Jumbo can’t say boo to a fly, but give him a ball in his hand and ask a fidgety batsman, with half a dozen close-in fielders breathing down his neck, what it means to shake hands with aggression! Things can get more interesting and eventful when he finds himself smelling the dust raised as the shrieking red cherry lands on the strip and disconcertingly bounces off the many fissures and marks and befuddles the hapless batsman. He should be forgiven then if he thinks he’s batting on the Devil’s Golf Course, and worse, that he is up against a wily practitioner, who goes the whole nine yards to make batting seem a misery.
Batsmen throughout the world know (or perhaps most often do not) what to expect while negotiating this silent assassin, and even the close-in fielders and men behind the stumps would be equally apprehensive, as they prepare to combat with his fizzing deliveries, that can be unpredictable arrows darting out of nowhere. The gentle giant, who was a bag of bones early in career, even after spending light years on the green turf, remains the same saint for all of us, never upset, taking the rough with the smooth and dusting himself after each fall, to rise like a phoenix.
He has never been treated like the blue eyed boy in Indian cricket, even though no bowler can claim to have won as many games for his country as Anil has. He is always there for the captain, without missing a beat, to lay bare the batsmen and make every ounce of oxygen count, like a bat out of hell. You can see the joy and the sense of victory accompanied by the sarcastic smile all at once, when the finger raises to nail the coffin, of those who dared to meet him eye to eye. I beg to differ with critics, who think Anil has engineered his brains to bag all those nine hundred international wickets. It is sheer common sense and relentless effort to take his team to the finishing line, which motivates him to shoulder the burden.
Welcome back Anil. We all need you and I am willing to bet by my last rupee now on our team’s fortunes, which was till now hanging in balance. It is time we appreciate the way he has handled his career, answering his critics, who don’t hesitate to draw out their knives and daggers, but yet are averse to swallow the bitter pill at the end of the day. We haven’t realized that there is a champion in the midst of us who has been ploughing the field for almost sixteen years and soldiering on single-handedly.
It will be great to watch him bowl again on a foreign soil, with the same authority and stealth as witnessed in Pakistan, Caribbean and the Land Down Under. At last the Indian pride has found the right lion to lead the pack, and yes we have a game on the reserve, one that every blue billion spectator will be ready to ride the kombi.