Cricket is a game of placement, disappointment, excitement and achievement. Achievement in the gentlemen’s game is often associated with the batsmen. Bowlers still find it hard to create the kind of aura that the superstar batsmen enjoy. But experts know that it is the bowler who plays the key role in the victory or defeat of a team. This is especially true about test matches. Bowlers need to grab 20 wickets in the 5-day match to hand over the victory to their captain. Bowlers, whether pacers or spinners, often lay their attack in partnerships just like batsmen. But, when a bowler takes all the wickets by himself, he is nothing less than a legend. India’s former test captain Anil Kumble’s career stats are proof of the legend that he is.
Date: Feb 4-7, 1999. It was the second test on Pakistan’s India tour. The match was being played at Arun Jaitley Stadium (then known as Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium), Delhi. If you ask any experts, what can be the biggest achievement for a cricketer, irrespective of his/her role, the answers could probably be like, “200 runs in ODI”, “5 wickets in ODI”, “300 is a test match” or “5 wickets in a test match”. But nothing can be as big as taking all the wickets in an inning of a test match. It simply can’t get bigger than it. That’s why Anil Kumble is placed among the top 10 when it comes to the top test bowlers across the world.
The match story: Pakistan were high on confidence after defeating Indian in the first test in Chennai, and the convoy then moved to the national capital Delhi. While the batting line-up on both sides consisted of some superstar batsmen, Pakistan had the upper hand in the bowling department. The pace attack was formidable with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis leading the attack. India won the toss and elected to bat. Non-regular opener VVS Laxman opened with S Ramesh, and the two gave the team a decent opening. S Ramesh scored 60 runs off 119 while Laxman scored 35 off 84 balls. But after the departure of the openers, India’s middle-order failed to capitalize on the start they got. Rahul Dravid got out after scoring 33 runs while Sachin managed to score just 6. However, Captain Azharuddin scored a fighting 67, but with no support from the other end, India was reduced to 252. Pakistan’s response was not great either. In fact, it was worse. Pakistan was bowled out for 172 with Shahid Afridi being the highest scorer with just 32 runs.
3rd Innings: It was India’s time to add to the 80 runs lead that they managed to get after bowling Pakistan out under 200. Opener S Ramesh came even stronger in the second innings and scored 96 off 227 balls. Dravid and Tendulkar contributed to the total with 29 each. With the help of Sourav Ganguly’s 62 off 127 balls and Javagal Srinath’s useful 49 off 116 balls, India’s total reached 339. Pakistan now had a mammoth target of 420 runs to chase down, and it was a very difficult target to chase in the final innings of a test match.
The final innings: India were hoping to strike early but experienced Saeed Anwar, and young Shahid Afridi fought beautifully. Anwar scored 69 off 128, and Afridi added 41 off just 64. Frustrated by the partnership, the captain handed over the ball to Kumble, and he ripped through the defences of both the openers. After that, it was ‘you go, I come’ for the Pakistani batting line-up. It was as if Kumble couldn’t see the batsmen on the pitch. It was just him and the wickets. After departing the openers, Jumbo scalped 4 wickets in quick succession, breaking the backbone of Pakistani batting. Ijaz Ahmed and Mohammad Yousuf got out for a duck while Inzamam managed to score just 6 runs. Moin Khan handed over a catch to Ganguly off Kumble after scoring 3 runs. The lined-up batsmen didn’t even have the time to pad up. Kumble was spitting-fire. He then faced a little resistance from Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram, but he had plans for all of them. Kumble’s delivery ripped through Malik’s defences hitting the stumps. Malik was bowled out for 15. Akram fell after a well-fought 37. Kumble had struck 8 wickets, and Pakistan had no answers to what had hit them that they. Even prayers didn’t bear results. 13 balls later, Mushtaq Ahmed fell after scoring a single. The last pair of Saqlain Mushtaq and Waqar Younis was on the ground. Kumble and all his teammates knew that he was about to create history. A record that no one even thought of in their dreams. It took him 6 balls to decimate the Pakistani batting and write history. Saqlain got lbw out on the first delivery he faced. The crowd went berserk, so did the Indian team. He had become the only second bowler in the world to claim 10 wickets in an innings. The other one being Jim Laker. 10 wickets for 74 runs was written next to his name on the scoreboard. The stats are etched in record books and in the heart of every cricket fan in the country. Kumble went on to become the highest wicket-taker in Tests for India. 619 wickets from just 132 matches.