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'I wish I hadn't given Kumble the 10 wicket ball'

October 17, 2020 11:26 IST

IMAGE: Anil Kumble celebrates with Venkatesh Prasad after taking all 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan in the second Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi, February 7, 1999. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/Reuters

There is no coming close to Anil Kumble's dedication and commitment to the game, states Venkatesh Prasad.

Prasad has known Kumble for over three decades, having played together for Karnataka and India.

He was also the Indian team's bowling coach when Kumble was appointed captain in 2007-2008.

Prasad recalls Kumble's most special moment in cricket when the spin ace picked all 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan in the Delhi Test in February 1999.

He remembers how he came to Kumble's rescue when he somehow managed to get his hands on the ball with which the leg-spinner had achieved what only one other cricketer (English off-spinner Jim Laker) had done -- 10 wickets in a Test innings -- before the crowd stormed onto the field of play.

Prasad quips the ball would have been a treasured possession for him and regrets giving it back to his team-mate.

"That is something which I wish I didn't," Prasad tells Harish Kotian/ with a smile, "I wish I didn't return the ball."

On the occasion of Kumble's 50th birthday on October 17, Prasad pays tribute to his friend and team-mate.

"Wishing him lots of happiness, peace and good health," says Prasad, adding, "We have played together from 1990 onwards for a long time. It has s been always a pleasure to play with him because of his competitive nature."

"I remember winning the Ranji Trophy (in 1995-1996), we won the Ranji Trophy after a long time under his captaincy after beating Tamil Nadu in the final in Chennai."

"He was a very fierce competitor. I got to learn a lot from him in terms of his discipline, focus and his routines, like how one has to prepare for the game and all that."

"When I played for India, there were around 5-6 of us (Karnataka players) playing for India at the same time. We used to meet in Anil's room in the evening for dinner whenever we were playing for India. We used to chat a lot about the game, what we need to do the next day and all that."

"The biggest moment I can recollect about Anil is his 10 wickets in an innings in the Test match against Pakistan in Delhi."

"When he claimed the final wicket (Wasim Akram), somebody (V V S Laxman) had thrown the ball after taking the catch because we all were celebrating his 10 wicket haul. I went and picked up the ball because it was a treasured possession to have the ball with which he claimed all 10 wickets in an innings."

"Later, I was sitting next to him in the dressing room. Everyone was celebrating and talking about his incredible achievement of 10 wickets in an innings."

"And then I asked whether he had the ball with him, and that's when it dawned on him and he said, 'Oh my god, I should have taken the ball'."

"Then slowly I took out the ball from my pocket and handed it over to Kumble."

"His dedication and his commitment towards fitness was outstanding. I recall I had retired from all forms of cricket in 2003, but Anil was still playing. I was coaching at that time, I had finished my level 3 coaching courses in India and in England. I was a regular coach at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and he used to come there to train."

"And I used to think 'This guy has got huge dedication even at that age', he was around 35 then, but he used to come and train on his fitness. At that age, especially when it is a bowler, they would have hung up their boots but this guy was training hard at the NCA, so that shows his dedication."

"After that I coached the Indian team in 2007 (as bowling coach). He was the captain. There were only two Karnataka players in the team -- Kumble and Rahul Dravid -- and we used to spend a lot of time together talking."

"We used to discuss strategy. He used to gather all the bowlers and talk to everybody. I let him be the lead, being the senior bowler and the captain."

"People thought it would be impossible to break Kapil Dev's record (434 wickets) but he went from strength to strength and became the highest wicket-taker for India in Tests even though he was a spinner. Mind you, he was not a big turner of the ball."

"He is a wonderful human being. I wish him the very best and hope he has a great birthday!"