Former India skipper Anil Kumble impressed by Virat Kohli

Published Dec 18, 2015, 8:01 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 5:00 pm IST
'He is flexible with his team selection and he looks to back his bowlers.'
Anil Kumble (Photo: AFP)
 Anil Kumble (Photo: AFP)

New DelhiFormer India skipper and leg-spinner Anil Kumble believes Virat Kohli’s “flexibility as a captain” and “the ability to back his bowlers” will help the young Test team achieve greater success. 

India defeated World No.1 South Africa 3-0 in the recent four-match Test series that propelled them to second place in the Test rankings.


Kohli, who took over from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the longest format of the game earlier this year, was praised for keeping a calm head under pressure and leading his young team with maturity.

Said Kumble in a chat with this newspaper, “Virat has matured in this one year. He is flexible with his team selection and he looks to back his bowlers, which is a good sign. You need a flexible skipper who is not closed on having certain standard templates."

“I thought the last Test match against South Africa needed a lot of patience to get 10 wickets over two days and Virat showed that. He kept up the energy levels of the team. It isn’t easy when you have won the series and the opposition is looking to survive, which they almost did. He kept the bowlers motivated and it was very impressive,” said the former leg-spinner, who is the third highest wicket-taker in international cricket with 619 scalps.


Refusing to draw parallels between Kohli and Dhoni as skippers, he said, “MS has been brilliant as a captain. He took India to No.1 in the Test arena and won both the one-day and the T20 World Cups. He has been the most successful captain for India. Virat has just started and he has done well in the opportunities that he has had. Dhoni was brilliant in his own right as a captain and Virat is blossoming into one,” he said. 

An era in Indian cricket came to an end with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, besides Kumble himself, retiring in the last seven years. And while the young lot has impressed, they still have to make a lasting impact in Test cricket. 


“We all enjoyed part of that era and it had a lot of quality. This is a young team and has already shown promise. So, one doesn’t need to compare. You always want the Indian team to move ahead and get better than the previous one. That is the ultimate goal. “This team certainly has the talent and the potential. It is a matter of applying to the task and being disciplined. I am hopeful once they do it, they should get even better,” the 45-year-old said. One such sign was the hosts’ 3-0 series win over South Africa, undefeated in away series since 2006. “South Africa have always travelled well. Certainly, they missed out on key players — their batting wasn’t the same this time. They missed players like Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. “Beating them 3-0 here which has never happened before, was fantastic for India. When you have an opportunity to beat a South African side, you certainly take it. Not many teams have been able to beat them, be it home or away.


“The hosts were vulnerable in certain situations, but they seized their moments better than their opponents,” was the stalwart’s assessment. 

The former leggie also praised the current Indian spin attack saying off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was “bowling at his best”. 

“In the short period that he has played for India, Ashwin has shown that he can win matches and series and that’s what you want from your bowlers. “Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja... all of them have complemented well. You will always have that one guy at the centre of attention, but the rest have contributed really well.


“I think expectations from spinners are so high on Indian tracks, that even when they go abroad one only expects the spinners to win matches. You have enough quality fast bowlers to do that. I think India have a pretty good all-round attack at the moment,” he said. 

Asked what adjustments a spinner needed to make on fast, bouncy tracks in overseas conditions, Kumble said, “You have to set different fields. You will have to play a different role. In those conditions, as a team you tend to look at the fast bowlers to attack, so you play the holding role and wait for the opportunity.


“You have to generate pressure and complement your fast bowlers. Say if a batsman walks in at 40/4, it is a different story. For spinners, there is always a better chance in the second innings abroad because of the conditions.” Ashwin has played a key role in India’s victories in the last few months, but hasn’t been able to replicate the success in away series. Of his 176 Test wickets, 126 have come at home. Kumble said it “did not worry him”. 

“I think Ashwin is bowling at his best now. Whenever India travel abroad next, he will be more experienced in understanding conditions and his own bowling. So, I don’t see a reason why he cannot be a success overseas,” he said.


I was destined to take those 10 Pak wickets, says jumbo:

Anil Kumble has seen many highs in his 18-year career. One such came on February 7, 1999, during the Test against Pakistan at the Kotla, when the spinner picked up all 10 wickets in the second innings, carving his name in the history books. 

To date, he is only the second-ever bowler after England’s Jim Laker - who scalped 10 Australians in 1956 — to have achieved the feat. 

Ask him if anyone could break that record, Kumble says he doesn’t know how to answer that. “You do not go into a game thinking that I will pick up all 10. It just happened. So, I really don’t know. Probably it’s divine.


“It has happened only twice in Test history and I never thought that I will be one of them. It might happen tomorrow or never. I certainly didn’t expect it would happen to me,” he says. He singles out the 2002 Headingley Test versus England and the 1993 home series against the same opponents as the most satisfying and defining moments of his career. 

“It was a green top at Headingley and we had posted 600 plus. And then we got them out with two spinners,” recalled Kumble, who picked up seven wickets in the Test.


“Of course, we had the faster bowlers in Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Sanjay Bangar, but the spinners also played a very important role. In that sense, the most satisfying victory overseas was the Headingley game.

“When you travel abroad, as a fast bowler you have to do a job but spinners also made valuable contributions.” 

India won that Test by an innings and 46 runs. “Then there was the 1993 series when England came here. The three of us (Venkatapathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan and myself) complemented each other to win the series for India. One spinner gets the credit generally, but all three bowled really well.”




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