Kumble continues to set a fine example, says Peter Roebuck

India is extraordinarily lucky with its two elder statesmen of the cricket arena. Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid have that rare ability, recommended by Rudyard Kipling, of remaining calm whilst all and sundry are running around in a state of dementia. Even by its own formidable standards, Indian cricket has been going through an agitated period. Happily these seniors have kept their eyes on the ball and victory over England has been the result.

Kumble is a remarkable competitor. Dressed in civilian clothes, he counts amongst the most patient and thoughtful of men. Clothed in whites, he becomes a veritable firebrand. Woe betide the dozing fieldsman. Kumble glares and glowers at them till they wish the ground might eat them up. Then he walks back to his mark, tossing the ball in his fingers, planning his next move. It is nothing personal. Just that he sets high standards for himself and expects the same from team-mates. And he is entitled.

Kumble had not been taking wickets. For about the fifteenth time, the cricketing whispers were saying he'd lost his edge. Docile pitches had removed his sting and batsmen had been playing him with the proverbial stick of rhubarb. Nor did his luck change at the start of the England series. He toiled and weaved to little effect. And then came Mohali, then came his chance, and he took it with the eagerness of the unleashed warrior.

Setting an example

Immeasurable to his credit, Kumble was not broken by his struggles. Far from complaining, he continued setting a fine example. He grizzled and growled, but he kept working away. No bad habits crept in, none of the looseness detected elsewhere. Despite his scholarly looks, he is as much a creature of the spirit as the mind. Even on those dead surfaces over the mountains, he

kept believing, kept pressing for wickets. The flame never goes out.

Significantly, too, Kumble contributed to the cause in other ways, notably by scoring runs at critical times. After years of feebleness, India's tail has started wagging, a breakthrough that has allowed the selectors to accommodate a fifth bowler. Previously a liability, the lower order is becoming a source of strength.

Accordingly the ageless veteran was still on top of his game when a fair pitch was encountered. In Mohali he produced one of his most illustrious spells. Bemused batsmen ignored his wrong-un and lost their stumps. Others pecked at leg-breaks like hens in a backyard. Although Kevin Pietersen pounded boundaries, none of the batsmen mastered the lofty spinner. Kumble wheeled away as he always does, trying this and that, and he took a stack of wickets. It was wonderful performance from a man who refuses to give in.

Dravid impressive

Dravid was every bit as impressive as his chum. In the first innings he rescued his side with a composed and superbly constructed innings. Without him, India might have fallen too far behind. In the second, he took his team gracefully towards victory. Throughout his entire being concentrated on matters in hand. It is a trait he shares with Kumble.

No wonder the Indian captain punched the air when Virender Sehwag stroked the winning run. It was a moment of fulfilment. Along the way, Dravid has endured numerous trials and tribulations yet he has never forgotten about. Accordingly he was still on top of his game when finally his chance came on the broader picture. Reward came as the old-stagers found their form and the newcomers made their mark. India has found a strong combination.

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