Cricketers usually acquire nicknames that seem uncannily appropriate, but in Anil Kumble’s case, ‘Jumbo’ seems wholly inadequate. Indeed, with his retirement, Indian cricket has lost a colossus.
At 38, it was always a matter of when rather than why, but even so Kumble calling it quits in the middle of a Test series against Australia will be accompanied by some sadness, and heightens the melodrama of this unusual season in which Sourav Ganguly already announced his retirement a few weeks ago. Clearly an era is coming to a close.
All things considered, the retirement is timely. Yet, great players are hard to come by and, for his wonderful services to Indian cricket, it would have been fitting had Kumble gotten a more memorable farewell. This is a series that a team he has helped consolidate over the past 12 months looks likely to win. Now, on the cusp of that terrific achievement, he is gone.
True his form this year had been mediocre and the unfortunate sudden injury to his left hand in Delhi which effectively ruled him out of the last Test obviously precipitated this decision. But one suspects Kumble was running out of resolve nonetheless in the face of mounting criticism.
The intensity of the contest with Australia has been offset by the soap-opera involving the future of the ‘oldies’ in the Indian team.
Though propelled by dubious logic, brouhaha about them had reached a crescendo in recent months and obviously took its toll of the players concerned.
A fickle public that does not understand the nuances of the game could be pardoned, a hyperventilating, insensitive media could be accommodated. But when fellow cricketers started shooting indiscriminately from the lip, Kumble, like Ganguly before him, perhaps realised that it was better earlier than later.