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African Safari: The tour diary
Ashish Shukla - 30 October 2001

A Jumbo evening with the spinners

Whenever you bump into an Indian cricketer these days, the talk unfailingly comes around to the subject of the England tour. Most of them want the English to visit; after all, it has been nearly a decade since they last toured India in 1992-93. That was the series that started the legend of Mohammad Azharuddin as captain and Anil Kumble as India's matchless bowler.

Anil Kumble
© CricInfo
Kumble, like everyone else, also wants to know the fate of the winter tour. He tries to remember the name of the English cricketers who don't want to tour: "(Darren) Gough, (Craig) White, (Ashley) Giles, (Andrew) Caddick and (Robert) Croft...all really are bowlers who don't want to come to India." There is nothing malicious in this suggestion from India's most gentlemanly cricketer; it is only a keen observation.

Jumbo moves on to the upcoming Test series against South Africa, which is going to be his first in a while. "I haven't played a game under Sourav (Ganguly)," the wily Indian leg-spinner says over a steaming cup of coffee. "I have missed 11 Tests in all; the last one I played was in Bangalore, against South Africa in 1999-2000." Indeed on that occasion, Kumble bowled 68.3 overs and picked up six wickets for 146 runs!

Meanwhile, his junior partner Harbhajan Singh wants to check up on his figures in the Standard Bank tri-series. He has conceded less than four runs per over and picked up nine wickets - the most by an Indian in the series.

Bhajji, incidentally, misses his home a lot. There was a time when the young man would have done anything to get another break in international cricket. Now that he has established himself, it suddenly seems the march of international cricket is ceaseless and that he would never get home again! If one accounts for the series against England, Zimbabwe and the West Indies that are scheduled until next September, there are another 13 Tests to go for a top Indian cricketer before he gets a break. That break too will be a short one; soon after that, it will be time to join the rest of the teams for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

Anil Kumble
The talk of home and Punjab sees Sarandeep Singh's name popping up. Bhajji is happy for his state-mate who did well in the Irani Trophy. Navjot Singh Sidhu, once their state captain and a commentator on this tour, too shares Harbhajan's delight. "Bhajji is brilliant, but Sarandeep is a classical off-spinner, with the right kind of loop and drift," remarks Sidhu. Knowing how dismissive Sidhu was of spinners, especially of off-spinners, during his playing days, it is high praise indeed.

Ganguly, meanwhile, appears to have chosen to take on the selectors again. Deep Dasgupta, his team-mate in the Bengal Ranji squad, could very well end up being a passenger for the rest of the tour. It is no secret that Ganguly has strong views about the cricketers he wants in his team. As a captain, he might have every right to do so, but unfortunately the selectors are not always in agreement with him. The positions on both sides have only hardened over a period of time.

Ironically, Ganguly might have unintentionally played a role in ensuring that Dasgupta was retained for the Test series. Only on October 23 did the rest of the world know that Rahul Dravid, not Dasgupta, will be keeping wickets in the crucial tri-series game against Kenya at Boland Park, Paarl. "If it had been decided earlier, before the selection for the Test series was being debated, Dasgupta could have found himself in the cold," remarked Sunil Gavaskar.

Talking about Sunny, he is not in South Africa these days. The legendary opener has gone to Sharjah to oversee the technical aspects of cricket matches hosted by the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS). Interestingly, he has not gone there in his capacity as the head of the ICC's technical committee, but as a recent technical appointee of the CBFS. His fellow-member on the CBFS board is that legendary English all- rounder Ian `Beefy' Botham.

© CricInfo

Teams India, South Africa.
Players/Umpires Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Navjot Sidhu, Sunny Gavaskar, Deep Dasgupta.
Tours India in South Africa
African Safari - Other issues
04 Oct | 08 Oct | 15 Oct | 19 Oct | 22 Oct | 23 Oct | 29 Oct | 30 Oct | 03 Nov |
05 Nov | 13 Nov | 17 Nov | 21 Nov



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