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Tigers at Home. Lambs Abroad.
by Partab Ramchand
Jul 25, 2007
The time I think has come for the Indian selectors to seriously consider whether Anil Kumble is deserving of a place in the Indian team whenever it plays abroad. His latest failure – not just his unimpressive match figures of three for 130 in the first Test at Lord’s but also the manner in which he was treated harshly – should definitely hinder his future chances of representing the country abroad coming as it does on top of an indifferent record in away Test matches.

`Tigers at home, lambs abroad’ is the most common refrain when discussing the Indian team. Individually this amply sums up Kumble. In India he is the veritable `dada’ winning matches single handedly, taking wickets by the bucketful and making the best of batsmen look like clowns in a circus on the designer turning tracks. Away from familiar pitches and conditions, it is the batsman’s turn to extract revenge on the veteran hitting him all over the place, make him look like a novice and see to it that more often than not he ends up with ragged figures. Kevin Pietersen is but the latest in a long line of batsmen who have been ruthless on Kumble.

No Indian bowler has such a disparity in his bowling figures in India and abroad as Kumble. The break up makes for astounding reading. At home he has taken 325 wickets in 56 Tests at an average of 23.71 with 24 five-wicket hauls. By direct contrast his 60 Tests abroad have got him 230 wickets at the exorbitant average of 35.66 with nine five- wicket hauls. His supporters might speak up on his behalf on the few Test matches that he has won for India abroad. Overall however there is little doubt as the figures clearly illustrate that he should not be persevered anymore in away matches. He should however definitely be played at home where despite the odd occasion when he has led the country down Kumble in his 37th year and after 17 years of playing Test matches is still the match winner supreme.

The great thing about Kumble is that he is still an intense competitor – too intense going by some of his appalling appealing. When he is among the wickets he can be quite a menace. On a responsive pitch he can be more than a handful as he makes the ball bounce alarmingly even while accuracy remains his forte. But when things are going wrong, when the pitch is not to his liking and he is taking a lot of stick then there is no more pathetic sight in cricket than Kumble’s bowling given his vast experience. He bowls all over the place, full tosses and half trackers become quite commonplace and all one can see are the runs getting stacked against his name. The latest episode was enacted at Lord’s. The moment Pietersen showed the willingness to get after him, step out and lift him boldly, adventurously and gloriously to the boundary and beyond Kumble’s bowling went to pieces. There are no masking emotions for Kumble. If he wears his heart on his sleeve, a show of anger, disgust and frustration is also writ large on his face. He himself is not the most athletic fielder in the side but he is quick to admonish an erring teammate in this regard. His batting has deteriorated to the point wherein he provides a lot of derisive humour to the spectators, the worldwide TV audience and I dare say to his teammates.

The one thing he still has going for him as I said is his record at home. Perhaps he should confine his Test match appearances – now that he has retired from ODIs – to Indian conditions where he has such an enviable record. Refreshed from not playing abroad, Kumble can perhaps even improve his already excellent strike rate. It may take him that much longer to reach his ambition of 600 wickets but at least his figures will not be dented. Most important the Indian team could fare better abroad with an ageing Kumble not in the starting line up.

 
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