Cricket

Meet Anil Kumble, the wildlife photographer

Maya, the tigress

Maya, the tigress   | Photo Credit: Anil Kumble

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Former India cricketer and coach Anil Kumble talks about his love for wildlife and photography

Last week Anil Kumble, former India captain and coach, who runs a sports education company called TENVIC, posted pictures on Twitter, of Maya, the favourite tigress of visitors at Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra. People responded with their own pictures of tigers, advice on where he could go next (Bandhavgarh), with compliments on his photographs.

What we didn’t know was that Kumble was accompanied by his ‘assistant’, his 15-year-old son Mayas. “He too likes wildlife and takes pictures for his collection. My long-time friend (Shirish Joshi) operates wildlife tours and I often go with my family (wife Chetana, daughters Aaruni and Svasti).”

Kumble counts himself “lucky” to have had a sighting of Maya. “We spotted her at a crossing. She was sitting and posing. There was a tigress inside a bush and Maya was just 30 metres from where we had halted. I was waiting for my moment and saw her running towards us. She chased the tiger away ferociously to establish her territory. It was a life-time experience and I just clicked away to glory,” says Kumble, recounting the thrill.

It’s not just tigers Kumble will lie in wait for. “There are other animals in the wild. There are the birds too. But the tiger is mesmerizing, the apex predator. The majestic walk has to be seen to be believed, so nonchalant, just not bothered with people surrounding him. The tiger is such an elusive animal. It is so aware of the surroundings and the animals close by. What awesome strength a tiger possesses. It can bring down a prey bigger in size. You won’t see a tiger with same behaviour. Maya was so different from what I have seen. I had waited long to see an animal like her.”

A self-taught photographer, he used to shoot with a Canon, but today prefers a Sony Alpha. “Technologically it is an amazing camera. It is mirrorless and no sound. It gives me 20 frames a second. I can make a flicker book from it.”

It was during India’s historic cricket tour to South Africa in 1992 when Kumble first had a taste of wildlife. The team and some of us travelling journalists took a break to spend five days in the Ithala Game Reserve. “It was a thrilling experience,” recalls Kumble.

A leopard at the Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary;

A leopard at the Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary;  

His first sighting was a leopard at the Nagarahole National Park in 1996. “I remember every detail. It was pretty dark after sunset and I thought it was a tiger until it came closer. I didn’t have a camera to take a picture but the image is etched.”

The same year, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Sunil Joshi, he promoted the Project Tiger campaign launched by friends Krishna Prasad and Praveen Bhargav. By the time Kumble revisited South Africa in 1996, he was committed to not just the cause of wildlife, but also to documenting their movement.

He also remembers Kanha in 2011. “Chetana and I were on an elephant. We were taken to a spot they push the tiger into a space for us to see. There was a family too with a 10-year-old boy. Suddenly the boy slipped from the elephant. The tiger stood just 10 metres away. We all froze. The elephants did not panic. The boy did not. The grass was tall and it was really scary. The mahout stayed calm, slid down the trunk of the elephant and in a flash picked the boy up. On returning we all hugged the child. The whole episode lasted two minutes but to us it was an eternity.”

Reflecting on his experience of animals being disturbed by visitors, Kumble says things have changed in wildlife photography today. “You have lot of photographers. There used to be hardly anyone when I started visiting jungles. Today, every vehicle has four photographers, carrying big lenses, competing to catch a Nat Geo award winning picture. But I keep my distance from the animals and not worry about getting a head-on shot, low angle, wide angle. Why? And then there are these mobile phones. Inside the jungle surprisingly you get good signals too but I am glad Tadoba does not permit mobile phones.”

In 2010, Kumble had brought out a book called Wide Angle, a collection of his off-the-field cricket photographs. He now has a rich collection of pictures from the jungle, material enough for another book we hope he brings out soon.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 5:59:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/meet-anil-kumble-the-wildlife-photographer/article30139166.ece

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