'It's huge for us to be No 1 Test side'

Former India skipper Kumble terms Sehwag-Gambhir as the best opening pair in the world

'It's huge for us to be No 1 Test side'

Anil Kumble

“It’s huge for India to become the number one Test team in the world,” the 39-year-old told Deccan Herald on Tuesday. “For a long time, this brand of poor travellers had stuck to us. Being number one means you have played as well overseas as you have at home over an extended period of time. In the last few years, we have won series almost everywhere we have played. Yes, we don’t have series wins in Australia and South Africa, but everyone knows what happened in Australia last year. In South Africa three years back, we were so close to winning the series but couldn’t complete the job in the final Test. But I am sure given the personnel at our behest and the way we are playing right now, it won’t be too long before those feats are achieved too.”

Kumble credited India’s improved performance overseas to the dynamic opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and to solid bench strength. “When you have someone like Sehwag in the ranks, the impact is enormous,” said India’s highest wicket-taker. “From the time he made his comeback in Australia two years back, he has played a key role in every single Indian victory. The impetus he provides at the top of the order is exceptional. I don’t think I will be wrong in saying that he and Gautam form the best opening pair in world cricket today.

Great touch

“Gautam has been in great touch for the last year and a half. No one else has made the quantum of runs in the manner he has in that period. Wasim (Jaffer) had done his bit before that and he has been scoring heavily in domestic cricket, but Gautam, who replaced him, has been unstoppable. And then when Vijay got his chance, he too grabbed it.”

Consistently big starts, Kumble observed, was exactly what the Indian middle-order could feed off. “We have always had a lot of class in the middle-order – Rahul, Sachin, Laxman and Sourav. When Sourav left, Yuvraj came in and made sure Sourav wasn’t missed too much. Dhoni at number seven brings a whole new dimension to the batting, and the lower-order has chipped in consistently – Zaheer and Harbhajan, and myself a few times when I was still playing.

“Crucially, our fast bowlers have begun to deliver with regularity too. Zaheer is among the best fast bowlers in the world today, and at various times, we have had the likes of RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan and now Sreesanth and Ishant contributing. We have always had the spin resources. First it was Harbhajan and me, now Mishra and Ojha have stepped up. The bench strength is impressive; you need bench strength because there are bound to be injuries, you must have adequate back-up.”

Under-stated

Asked how much pride he took in the part he played, first as bowler and then as captain-bowler, in India scaling the summit, the under-stated Kumble replied, “As a bowler, you always look to deliver the goods and to win matches for the team. I am glad I was able to contribute in that regard.

“When I took over as captain, there was a little bit of confusion so far as team dynamics were concerned. We were without a coach, our previous coach (Greg Chappell) had left, and he had also left a lot of players unhappy during his term. Rahul had just resigned after a good run as captain, and we had two tough series coming up – Pakistan at home and Australia away.

“We all sat together, and I told the players that since all of us had achieved almost everything in an individual capacity, we must start focusing more on team results. The support from the team was tremendous.

“After Pakistan and Australia, things began to tick over smoothly. In many ways, my job was to oversee the transition – make Gary (Kirsten) and Paddy (Upton) comfortable with the team set-up, and make the team comfortable with the new support staff,” Kumble noted. “It delights me that I performed that role well.”

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