Despite cricket evolving into a sport largely dominated by the batsman, the popular saying – ‘bowlers win you Test matches’ – still holds. No matter how big a score the batsmen pile up, the team can’t win the Test match if their bowlers don’t pick up 20 wickets. Stressing on the fact, India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh did not go with greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and named former India leg-spinner Anil Kumble as the ‘greatest match-winner India has ever produced.’
India have always been known for producing better batsmen than bowlers but players like Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble, and Harbhajan Singh defied that and went on to become one of the world’s successful bowlers in the longest format of the game.
Terming former India captain Anil Kumble the greatest ever to have ever played for India, Harbhajan said the legendary leg-spinner showed the world you can dismiss batsmen regardless of you can spin the ball or not.
“In my view, Anil bhai was the greatest ever who played for India. He’s probably the greatest match-winner India has ever produced. People used to say he didn’t spin the ball, but he showed that if you had the heart, you could get batsmen out regardless of whether the ball spun or not,” Harbhajan told Sportstar.
Harbhajan whose career took a defining turn in the India vs Australia three-match Test series in 2001, in which he had replaced the injured Anil Kumble, said he was lucky to have played alongside the great leg-spinner for so many years.
“If anyone has half the competitiveness Anil bhai had, he would become a champion. I’m lucky to have played with him for so many years. He was an unbelievably committed player,” he said.
Kumble, who captained India’s Test side in 2007 and 2008, and also was the head coach of the Indian team in 2016-17, continues to be the country’s leading wicket-taker in both Test and ODIs.
Kumble is third on the list of all-time highest-wicket takers of the world after Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne with 619 scalps in 132 matches at an average of 29.65.
Kumble has picked up 337 wickets in 271 ODIs. He is also the only Indian and the second after Jim Laker to have the distinguished record of claiming all 10 wickets in an innings.
Harbhajan and Kumble were one of India’s most successful bowling pairs. The spinners played 54 Test matches together out of which India ended up on the winning side on 21 occasions.