Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble believes it is difficult to be a bowler in IndiaReuters

They don't come more competitive in the sport of cricket than Anil Kumble, who, every single time he went onto the field, put his heart on his sleeve, and gave it the proverbial 100 percent.

Arguably, India's greatest ever bowler, Kumble did not get as much recognition as some of his contemporaries, both from India and abroad.

After all, Kumble was not that far behind the likes of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. The leg-spinner was also just as important to India's success as the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, the batsmen who usually always cornered the glory.

"As a bowler you are not a hero, you are always backing a hero but you need 20 wickets to win a Test match," said the man who picked up a massive 619 Test wickets for India.

"In India you pick teams based on pitches, so it's the bowlers who get changed. If it is a turning pitch a fast bowler can't play, and if it is a green pitch, a spinner can't play.

"So, you expect the batsmen to get accustomed or adapt to any kind of pitch whereas you don't expect bowlers to adapt to conditions."

Another aspect that perhaps was overlooked during Kumble's pomp was captaincy. Even if the record was not the greatest, during his captaincy towards the end of his career, the leg-spinner showed glimpses of his genius with the thinking cap on.

There was always an "if only" feeling watching Kumble make those decisions when India were a team in transition, much like many have wondered how good Warne might have been had he been given the captaincy role for Australia.

"I became captain after playing 17 years for India so probably I became captain by default because nobody else wanted it," Kumble was quoted as saying by PTI.

"Rahul Dravid had just given up the captaincy and at that time probably it was too early for MS Dhoni to step in as a Test captain and Sachin also did not want it, so they looked around and say OK Anil is the only guy and let's give it to him."

Courage is something that is synonymous with successful captains, and Kumble definitely did not lack in courage, as was proven so emphatically during that unforgettable Test match against the West Indies, when he bowled with a broken jaw in Antigua in 2002.

"Quite a few emotions were running through my head because I was just coming back from a shoulder injury and I was just coming into the team," recalled the Indian legend.

"I played the first Test match and then I was dropped for the second, where Harbhajan [Singh] played. I was given opportunity in the fourth Test match, the decider.

"I had not played two Test matches so this was like a make or break for me to showcase, again, not just to the team, but to myself saying that I am good enough to play. I am not someone who likes to sit on the sidelines and watch, I would like to be there [all the time]."

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