When Anil Kumble bowled over IIT-Madras alumni

Vinay Kamath Chennai September 30 | Updated on September 30, 2018

Anil Kumble, former India captain, at IIT-Madras Alumni Association Conclave Sangam in Chennai   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Ex India captain shares lighter moments at the alumni assn’s event on IIT-M’s diamond jubilee

Ashwin Mahalingam tries to bowl over Anil Kumble with a quicker one: As an engineer, if you are interested in a PhD from IIT Madras, the team needs a leg spinner and we can include you! Kumble, straight bat, straight-faced, replies: “Well, after my hundred in Test cricket I thought you may want me in as batsman!”

In a session marked with wit and repartee, and some serious cricket questions, the former India captain jousted with Mahalingam, an Associate Professor of civil engineering, at IIT-Madras Alumni Association’s event, Sangam, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee year of the institute.

Lack of spin

Talking about the World Cup next year, Kumble said the Indian middle order still does not have a settled look and the team can’t keep depending on MS Dhoni to be the finisher. Dhoni should be left to enjoy the game and engage with younger players to finish games.

Referring to the fact that he was not regarded a great spinner, Kumble said: “I’m glad it took more than 18 years for batsmen to figure out that I didn’t spin the ball,” to peals of laughter from a hall packed with IIT alumni and students. Early in his career, Kumble was concerned that too many questions were being asked about his lack of spin; he came to Chennai and spent five days at IIT Madras’ cricket ground with spin legend VV Kumar to figure out the art of leg spin. It had to do with the way Kumble gripped the ball.

However, his apocalyptic moment came in an Irani Trophy match in Mumbai, where the home team had got a 190-run lead and was batting in the second innings. “If we had to come back into the match we had to get Mumbai all out under 100. I went back to my earlier grip and we shot out Mumbai for 90 runs. I picked up seven wickets in the innings. We eventually lost the match by 40 runs but I got my confidence in my style back,” he said.

‘Engineered’ wickets

Not a great spinner of the ball, Kumble relied on speed, bounce and accuracy to get his 619 Test wickets. In fact, a journalist asked him sarcastically, when he crossed the 600-wicket milestone: how does it feel to get 600 wickets without spinning the ball? “All I did was to keep asking questions of the batsmen with each ball,” he said, adding, with a broad smile, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, “And, no doctored wickets, I only know about ‘engineered’ wickets!”

Kumble said his Plan A was engineering and Plan B was cricket. “Now that Plan B has taken 25 years of my life, it’s time to focus on Plan A,” he said, dwelling on his data analytics ventures. His company has developed a sensor, Spektacom, to make bats smart. The sticker-sensor, which was introduced in the TNPL season this year, tracks bat speed, power and if the ball hit the sweet spot or not. “It’s intrusive, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Cricket, he said, is today the most data-driven sport after Formula One, but even with all that data, batsmen need the skills to tackle a bowler.

Kumble said he tried to do an MBA as well but got the job as the Indian team coach, and dropped the plan. Mahalingam was quick to retort: IIT also has a management studies department and you can join! Kumble refused to take the bait.

Then, it was time for some rapid-fire questions from the audience, ‘one mark questions’, as Kumble described them: His favourite captain: Mohammed Azharuddin, whom he debuted under, and Saurav Ganguly. And, his wife’s favourite captain, apart from you, and be honest, Mahalingam asked. “Dhoni; she always takes a picture with him when we meet,” to rousing applause.

Clearly, even 10 years after he retired as Indian cricket captain, Jumbo is still the star.

Published on September 30, 2018

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