As he has done quite often in his career Kumble brought alive a boring final day in a Test match at Kotla today. However unlike in the past, this did not cause discomfort and nervousness amongst the opposition batsmen. Many are the batsmen who have been at the receiving end of Jumbo's super fast flippers and spitting leg breaks and though his form had dipped quite a bit of late there will be lots of them who will be more than relieved to hear that the warrior had hung up his sword.
Many are the special memories that he leaves us to cherish. The first of those came in the Hero Cup final when he picked up 6 for 12 against the Windies when a couple of wickets came thanks to yorkers which until then, even the Indian pacers couldn't bowl accurately. It was yet again against the Windies that he would produce a sight never before seen and possibly never again seen as he bounded in with his broken jaw to try and secure a wicket for India. His performance against Australia down under was perhaps something which he enjoyed quite a bit himself. His celebration after taking out Ponting in Melbourne after he had worked him out is one of those rare occasions when he's let his emotions be so visible in the cricket field. Ans so were his reactions after getting to his maiden century at the Oval.
But perhaps the moments which defined all that Kumble stood for, came during the course of that much discussed Sydney Test this year. Even as the rest of the Indian batsmen got out or gave their wickets away, he stood there at one end determined to fight it out till the end. With his limited technique he defied the Aussies, focused on playing out every ball and taking India closer to safety. However as fate would have it, with just five minutes to go three wickets fell in one over leading to the defeat. How much it would have hurt the man is for anybody to guess. And then with the whole Indian and Australian press waiting for his sound bytes after the most controversial Test of our times, he kept his cool and came up with one single statement which said more than a five minute speech would have.
Determination, commitment, composure and dignity are words which cannot be strung together to define any other sportsman better than him. Not many Indian cricketers have left the game on their own terms, but then the timing of Kumble's departure has been on the spot, much like his deliveries. Never once has he given less than 100% on the field and the moment he's recognized that there were factors beyond his control which would not allow him to do so, he's stepped down. Memory doesn't serve up any names of Indians who have retired as captains and he definitely deserves to have done so.
There are two kinds of great players. There are those whose very presence lights up the arena and then there are those whose absence speaks more about their contributions. India have been lucky enough to have one of each kind play in the same era. The large number of matches that he has won for India and the sheer volume of wickets that he has taken are but just statistical reminders of his contribution to Indian cricket. Season after season Kumble has spearheaded the Indian attack, at times plugging away on unresponsive tracks and mostly leading them to victory with spells which are lessons for generations of bowlers to follow . As Dravid, Laxman and the rest of the team members took Kumble on a final lap of honor around his favourite piece of turf, it is only natural that their shoulders would have sunk in under the weight of this giant, who never let his own drop, at any point of time.Goodbye Jumbo, and thanks for all the wickets.