During an interaction with Satya Nadella, Anil Kumble has elaborated about his own international career, singling out the 2003-04 Australia tour as the turning point. Kumble also highlighted how his disciplined upbringing got him the "headmaster" tag later in his playing days.
Kumble the cricketer was meticulous, someone who believed in substance over style and was nothing if not attention to the details. However, despite a fairly illustrious career at the international level, with 956 wickets in all and 619 in Test cricket alone, he was unfairly blamed as a “single-terrain bowler” and most of the times, Sourav Ganguly, the Indian skipper then, decided to go with Harbhajan Singh ahead of him.
However, Kumble never shied away from the challenges and turned his career around in the 2003-04 Adelaide Test where he finally got a chance, thanks to an injury to Harbhajan, and justified his selection by picking up a fifer.
At an event in New Delhi, with a discussion with Microsoft CEO Nadella, Kumble recalled that phase and said, “As a cricketer, you have to hit refresh literally at the end of every series. Challenges from one series to another are different. But I would like to mention the Australia tour in 2003-04 when I was at the crossroads of my career.
“I was competing for a place in the XI (with Harbhajan). People had started talking about my retirement as I was in my 30s. I got an opportunity in the Adelaide Test, which we famously won. I took a beating that day, conceded 100 runs for just a wicket (Justin Langer) and Australia were 400 for 5. We had done so well to draw the first Test, and now they are running away with the second one.
“I decided to do something different, to bowl a different type of googly which I had practised during my tennis-ball days. I hadn’t quite perfected it, but now was an opportunity to try it out. I set an off-spinner’s field and kept bowling the googlies. In the end, I snared my first five-for in Australia, which gave me a lot of confidence, and we won the Test.”
Since the legendary spinner stepped down as the head coach of the Indian team under controversial circumstances earlier this year, he has maintained a dignified silence on the matter. But, on Tuesday, Kumble looked back at the episode with a touch of humour.
When Nadella asked Kumble about the values his parents had passed on and the former Indian captain replied, “The self-belief. It comes from the values that you inculcate, looking up to your parents and grandparents. My grandfather was a headmaster in school and I know that term kept coming back to me later in my career. Some of them here will understand (what I am talking about).”
One of the implied issues with the alleged displeasure of some of the players of the Indian team when Kumble was in charge was his insistence on discipline, which led to the term ‘headmasterly’ being bestowed on him.