On February 7 1999 team India launched a ‘jumbo’ sized weapon on their arch-rivals Pakistan at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla. The weapon- Anil Kumble cast his web of spin on his opponents and the visitors fell like nine pins one after the other. As Kumble etched his name in the epoch of cricketing history by snapping up all 10 wickets in the second innings on a super Sunday, he became the only second bowler in world cricket after Jim Laker to achieve the feat.
In the context of the series, this feat gains even more importance as, Pakistan who were visiting India for a Test series for the first time since 1987, had pulled off a remarkable 12-run win in the previous game at Chennai. For India it was necessary that they make a come back and led by Kumble’s fantastic performance they registered a massive 212-run win.
When the Indian innings ended at 339 and the target stood at 420, India was already in the drivers seat but hardly anyone could predict what would unfold in the next few sessions of the test. Such a score was never chased down in Test cricket back then but with Pakistan you never knew what to expect.
Pakistan started their chase of the stiff target with grit and determination as the opening duo of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar put on 101 for the first wicket. Anil Kumble was brought into the attack in the ninth over itself by captain Mohammad Azharuddin. But in his first spell of six overs before lunch ‘Jumbo’ had a rather unproductive spell as he leaked 27 runs without anything in the wickets column. But the magic began after he was switched to the Pavilion End egged on by Azharuddin and the floodgates opened immediately with Afridi’s dismissal.
The change of ends worked wonders and Kumble kept pegging away from the same end for the next 26 overs relentlessly. While the fall of wickets began with Afridi, it was in the very next ball that he wrapped Ijaz Ahmed on the pads and umpire AV Jayaprakash lifted his finger to declare him out. Next to return to the pavilion was Inzamam-ul-Haq and it seemed like wickets were going to come in a rush.
However, there were periods where resistance was offered in the form of patient batting by Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram. This is where patience played a key role as Kumble kept prodding and bowled a nagging line and length. In an interview later on, Kumble had himself spoken about the crucial importance of Malik’s wicket and how important it was to break the 58-run partnership. He knew Malik was not fully fit and managed to outfox him with a ball that was pitched on the shorter side and hit the top of the stumps. After this he went to snap up the wicket of Saeed Anwar and then the spin twins of Pakistan ( Mustaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mustaq). In a matter of minutes Pakistan were 9 down for 198 and Kumble was on the verge of history.
It was here that another drama unfolded on the pitch as the task of bowling from the other end to the tailender- Waqar Younis fell on Kumble’s good friend Javagal Srinath. Being a true friend that Srinath is, he kept bowling wide of the stumps and was advised to do so by fellow pacer Venkatesh Prasad just for the sake of Anil Kumble. In one heart-stopping moment, Waqar Younis who was the last man, went for a heave in that over, and skied the ball in the long-leg region. But Sadagoppan Ramesh, much to the delight of the fans failed to take the catch. And finally in the third ball of the 60th over it was Wasim Akram who nicked one to a gleeful VVS Laxman who grabbed the catch as the innings folded for 207 and the talented, hard-working, mechanical engineer turned cricketer Anil Kumble became the first Indian bowler to take 10 wickets in an innings. The Indian team then carried Kumble to the pavilion in their arms and that is a sight etched in very cricketing fan’s memory.
Meanwhile, looking back at Kumble’s 10 wicket-haul, it is noteworthy that how important a role his teammates played as well. Be it Sachin Tendulkar, who brought his good luck charm by passing Kumble’s sweater and cap to the umpire or Sadagoppan Ramesh who did not take the catch of Waqar Younis. Nayan Mongia behind the stumps and Sourav Ganguly in the slips and Mohammad Azharuddin asking Kumble to change ends all played their part equally for Kumble’s milestone.