February 11, 2005

Ten, but tarnished

Six years and a few days ago, the magnificent Indian spinner Anil Kumble took ten wickets in a Test innings. This was in the Delhi Test against Pakistan, and it was only the second time in the history of cricket that a bowler had taken ten wickets in an innings. The first time, of course, from nearly 50 years ago: England's Jim Laker against the Australians, 1956. In that match, Laker actually got 19 wickets.

(For you baseball fans, this means Kumble and Laker got all the opposing batters out. You're not surprised by that because it's the routine in baseball unless a pitcher is relieved. But in cricket, it is a rare feat indeed: because in cricket unlike in baseball, more than one bowler bowls, often five or six. You might compare it to a pitcher sending back every batter three-strikes-and-out over all nine innings).

(You croquet fans will have to find your own comparison).

Let me say up front: I have always admired Kumble's bowling, and taking all ten wickets is a remarkable achievement. Which is why I've always been baffled and disappointed about the way he got to those ten. As you can read here, India's then-captain Azharuddin "instructed Javagal Srinath at the other end to bowl wide of the stumps" so that he wouldn't get a wicket, and so Kumble would eventually get all ten. As, inevitably, he did.

Kumble himself should have responded to this by saying: "Nonsense! Javagal, you bowl as menacingly as always from that end! I'll take my chances." Why didn't he? What does it do to an achievement like this to know that it was accomplished this way?

Then again, Kumble himself was once on the other end of this particular odd stick. In January 1994, the once-great Kapil Dev was in pursuit of Richard Hadlee's then-world record 431 Test wickets: a process that was taking a very long time. In the Test at Bangalore, with Kapil needing two wickets to equal the record and three to claim it, Sri Lanka were crumbling towards another massive defeat. With only three wickets left to take in the match, all Sri Lankan tailenders, the bowler at the other end was uncooperative enough to take one. This meant Kapil could only equal the record in this match, and would want one more Test to actually pass it.

So the same Indian captain, Azharuddin, instructed the bowler at the other end to bowl wide of the stumps. You'd think Kapil would have responded to his by saying "Nonsense!" But he didn't, and the bowler did bowl wide, and Kapil duly took the last two Lankan tailender wickets, celebrated hugely for equalling the record, and then celebrated again in the next Test when he passed the mark.

The entire episode, for me, permanently tarnished Kapil's great cricketing resume. The kind of thing that makes you lose respect for a once-hero.

But that apart, who was the bowler at the other end then? Anil Kumble.

One final note, and this about the man whose record Kapil passed in 1994: New Zealand's Richard Hadlee. Hadlee himself once nearly took 10 wickets in an innings of a Test. He had got to 8 wickets, and was fielding. From the other end, Vaughan Brown bowled to Australia's Geoff Lawson. Lawson hit a Brown delivery in the air and was caught. This meant Hadlee could now not get to 10. Hadlee took the ball at the end of Brown's over and four balls later, had Bob Holland caught -- oddly enough, by Brown -- to finish with 9 wickets, his best bowling performance.

And who was the man who caught Lawson off Brown? Hadlee himself. Think of it.

14 comments:

Vasanth said...
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Vasanth said...
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Vasanth said...

Thought of giving a link, but doesn't work. Nevertheless.

Dilip – I liked your blog for the insightful thoughts your bring in it. But the more I read yours I just get a feeling that you are cynical about everything. Your take on Kumble’s 10 wicket haul and the Kapil’s record, I would say, is cynicism at its best.

“Kumble himself should have responded to this by saying: "Nonsense! Javagal, you bowl as menacingly as always from that end! I'll take my chances." Why didn't he? What does it do to an achievement like this to know that it was accomplished this way?”What if Kumble has told Srinath actually the way you have said, inspite of that Srinath bowled that way? (please correct me if you have the proof). The same way what if Kapil has told Kumble that you should bowl normally?

“The entire episode, for me, permanently tarnished Kapil's great cricketing resume”This line actually hurts me very much. Kapil even if he hasn’t got those wickets in that test match would have got it in the next match. So what big deal about it?

This reminds of your blog “Conjecture, not evidence”. I would like you to go back and read that once. And please provide us with any proof that you have which may substantiate your claim that both Kapil and Kumble hasn’t said so.

If you ask me, do I have any evidence that they actually said so. The answer is simple NO.

Hari said...

I am just curious. Do you think Kumble or Kapil would have attempted to drop a catch if the ball had come their way?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Hari: Kumble, I have no doubt. He would have grabbed the ball. Kapil, hmm...

Dilip D'Souza said...

Vasanth, I am cynical about most things.

Kapil was well past his prime for a long time, but wanted his record and so stayed in the team. I think Srinath's early career was damaged as a result.

A man shouldn't be in a team because people ask "what's the big deal" if he is. That's what Kapil did wrong.

MS said...

A question for you Dilip .. would you have written such an article on any major site/news agency soon after these two achievements .

MS

Dilip D'Souza said...

MS: I did. In '94 after Kapil's record.

MS said...

I agree on Kapil , he was a spent force on the last part of his career . Also he had another chance of acheiving that feat .

But i believe you are too harsh on Kumble. His achievemt is by no means an ordinary one . It was a wonderful bowling display , coupled with some luck from umpires and support from the other team members . I believe majority of the viewers watching that match wanted Kumble to get the perfect 10 . Majority could just hope , but Srinath had a chance to help without costing anything to the team..and he did and knowing Srinath ,im sure he dint need anybody to tell him do that. To criticize such a thing i believe is really trivial.

MS said...

I agree on Kapil , he was a spent force on the last part of his career . Also he had another chance of achieving that feat .

But i believe you are too harsh on Kumble. His achievement is by no means an ordinary one . It was a wonderful bowling display , coupled with some luck from umpires and support from the other team members . I believe majority of the viewers watching that match wanted Kumble to get the perfect 10 . Majority could just hope , but Srinath had a chance to help without costing anything to the team..and he did and knowing Srinath ,im sure he dint need anybody to tell him do that. To criticize such a thing i believe is really trivial.

MS said...

edited comment below.

Anonymous said...

dilip...how many times in our life, when we needed something badly enough, have our friends and family put their priorities aside and help us achieve our goals.

Personally, I can remember 100s of instances. Hope you do too.

So what if Kapil and Kumble did that? As somebody wrote on your blog, it did not affect the result in anyway - so what the heck...

If you think Kumble and Kapil might have agreed to a 'compromise' to achieve their respective records...in the same breath one can 'assume' that Hadlee might have fired Brown after the match for being unco-operative...your guess is as good as mine...

Isn't this a case of Ghar ki Murgi Daal Barabar...a typical attitude of Indians all over the world...

The least sports writers in india can be is 'sporting'...

Anonymous said...

Dilip,

I can see ur point of the record not being natural. But I think that's the human element in sports.

We routinely see attacking batsmen slowing it down in their 90s; when time is winding down in tests or a lower run total to chase in ODIs, batsmen routinely give more strike to their teammates close to a landmark. Are they not contrived as well? That's not the way they play usually. Personally I dont care as long as they do not interfere with winning.

Coming to the incident in question.. Srinath did not bowl that line before Kumble picked the first 7 wickets.
To me if u pick the first seven batsmen of a team, the damage is done, u are the hero of that innings. It does not seem very different from Hadlee's 9 wkts or for that matter Srinath's 8 at Ahmedabad. Sure because of the record, we talk about it a lot more. That's probably the urge behind "fixing" some results. Again who couldnt use a bit of fame!

Goan Pao said...

Though a little late I must say that these two instances are pretty ironic...
the Indian 11 rarely do play as a team...and even more rarely for team trophies....thats why indian teams have a lot of individual memories but very few as teams...but here one team mate was actually helping the other (aka team spirit ) in obtainng an individual record...Im not sure what kind of spirit that is called...(individualistic team spirit...you give in the hope that you will get back in return...)