The body through many injuries and years of bowling probably tired and complaining but a heart so brave and young not listening, eventually decided that it was time to listen to the body. The loss of Anil will be felt once he is gone. Yes there are Bhajji & Mishra to step up, but I fear none will be able to replace this man.
As a Bowler : Anil Kumble is as a bowler who is always at the batsman with his nagging accuracy and subtle variations. He never tires and never gives up and wins the battles against the batsman who eventually are forced into the error by the accuracy and variations. Over the years he learnt more and added more variations to his bowling and succeeded overseas in countries like Australia, England to shut up his critics.
As a Team mate : Anil Kumble as a team man is one whom Ganguly described “ when the score is 250 for 1 and you are looking around the field, there is always Anil who looks you in the eye and is ready to bowl, no matter what the situation is .” In Antigua when Anil was hit on his jaw and he had to get pins in his jaw and he was sitting in the dressing room watching, suddenly it seemed that if a spinner came on to bowl India might be able to win. The man gets his head all taped up and comes on to bowl and picks up Brian Lara. He bowled 14 overs with a broken jaw and that really speaks volumes of his commitment to the team.
As an Opponent : Steve Waugh summed it up when he said that “ This man is amazing, he never tires and keeps coming stronger over after over. The unrelenting accuracy gets to you.” He is one opponent all teams respect and fear, the team meetings are always spent upon discussing how to play Anil Kumble as an inswing bowler and not a leg spinner. Still he has 619 victims who couldn’t still figure him out. Also to be noted is the pressure he created to help wickets at the other end.
As an Indian Cricketer : He is the greatest Indian cricketer till date, unfortunately because Anil is not a batsman we don’t recognize his feats, however he single handedly has won us more Test Matches than Sachin, Gavaskar & Kapil put together. He made India the fort it was in the 90’s & early 2000. His partners kept changing but he was there through out. Be it his pairing with Maninder Singh, Ravi Shashtri or Rajesh Chauhan, Venkatpathy Raju or Nilesh Kulkarni, or Sairaj Bahutule or Harbhajan this longetivity just tells you how good this cricketer was. . Not to forget his fighting knocks as a batsman and his century at the Oval to top it all.
As a Man : The bravest, the most determined, with resolve of steel, most committed and the most humble at heart is the man that he is. He is so respected as not just a cricketer but also as a very humble human being and that is one of the reason things were taken up so seriously after Sydney when Anil famously said, “ Only one team was playing in the right spirit of the game.” I have never seen the Aussies react, and react in a manner where in they admonished their own team and their own captain. The steel of Anil was reflected in Perth when the whole team played as a team, no individual brilliance but thorough teamwork won India a match in the den of the World Champions. No subcontinent team has won in Perth. But Anil as Captain has a victory there !!!
There are so many highlights in his great cricketing career its impossible to pen them all down in one small piece. Be it the 3-0 whitewash of England in 1993 or the Hero-Cup victory where he bamboozled the Windies. The perfect 10 wickets in Pakistan or the top spinners in Headingly or the googlies in Adelaide and Perth he has been truly amazing over the 18 years he gave to Indian cricket and Indian cricket is forever indebted to the man.
The man might just relax for a couple of days but I am sure he will be back in Nagpur to cheer his teammates to beat the Australians and regain the Border Gavaskar Trophy. I am sure he will be more pleased with the knowledge that the trophy was retained. The onus is now on the rest of the team to win this trophy and that would be the most suitable parting gift for Indian cricket’s greatest match winner of all times.