In all walks of life cricket included, attributes like grit, determination, will, resilience, smartness, performance and aptitude make you as good as they come.
Having said this, to reach a step higher, more than just being good, in the esteemed company of being great, one needs to imbibe an eight-letter word.
So, what am I talking about?
Well, let me add some meat to the bone!
The word is humility.
To climb the ladder of greatness one also needs to climb the ladder of humility in equal measure.
A person who has certainly done this is the much-revered Indian ace, Anil Kumble, arguably one of the finest spinners in the world.
His fellow cricketers and fans alike, have described him as a fierce and aggressive competitor on the field and unerringly composed and humble off it.
This, despite not having the skill to spin the ball on any surface like Warne or to fox the best batsmen by creating ripples around the bat like Muralitharan.
Still, speaks volumes of the man doesn’t it? add 337 ODI wickets to the mix, highest by an Indian and he definitely is a humble legend in my books.
When we speak about humility, another cricketer who seamlessly fits this mould is his Karnataka and Indian compatriot, Rahul Dravid.
While there are plenty of performances which are a benchmark of excellence for this legendary leg spinner, I would take the liberty of diving into one of these.
The occasion was Pakistan’s tour of India in the winter of 1998-99 for a 2 match test series, which I may add in today’s time is a rarity if not almost non-existent.
At that time though, any India Pakistan contest was a celebration even bigger than the Ashes and on this particular occasion, Pakistan had brought a very strong and competitive team from across the border captained by possibly one of the best-left arm seamers of his generation, Wasim Akram.
Along with Akram, the team comprised of fellow able performers, the likes of Saeed Anwar, Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Waqar Younis and the wily off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to name a few.
The Indian outfit was also equally competitive with the wall Rahul Dravid, the master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, the Prince of Kolkata Saurav Ganguly, speedster Javagal Srinath and others being led by the resolute Mohammad Azharuddin.
Needless to say, Kumble included!
The first test in Chennai was closely contested, with Pakistan claiming the cherry when India fell short by 12 runs chasing a target of 271 despite a herculean batting effort by the little master Sachin Tendulkar in the second innings.
Chennai was disappointed and so was I, all of 14 at the time!
A silver lining though amid the dark clouds was our man, Jumbo claiming 7 in the match with a six-for in the first innings.
Well, the best for this great was yet to come!
The Men in Blue, one-nil down travelled to Feroz Shah Kotla now named the Arun Jaitley stadium in New Delhi for the second test.
India had to beat Pakistan in the second test to end a 20-year drought of not winning a test against their neighbours and moreover salvaging this test series with Azhar winning the toss and opting to bat first.
India compiled a modest yet competitive 252 in the first innings with the southpaw Sadagoppan Ramesh and Azhar scoring 50s.
Pakistan in reply faltered, losing 9 wickets for a paltry 118 runs, only managing to reach 172 with Kumble claiming 4.
India amassed a first innings lead of 80 and did even better second time around scoring 339, with Ramesh again among the runs scoring 96 matched by a good 50 from Ganguly and a handy 49 by none other than the Indian speedster, Javagal Srinath.
Pakistan were a set a target of 420 in the fourth innings on a pitch that had cracked and was very conducive to spin bowling.
The Men in Green started well reaching a ton without losing a wicket with Saeed Anwar playing steadily and young Shahid Afridi being the aggressor.
The first wicket came when Pakistan were 101, with Afridi getting caught behind by keeper Mongia after Kumble’s delivery turned into the Pakistani batter and got his edge.
Next in Ijaz Ahmed, who was trapped plum in front on the first ball with umpire Jaiprakash immediately raising the dreaded finger.
Pakistan were 101 for 2 with Jumbo on a hat-trick.
In came a man with a unique mixture of laziness and elegance though a very fine bat, Inzamam who played the next ball to mid-off denying Kumble the hat-trick.
Well not getting the hat-trick, didn’t deter the leggie and Inzamam was next on Kumble’s radar when he was clean bowled with the ball taking the edge of the bat to rattle the off stump.
Pakistan were 115 for 3.
Next in was Mohammed Yousuf who on his second ball was adjudged leg before wicket with the ball straightening on to hit the middle, again thanks to Kumble.
Pakistan now were 115 for 4.
India smelling a famous victory, well with 4 wickets falling in a heap, one wouldn’t be surprised.
At 127, Pakistan keeper Moin Khan edged the ball which turned and bounced to give Ganguly a good grab at slip and Kumble had his fifer.
Pakistan were reduced to 127 for 5.
In came the last recognised batter Salim Malik, who barely managed to partner Saaed Anwar for a solitary run before Anwar gloved a ball to short mid-wicket and was ably held by Laxman giving Kumble his 6th further reducing Pakistan to 128 for 6.
At that point, Kumble in his own admission mentioned that a 10-for was possible which would make him only the second cricketer after England’s Jim Laker to achieve this envious feat.
And as they say, the rest was history!
Getting onto Jumbo’s seventh, Salim Malik the last Pakistani batter was clean bowled by the leggie when he attempted to pull Kumble and missed the ball altogether.
Malik did put a small partnership with his captain Wasim Akram who had taken young off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, to the cleaners.
Pakistan were now at 186 for 7.
In walked Pakistan’s leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed who managed to survive all of 13 balls before gloving a ball that sharply rose to Rahul Dravid.
Kumble had his eighth and truth be told the ball was too good for any top-order batter, let alone a tail-ender.
Pakistan were 198 for 8.
Next up Kumble got Pakistan offie Saqlain Mushtaq plum in front on the first ball he faced and Jumbo was again on a hat-trick for the second time in the innings.
Unfortunately, the hat-trick was again denied though Kumble claimed the last wicket of Akram when he gloved the ball to Laxman at short mid-wicket.
India had registered a famous win to draw the series, Feroz Shah Kotla and the entire country had erupted in jubilation not only for India winning but for one, Anil Kumble getting a 10-wicket halt in a single innings, the first Indian to accomplish this feat.
Man, I was thrilled!
What’s more, along with being a player par excellence, Kumble has donned many other hats that of being a successful captain, a powerful coach and a shrewd cricketing administrator.
Jumbo has also been bestowed with the esteemed title of the Padam Shri, a civilian award from the Government of India in 2005 as well as been inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2015.
Awards and accomplishments are a testament to the greatness of the man and the humility shown in riding through the saga of success is his biggest strength.
Respect and nothing else from a fan!
Wish you a happy 50th Anil Kumble Sir with many more to come.
Honestly, saying is one thing and doing another and Jumbo did exactly that claiming the perfect 10.