Kolkata: Former captain Anil Kumble on Saturday hailed Gautam Gambhir's success as a captain in the IPL and said it's nice that Indian cricket has "somebody else" apart from Mahendra Singh Dhoni to lead from the front. Talking to reporters during a promotional programme here, Kumble, however, said that Dhoni was doing well as a Test captain save the eight defeats against England and Australia in the team's last two tours.
"Gambhir has showed his credentials. He has the ability. It's nice to have somebody else in the team who has showed his ability, led from the front and batted well," Kumble said referring to Gambhir's stint with the triumphant Kolkata Knight Riders. "It augurs well for Indian cricket. But Test captaincy is different from T20. Apart from the eight Tests, Dhoni has done well in the past. I consider this as a leadership group, which is a core group in the team," Kumble said.
Kumble said that it was frustrating to see the once world number 1 team losing eight Tests in a row. "Defeat can be acceptable when you know that the opposition is dominating, but not when you are a No 1 side. The last time, we were dealt with such a blow was in 2000 Australia series that we had lost 0-3."
However, he hoped that those defeats would serve as a wake-up call ahead of India's upcoming engagements. "To see that happen again, was very difficult to digest. Hope this serves as a wake up-call and kick-start a process. Hope they do well in the coming months."
Kumble also spoke about Chris Gayle and his attacking batsmanship. "He is just amazing. Please don't remind me of bowling to him. In Bangalore before Gayle came in, only three or four sixes were hit out of the park at M Chinnaswamy. But after he came in to RCB every season he dispatches at least three out of the stadium.
"The cricket has changed these days with more and more flat wicket. I'm really glad that he is with us at RCB." Asked whether the art of legspin is dying with more and more teams boasting of off-spinners, Kumble said the pitches these days are not favourable for tweakers.
"Nowadays, all wickets are similar. To encourage spinners, you have to give them the suitable conditions." But he added that every team boasted of a world class spinner, which is an encouraging sign. About the number 3 Test slot left vacant by his state-mate Rahul Dravid's retirement, Kumble said there were quite a few capable players waiting in the wings.
"Virat Kohli is doing well and so is Cheteshwar Pujara. There is also Suresh Raina for the slot. We will have to wait and see, though it's difficult to get to a level where Dravid was."
Asked to pick his favourites for the upcoming World T20 in Sri Lanka in September, Kumble said: "It's difficult to predict in a World Twenty20. All teams have chances in a format of T20. There are England who are the defending champions, West Indies too have good attacking cricketers. All teams have chances."
About Sourav Ganguly's decision to continue playing despite having retired from international cricket in 2008, Kumble said: "I'm no one to say whether Sourav Ganguly should play or not. I took a call four years ago as I felt the need to give opportunity to the youngsters. When I left, I felt that Dhoni had it in him to lead the side."
Kumble said his comeback series against South Africa, where he bagged his first five-for in 1992, was the turning point in his career.
"I was firm on my belief. I made a comeback (after two years) in South Africa where I took my first five-wicket haul. There I realised that I could make a difference.
"I knew I was not a turner of the ball. The engineering that I learnt helped me in cricket. Especially with the turns, trajectories of the deliveries. I had to analyse my bowling, worked on my angles and variations. Kumble said he was fortunate to be part of an Indian team that had world class batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. "I am happy that I only bowled at them at the nets."
The Bangalorean picked Australian Steve Waugh, West Indian Brian Lara and South African Jacques Kallis as the three who challenged him the most. "Lara would look to attack, while Waugh would negate your bowling and wait for the loose delivery. Kallis, on the other hand, would bore you to bowl a loosener. He is so technically sound that you would always cherish taking his prized scalp."
Kumble noted that his engineering degree helped him in becoming a better spinner. "I was not as talented as Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan who could turn the ball even on a stage like this. I had to be analytical. At times, you have to let go your egos. I had to look at the videos of the batsmen who were dominant. Then I would see what the bowlers would do to contain them... It helped."