Shane Warne vs Anil Kumble

Reference: – Too Sexy (Leisure, Sport and Travel, The New Sunday Express, 14.08.2005)

Dear Sri Samanth,

It is your comment “there exists, let us remember, a straight arrow version of Warne” referring to Anil Kumble that demanded me to write this mail. Kumble is a straight arrow I agree; he is as important to India as the other is to Australia, but not at all a ‘version’.

When talking about the importance of a bowler, I reckon, we should consider two factors about the other bowlers he is bowling with. For many years, Kumble was the only strike bowler for India (though not on foreign soil on most occasions). He only had one Javagal Srinath to share the company with. No other bowler stayed in the side for a long time to make an impact and develope a rhythm with him. Kapil Dev, as we know, was a mere shadow of the great cricketer in his final years. Venkatesh Prasad and Manoj Prabhakar on most occasions were exploring the 360 degrees around the ground and finding the slopes. Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan stayed only briefly. It was only late that he could get a good companion in Harbhajan Singh. So naturally, Kumble could have got many wickets, as, in any case, he is a genuine bowler. But when you look at Australia, there were many bowlers who Warne shared the company with. Paul Reiffel, Merve Hughes, Craig McDermott, Damien Fleming, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Michael Kasprowicz, Andrew Bichel were (are) all potential match winners. Comparing these two bowling attacks is like sending a group of four persons to pluck out the flowers in a garden as opposed to a group of only two. As the count of the persons decreases, naturally the number of flowers per person increases. So there is no wonder in Kumble plucking out more flowers in a batch of two. But still, Warne has more flowers, and that too neatly plucked, in his kitty albeit tough competition from three others.

The other thing we need to consider is the competition for the spinner’s place in these two sides. Naturally, India were depending chiefly on spinners, and Kumble with his ability, made it to the side. But there wasn’t a permanent place for a spinner in the Australian ranks during most part of the ’80s and the early ’90s when Warne made it to the side. Tim May and Greg Matthews weren’t ‘successful’ bowlers. It was tough for a rookie to come into the side in the first place and then make it his own. This was also the case with Anil Kumble after the fall of L Sivaramakrishnan. Both these players enjoyed the freedom as there wasn’t any competition. As years went by, the case remained the same with India. The primary alternative to have thought was Sairaj Bahutule. Finished! Does one need more explanation?! But toward the end of the ’90s and into the 2000s, there surely was one Stuart MacGill on the horizon. If one looks into the career stats of both these players up to where MacGill stands now, he can see no difference whatsoever. Still, Warne gets the nod ahead of MacGill. This clearly explains the greatness of his bowling skills. Also, Kumble was dropped many times from the team, but Warne hasn’t tasted that medicine much. I accept Kumble is a genuine bowler and undoubtedly one of the best to have played for India, but he never is a match for Warne.

Still, I don’t consider Warne to be the greatest ever spinner to have played the game, as the media boasts. In my book, that honour goes to Sidney Barnes the great England ‘spinner’. He delivered the ‘ball of the century’ many times as opposed to Warne’s two. 189 wickets in 27 tests at 16 that includes 24 5WI and 7 10WM is simply outstanding, isn’t it? The best slow bowler? Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett, with 216 wickets from 37 tests at 24 with 21 5WI and 7 10WM. I wonder why don’t the media recognise these past cricketers! Probably, we should blame the absence of videos……….

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