In 2004, Rahul Dravid views on Anil Kumble. I have said on many occasions that it has been an honor to share the Indian dressing room with Anil Kumble all these years. Anil never backs down from a challenge. He’ll always try, whatever the match conditions are. I remember being captain in the second Test against New Zealand in 2003. We batted for over 600 runs in the first inning on an excellent batting pitch. Anil Kumble bowled more than 60 overs without complaining about the huge workload.
In fact, and this is characteristic of Anil, every time I asked him if he wanted a rest, he said he’d like to keep going. I felt his anguish whenever I took him off! I also remember, as another example of Anil’s determination and courage, the Test match in Antigua two seasons ago, when he suffered a broken jaw after being hit by a short ball while batting and then stunned us by coming out to bowl with his head strapped up.
We knew he was badly hurt, but he said he thought we had a chance of winning the test. He said he’d like a spell of 10–12 overs before the pain gets unbearable. He got Brian Lara out before heading off. Anil has endured some ups and downs in recent times and has not always made it to the final XI, especially in one-day games. But he kept working on his repertoire in the nets.
He would often approach the batsmen and ask how particular deliveries were coming out or what they thought about this ball or that. He keeps trying different things all the time, and to evolve as a player and continually keep honing and refining your craft is very critical if you want to succeed at the highest level over a long period of time. Anil is someone who is always trying to learn.
I know he often has conversations with other leg spinners and tries to absorb things they might tell him. I have often been asked in the last few weeks about what he did differently to pick up so many wickets against Australia. However, I did not find anything that was absolutely original. He had just worked enough on his variations to employ them in subtle ways. What Anil picked up is not just for his own benefit; it is for whoever can use it.
When Australia toured India in 2001, Anil was injured and missed the Test series. But even though he could not participate in cricket, he came to our training camp in Madras. He spent a lot of time with our inexperienced spinners. He passed on a lot of advice about how to bowl against the Australians. One almost felt like he was preparing for the battle himself. Anil and I have come such a long way. I first met him when we played together for the Karnataka Under-19 team.
I was 16 then and just making my mark at the Under-19 level. Anil Kumble had already played at that level for a couple of years. He was well-known in our circles because he took plenty of wickets in local tournaments and also made some runs. We had only one game together before he was called up to the India Under-19 team. By the end of that year, he was actually playing Ranji Trophy cricket. I don’t think too much has changed with Anil Kumble, as I remember him then and know him now.
The traits that mark his game and approach were already evident at that point. Anil has never let anything stand in the way of his commitment to the team’s cause, and all the players respect him for that. It sets an outstanding example for younger players. We were delighted with his success in the Test Series because we knew how hard he worked for it. Anil’s performance was an indication of how much he still has to offer Indian cricket.