'I was tempted to change my style of bowling'

One year after retirement, Kumble looks back at an astonishing career

 Anil Kumble

By the time the leg-spinner called time on his international career last November -- Monday will mark the first anniversary of his retirement -- the Bangalorean had stacked up a staggering 956 international victims! 

Kumble went out on a high, as captain of the Indian team and as a role model well worth emulating, both for his spirit, spunk and skills on the field and his conduct on and off the park.

Kumble wasn’t the orthodox, classical leg-spinner in the Shane Warne mould, relying on exceptional changes of pace, relentless accuracy and subtle variations to winkle out batsmen.

Throughout his career, Kumble showed steel and grit, but there were the odd moments of self-doubt as well, the happily retired 39-year-old revealed to Deccan Herald shortly before emplaning for Hong Kong to play in the Sixes competition.

“I was tempted many times to change my style of bowling when I felt inadequate,” Kumble admitted. “I felt inadequate on a couple of occasions when the pitches were flat, and my style didn’t work.

“Also, the constant talk saying I was not suited to flat tracks made me challenge myself to go the other way. I tried to change my style with VV Kumar in 1997 when I was dropped from the Indian team, but it didn’t really work,” Kumble said.

“That gave me the reassurance that I needed to work around how I bowled rather than try to do something totally different, which was not my style. That was the lesson I learnt from that exercise -- you have certain limitations, accept them and work around them rather than try and become something else.”

With the adrenaline rush having subsided, Kumble reflected on his career with calmness and candour. “When you look back, it certainly gives you a lot of satisfaction,” he smiled. “Sachin and I came together almost at the same time, I made my debut two series after him.

“As I said in Nagpur last year at a felicitation function, both of us faced great challenges from the beginning. He had to constantly meet expectations of people, I had to always prove people wrong!” he laughed. “There were two different challenges for us.”

“Looking back, I am really glad -- as an individual, I have possibly done everything on the field. It is always good to leave on a high note, leave as the captain of the team. That was probably the best part of my entire career -- that I was able to leave on my terms, say I have done everything I could possibly have. I thought the timing was perfect for me.”

His tally of international wickets, 956, was staggering, Kumble conceded with a shy smile. “It is something very special,” he said, making no attempt to keep the pride out of his voice.

“When you start off, you don’t thing along those terms. You certainly want to make a difference, you want to perform and be a key player in your team, try and contribute as much as possible. That is the aim and goal for anyone. When you look back, it’s nice to have done that over a period of time, especially when you are not in that classical mould of what people want you to be,” he went on, referring again to the unorthodoxy that attracted so much attention, but so much success as well.

“You are totally different, and that’s a real challenge. It’s a constant learning experience for you as a person and a cricketer. It only reinvents the fact that if you want to achieve something and if you are mentally up for it, if you really focus hard and devote the kind of attention I did, you can succeed and you can achieve things if you can sustain the hunger.

“It’s really nice to have left a benchmark for others to look up to and say, ‘We will cross that’.”

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