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Aussie spin guru floored by Kumble

Ashish Shukla in Melbourne | January 07, 2004 22:41 IST

Anil Kumble, who played a major role in India's 1-1 Test series draw against Australia, has been rated the best slow bowler to tour the continent in the last quarter century by spin guru Kerry O'Keefe.

"It is one of the most cleverly orchestrated campaigns of leg-spin bowling in this country that I have ever seen," O'Keefe said of the Indian leggie, who ended up as the most successful bowler in the four-Test series with 24 wickets.

The Best: Anil KumbleKumble's performance included three five-wicket hauls and came at the fine average of 29.58.

O'Keefe enjoys a unique reputation in Australia as an outstanding leg-spin coach to whom Shane Warne speaks a lot even though Terry Jenner is the spin wizard's official mentor.

O'Keefe is a leg-spin coach with the Australian Cricket Academy. As a Test cricketer, however, he did not have much success, claiming just 53 wickets from 24 Tests.

"When Kumble arrived, he claimed he had worked out a plan. Nobody knew what it was. It's been inspirational, the long sustained spells and variation-based bowling," he said.

"Kumble has used that 101-102k slider, his two-three variations of the googly which either opened the gate or had batsman hitting back catches," he explained.

O'Keefe has taken a good, long look at Kumble's methods against the Australian batsmen in this series and claims that what has emerged shows a very crafty bowler at the peak of his powers.

"When Brett Lee came in late on the third day, Kumble bowled him a 100k yorker and followed it up with a 78k wrong 'un, wide. When everybody was thinking he would york him the last ball, he bowled a bleepy wrong 'un," he pointed out.

"When he got Ponting with that spearing stuff, he found the batsman looking to work him on the onside. He just kept slowing a couple up, setting it up, and then the 101k slider just got his man."

Ponting suffered a rare failure with the bat in the series in the first innings of the fourth and final Test at Sydney when Kumble trapped him leg-before for 25.

"The emotion he showed at Ponting's dismissal means that is exactly what he wanted. He wanted him, he got him the way he had set out. It was a triumph of thinking out a very fine player of spin."

O'Keefe has noticed that Kumble hates being cut, yet he used this as a ploy to get Steve Waugh. "When I see him slow up and loop a leg-spinner, prior to sending batsmen one that is a bit quick, he wants them to nick it to slips. Whenever he gets cut, he is hurt. Every time he is cut, he kicks the ground.

"Yet, when Steve Waugh came in, he actually bowled short and gave him a few cuts. Waugh misses cuts, so he actually bowled short and gave him a few cuts, with only a man at square point. He had worked that out.

"Steve Waugh sometimes gets out cutting spinners and he set him up for cuts. He was risking a boundary to get his man."

Kumble had worked out Damien Martyn as well. "Damien Martyn wants to hit you off the backfoot," O'Keefe said. "He barely gets his front foot out of the popping crease. He works standing on his backfoot and does not use his feet much.

"Kumble kept making it slower and higher for Martyn. He thought if I could bowl the wrong 'un and if he can't get there, he would hit back. He gave him no width because he is such a good, wristy player. He didn't give width, wanted him hitting and wanted to work the variations around him."

O'Keefe said Kumble might have found it difficult to work around Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden who use the slog-sweep as an effective weapon. But to his credit he showed a body language that was positive and sowed the seeds of doubts in the Australian openers.

"It must have been tough for him because they kept coming at him," O'Keefe said. "But his body language was positive. He knew they would come at him with the sweep and he was prepared for it. He tried not to give any angle to them. In the end, they both tried to slog-sweep him.

"Hayden broke Harbhajan Singh in the first Test of the previous series in India, but Harbhajan came back to win the series for India. The Australians tried to break him with sweeping.

"You have to steel yourself for that sweep. But they could not break Kumble."

O'Keefe said wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel's repeated fumbling must have had a negative effect on Kumble's bowling. "The effect of Patel on Kumble has to be negative. Because he knows if he does spear one down the legside, it could go for four byes.

"Patel rises too early, his hands come up too early. Kumble wants things to stay down, so he wants his 'keeper standing down.

"It will affect Kumble's psyche because he gets batsmen running down the pitch, like he got [Simon] Katich. Even though he got him in the outfield, it would have been such a bonus if it was by way of stumping."

The spin guru also praised the Indian bowler's never-say-die attitude. "The good thing about Kumble was he was so positive. He did not drop his shoulder. He just got on with the next ball."

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