was the kingpin taking wickets by the bucketful, being particularly destructive on home pitches. And in the new millennium even as the other bowlers bowed out he was joined by Harbhajan Singh and the duo formed the most penetrative and successful combination of Indian spin bowlers since the break-up of the spin quartet.

Fortunately for Indian cricket Harbhajan is almost ten years Kumble's junior in age so even after the veteran goes the off spinner will still be around. And Harbhajan can be assured that he will have more than adequate support if the current trend is any indication. All the three contenders to take Kumble’s place have already played for India and displayed their promise in abundant measure. Amit Mishra is 26 and has played one Test and three ODIs. Twenty-year-old Piyush Chawla has played two Tests and 21 ODIs while Pragyan Ojha who is 22 has represented the country in five ODIs. Two leg spinners and a left arm spinner along with the established off spinner gives enough indication that the future of Indian spin bowling is in good hands and the rich tradition will continue its gloriously unbroken run.
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