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Captain as good as team: Anil Kumble

Ex-India skipper Anil Kumble drives home some real truths about captaincy during Saturday's Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at CCI

When Anil Kumble was asked to deliver the seventh Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture on spin bowling, the legendary leg spinner chose to not "indulge" in it, as "there is still a debate about me being a spin bowler or a fast bowler". This revelation drew laughter among his audience at the Cricket Club of India on Saturday.

Anil Kumble delivers the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at Cricket Club of India on Saturday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Anil Kumble delivers the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at Cricket Club of India on Saturday. Pic/Atul Kamble

Kumble, who captained in 14 Tests (won three and lost five), decided to talk about captaincy instead. Just like how he prepared for his on-field battles, the former India Test skipper came well-prepared with his views meticulously stored in his tablet.

Kumble busted a few myths about captaincy: "There is nothing called as team decision. It is always a captain's decision. The team only gives a proposal." The popular belief that a captain is as good as his team also took a Kumble beating. "I feel the team is only as good as his captain," stressed the Bangalore man.

He didn't dwell on his high point as captain — winning the Perth Test against Australia and not losing a Test in that series after the Monkeygate controversy in 2007-08 — although he spoke about what it took to be strong on that controversial tour.

Interestingly, he picked Headingley 2002 as a turning point in India's upsurge in winning abroad when the Sourav Ganguly-led team triumphed in testing English conditions against Nasser Hussain's England.

Kumble hailed Ganguly's decision to bat despite winning the toss at Headingley. Recalling the bowler-friendly conditions at Leeds, Kumble said: "Generally, the team who won the toss, put the opposition into bat (there). But Ganguly decided to bat and that was the beginning of a great run.

"It ignited a spark in us." India won the Headingley Test by an innings and 46 runs to level the series 1-1. The last Test at the Oval was drawn.

More on captaincy. "So many times we see teams losing because of mediocre captaincy. We have also seen teams performing exceptionally well under a good leader. New Zealand is one such team that is doing well under Brendon McCullum. He is an exceptional player.

Captaincy is a special skill in which you catch the opponent by surprise. Mahendra Singh Dhoni used to take a lot of gambles early on in his captaincy and it paid off well. Captaincy is not just about tactics; it is about getting the best from your players," said Kumble.

Later, Jeff Thomson, who made a special appearance at the Lecture evening, backed up Kumble's point about good captains bringing out the best in his players. Thomson recalled Ian Chappell leading a lesser talented South Australian line-up which surprised bigger teams like his state Queensland to get near Sheffield Shield glory in
1979-80.

When Anil Kumble cried...
ANIL Kumble revealed how his Test debut in 1990 against England at Old Trafford ended in tears. "I was fielding at deep square leg and Jack Russell smashed one off Kapil's (Dev) bowling. I was not Jonty Rhodes, but I tried to stop it. We couldn't get England out (England declared at 343-6 in the second innings). Inside the dressing room, he (Kapil) vented his anger on me. I started crying. Bishan Singh Bedi (cricket manager) told me not shed tears. I was picked in the Indian team after just one year of domestic experience. I realised I wasn't ready for international cricket," Kumble said.

'Don't appeal with your mouth open'
UMPIRE David Shepherd advised Kumble to not open his mouth to appeal when he emerged from the dressing room on the fifth day with his face bandaged against West Indies at Antigua 2002 Test. "Shepherd told me not to open my mouth while appealing. I saw Sachin (Tendulkar) was spinning big and I thought let me try and break a few partnerships because it was our best chance to win a Test in West Indies," Kumble said. Bowling with a broken jaw, Kumble dismissed Brian Lara but the Test ended in a draw

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