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  Friday, 21 June, 2002, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
The responsibility of Kumble
Kumble (R) is one of India's most experienced players
Kumble (R) is one of India's most experienced players

Next year could be Anil Kumble's last chance to play in a World Cup final.

He still has sad memories of the semi-final in Calcutta in March 1996.

India lost the match by default when crowds invaded the pitch with Sri Lanka in any case on the verge of victory.

"It's something I haven't come out of," he says. "Obviously it was a great chance to get to the final and maybe win the World Cup."

For now, there is the not inconsiderable matter of the NatWest Triangular series in England to contend with.

Kumble's stock ball is the top-spinner
Kumble's stock ball is the top-spinner

With no Javagal Srinath in the ranks, India's bowling attack is so inexperienced that even their captain Sourav Ganguly has expressed his concerns.

Kumble, therefore, must play an important part if his fellow bowlers are not to be unbearably pressurised by England's in-form batsmen and Sri Lanka's one-day expertise.

"I'm sure we'll miss Srinath," admits the 31-year-old. "His quality and experience cannot be replaced overnight.

"But we've got some quality fast bowlers. Zaheer has done really well, Ashish Nehra is developing really well, Ajit Agarkar has experience and Tinu Yohannan is developing into a good fast bowler."

Kumble, of course, is no fast bowler. But his leg-spin has accounted for plenty of victims at vital times for India.

Top-spinner

Unusually, his stock ball is often the top-spinner, and in the first Test against England in Mohali last December, the tourists' batsmen seemed unaware of the fact.

Kumble returned 6-81 in the second innings as India triumphed on the one pitch expected to suit England's bowlers more than India's.

The veteran of 223 one-day internationals and 70 Tests unsurprisingly describes the shoulder injury that laid him low for 10 months last year as the low point in his career.

Kumble dismissed Brian Lara with a broken jaw
Kumble dismissed Brian Lara with a broken jaw

With the rehabilitation process taken into account, it meant Kumble played no international cricket between October 2000 and October 2001.

In May this year, Kumble was in the wars again, breaking his jaw after being hit by a Merv Dillon bouncer in Antigua.

Bravely, Kumble came out to bowl in any case, swathed in bandages in an act that would seem like heroism to some and madness to others.

"It was hurting definitely, but I guess at international level you are expected to go out there and compete.

"I just felt I could go and and do whatever I could because the next day I was going home because it was a fracture.

"It was satisfying getting Brian Lara out. I got Carl Hooper out as well of a no ball so that was disappointing.

"Maybe I thought if I could go out there and get a couple of wickets... since we had 500 runs on the board there was a chance we could enforce the follow-on.

"But Hooper and Shiv Chanderpaul batted very well in the next innings and it ended in a draw."

Concentration is key for the 31-year-old
Concentration is key for the 31-year-old

Kumble knows that India will be under pressure in the NatWest Series - bookmakers reckon they're the tournament long-shots - but there is still hope for the team.

"Both England and Sri Lanka are really balanced and have got good one-day sides. England came back really well in India to square the series.

"But we played them recently and we know most of the guys. They are playing really well having beaten Sri Lanka in the Test series and obviously England have the advantage of playing at home.

"Obviously it's going to be hard because Sri Lanka have also got a good side, but I don't think there's much difference between the three side."

Kumble is aware of the entertainment value of one-day cricket.

"It's all about people coming to watch batting rather than bowling. It's going to be really exciting.

"In the one-day games you can't really do too much as a bowler because you just have 10 overs.

"Once we have finished the one-dayers we will sit down and work out some strategies for the Test series."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Anil Kumble
"One-day cricket is all about people coming to watch batsmen"
NatWest series: England, India, Sri Lanka

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