Reliving each of Kumble's 10 wickets on this day in 1999!
You can't keep the Kotla and Kumble apart. The Kotla dances to Kumble’s tune each time he runs into bowl. On that day though, it skipped a beat to pay tribute to its master!
I wanted to know the exact numbers about Anil Kumble’s performance at Delhi. I looked up ESPN Cricinfo. And to my surprise, there wasn’t any semblance of Kotla in the list of venues. No wonder, the iconic venue was renamed in 2019.
Not that I wasn’t aware of it, but only that I couldn’t keep that name too far away, when we talk about India’s highest wicket taker. Not when, he averaged 16 runs per wicket at the venue. Yes, you heard it right, 16. Not when he selfishly picked up all the 10 Pakistani batsmen in an innings on February 7, 1999, at that very venue. I was 6 years old then, but some moments from that match are still fresh. Blame it on my love for the leg spinner. But, I would be lying if I say I didn’t have to look back at the highlights to do justice to each of those 10 wickets.
Pakistan were visiting India after a 10 years hiatus, for a 2 test series. The first of the two test series ended in a dramatic victory for Pakistan at Chepauk. That test would be remembered for the crowd’s standing ovation to the Pakistan team. The following test was played in Delhi at the Kotla. Chasing 410 for a victory, the Pakistani openers, Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi, had stitched together 101 runs, with little idea of the mayhem that would follow.
An outside the off stump delivery that wouldn’t have done any harm on other days, but Afridi decided to fish wide outside the off-stump and the faintest of nicks! Kumble had his first, thanks to a clean collect from Nayan Mongia.
Nick or no nick, the umpire raised his fingers. No reviews back then.
The very next delivery was a typical Anil Kumble welcome. Ijaz Ahmed planted the front foot in expectation of the same. But, Anil, the astute thinker that he was, bowled one quicker and fuller, like he so often does. Ijaz was slow in getting his bat down, and yorked himself. Trapped right in front. This one, I remembered!
Strike 3/10 :
The hat-trick didn’t come, but the blow came soon enough in the form of Pakistan’s star batsman, Inzamam-ul-Haq. Very much like Afridi, Inzamam chose to try his luck by taking the bat for a little walk outside off stump. Bottom edge and played on to the stumps! It was that kind of a day for the Bangalorean.
Strike 4/10 :
The score stayed static. For the umpteenth time in his career, Kumble conjured another one of his straighter and quicker balls directed at the stumps. Mohammad Yousuf found out the hard way, ‘Bat in front of the pad, when you play Kumble’. That was what you would call a typical Kumble dismissal. Anil wasn’t called ‘Jumbo’ without a reason.
Strike 5/10 :
12 runs later, Kumble turned to his trusted companion at Kotla, the extra bounce off the rough. The bounce along with little hint of turn caught the outside edge of Moin Khan. Diving to his wrong side, Ganguly pouched a good catch.
Strike 6/10 :
The half-centurion Saeed Anwar was at the receiving end when Kumble summoned that extra bounce once again. The ball caught the splice of the bat and popped up to the waiting hands of short leg.
Strike 7/10 :
After several close shaves, Kumble would have considered himself fortunate to get one off a short delivery. Yes, it skidded on a little quicker, like it always does from Kumble’s hands. But that was no explanation for Saleem Malik’s brain fade, letting the balls disturb the timber. Perhaps, Salim’s hamstring injury played a part.
Strike 8/10 :
If Anwar and Moin were hard-done by the extra bounce, this was a snorter. This delivery from Kumble took a sudden detour, a steep ascent and his leg-spinning counterpart, Mushtaq Ahmed could only manage a nick to Dravid at slips. A dolly!
Strike 9/10 :
It was getting serious, could Kumble somehow get all the 10 wickets? Tailenders hardly had a chance against Kumble anywhere, forget the Kotla. Just another Kumble-ish dismissal, faster than you think and trapping you on the pads. Saqlain was a couple of minutes late!
Strike 10/10 :
Fellow Bangalorean, Javagal Srinath did all he could to deliver one wide ball after the other to keep Kumble’s and India’s hopes of 10 wickets alive. When Waqar Younis skied one off Srinath, the first time in its cricket history, the Indians took the side of a Pakistani batsman. There was an earful given to Sadagopan Ramesh for attempting a catch. Kumble had to get it done soon. And he didn’t disappoint. And the rest, as they say is history. A bat-pad into the short-leg and Wasim Akram abandoned his resistance. This moment needed no referencing any videos!
"It can happen tomorrow, or 10 years down the line or it may not happen at all. I don't think anybody gave me a chance of picking up ten wickets. It's a very rare occurrence and I was probably privileged and blessed to be a part of that but it's something unique," - Kumble in an interview on this unique milestone
His team-mates carried him off the ground on their shoulders. These were crazy scenes, understandably. No one since Jim Laker in 1956 had done this. India’s hardest trier with the cricket ball had scripted history at Feroz Shah Kotla.
It is one record that will have to wait a long while, before it happens again. And we can say that with a fair degree of confidence. The Kotla dances to Kumble’s tune each time he runs into bowl. On that day though, it skipped a beat to pay tribute to its master.