Sachin Tendulkar has spanned three generations of cricketers and fired the dreams of a billion Indians, said Anil Kumble while delivering the second Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi Memorial lecture in Mumbai on Wednesday evening. Kumble recalled his association with Tendulkar as members of the Indian squad and paid rich tribute to the 40-year-old legend set to play his 200th and final Test match at Wankhede Stadium from Thursday.
"I have played 132 Tests with Sachin. I never threatened Sachin's place in the team as a batsman but he sometimes threatened mine as a bowler. He was a natural spinner of the ball," Kumble, a proud owner of 619 Test wickets said.
"In 1989, when I made my debut for Karnataka, another man, a 16-year old, was making his debut for India. Sachin has spanned three generations of cricketers starting from Kapil Dev to Shikhar Dhawan. Few players have done as much as Sachin to alter the perception of the game in our country," Kumble told a packed house that included the master blaster himself.
In a well-crafted speech, Kumble spoke about his career, his learning as a cricket administrator and the future of the game. Kumble currently chairs the technical committees of the BCCI and the ICC. He is also the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.
In his opening lines, Kumble remembered how he was written off as a spinner by Pataudi, one of India's most famous and knowledgeable skippers. "At best, he was a restrictive bowler," Pataudi had opined about Kumble. On Wednesday, Kumble said: "After 619 wickets later, it's my misfortune that I cannot confront him. Had I done so, he would have had a great laugh," Kumble said.
Pataudi, who passed away in September, 2011 at the age of 70, represented India in 46 Tests from 1961-62 to 1974-75, and scored 2,793 runs, inclusive of six centuries. Pataudi, fondly called Tiger, captained the national side in 40 Tests, and was in charge when India registered their first-ever Test series win on foreign soil, in New Zealand in 1967-68.
Pataudi was one of those who with his accomplishments and encouragement to the country's junior cricketers in the 1960s, helped lay the foundation for India's rise as a cricketing power in subsequent decades. The 43-year-old Kumble paid tribute to the late skipper saying: "He was an Englishman with an Indian heart. Pataudi was a management guru and has been a beacon for every Indian captain."
Kumble said India was a power in world cricket and needed to make pragmatic moves to hold on this position. Like the Romans and the British, Kumble said India needed to guard against making "historical mistakes." "We don't need to reinvent the wheel, but every stage of evolution needs an open mind and a fresh approach," said Kumble.