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Kumble's decision is timely
by Partab Ramchand
Mar 01, 2007
Anil Kumble’s 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 Kumble’s 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 Kumble’s absence due to injury during the 2000-2001 season. In the last few years Kumble’s 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 Kumble’s 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 that’s the way it happens it will be a limp ending to a great career. After all Kumble is India’s 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.

 
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