For an eighteen year career, he had to endure, and being himself in silence, the "non-turner" nicknames given by former bowlers who could not pick up half the wickets he did or who did not have half the commitment that he displayed. That after 619 wickets, he would still be behind magicians Murali and Warne is not meant as an offence but somehow always suppresses Kumble's contributions on the world scene. Surprisingly for such a fierce competitor on the field and such a nice man off it, which I think has been the problem, Anil Kumble has had more detractors than supporters and far less a fan base despite being such a giant compared to relative newcomers like Virendra Sehwag or Yuvraj Singh or even a Harbhajan Singh if you think of bowlers. However, enlisting numerical counts as evidence for greatness is a bit purblind and Kumble's relative anonymity on the world scene despite his grand achievements may be the product of his times, his own lifestyle and the fact that he was someone who appealed more to the mind than to the heart or the eye. An aesthetic pleasure he was not; a 'performer' - read 'actor' or rabble-rouser - he could never be; yet almost always he had a big heart and brought contributions to the team that go beyond just statistical measure.
During the last couple of IPLs, Kumble has just given an inkling of how age is not a bar on personal excellence or leadership. In South Africa last year he was consistently amongst the wickets and though his wickets tally has come down this year surprisingly - considering that this IPL is played in India - neither has the keenness suffered nor has the tenacity flagged. That he is still going at below six an over (and is the most economical bowler at this year's IPL) is testimony to the man's accuracy - 'metronome' is a word you would have to associate with the engineer from Kumbala. Against KKR for instance Kumble went for ten in the first over but gave away just seven in the next three. Beat that miserliness - one is forced to say! Kumble's success in the game's shortest format is as much a product of the man's unstinting ways as it is of the batsmen's respect for him. That he still earns it from the opposition itself speaks volumes for the man's stature in the game. How can we forget the world that stood still when he said, "Only one team played in the spirit of the game..."
I always equate Tendulkar to a genius and Kumble to the most persistent versions of hard-worked reality: it is not to depreciate the scale of Sachin's achievements or to think of Kumble's feats as mechanical results. Both men have been colossal heroes on the field and great gentlemen off it. And even if the world does not, Sachin has always celebrated Kumble - for there's one quintessential Indian champ who realises the value of another.