Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli row: A cricket-loving Kannadiga’s lament
Karnataka’s sportspersons -- be it GR Viswanath, BS Chandrasekhar, Javagal Srinath or even Anil Kumble himself -- have been credited for being the most gentlemanly in a gentleman’s game.
Karnataka once celebrated humility. Its celebrity sportspersons, especially cricketers, excelled in it, often being credited for being the most gentlemanly in a gentleman’s game.
Anil Kumble’s unseemly exit as the coach of the Indian cricket team is an affront to the great lineage of cricketing greats that Karnataka once stood for. Kumble’s decision to quit has been widely appreciated as it should be, but the contention is, that in the messy world of contemporary cricket, is it really required to sully ones reputation and imperil the tradition one belongs to. It might be construed as harsh and unfair, but when one dives deep into the dog-eat-dog world of sports as business, one should not be ready to take brickbats too.
Fans were proud of GR Viswanath when he called back Bob Taylor to the crease even though the umpire had given him out for leg before wicket. England went on to win the match. That’s Gentleman Vishy for you.
In the 1970s, Viswanath, Brijesh Patel, Syed Kirmani, EAS Prasanna and BS Chandrasekhar emerged as pillars of the Indian team. The magic in Chandrasekhar’s fingers made him legendary. But like an old hack once told this writer, what also made them stand out was their humility and accessibility.
There was once a time when it would not be surprising to see Chandrasekhar at the traffic signal riding his vehicle on his way to the office. I once bumped into Prasanna at the salon. He jumped out of his chair apologising to me for intruding into my appointment timing. Cut to the 1980s and you have Roger Binny -- the star of the 1983 Prudential World Cup finals -- the victor, yet humble and almost inaudible, along with the ever-smiling Syed Kirmani, who made Karnataka proud. The stars were still the same, in character. The worst that a Karnataka star could do was the on-field antics of a Sadanand Vishwanath who officiated for a brief while as the wicketkeeper of the Indian side.
In the 1990s, Karnataka, at one point, had Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Rahul Dravid, Vijay Bharadwaj and Venkatesh Prasad in the Indian XI; six from the state in an 11-member squad!
No hotheads, no controversy, all of them known as amiable.
In 1996, Prasad was involved in some tension with the visiting Pakistan team.
Since those days, Karnataka’s stars and the Karnataka State Cricket Association have gotten increasingly embroiled in controversies. Some stars have been accused of conflict of interest, running with cops, their personal lives the topic of gossip columns. The KSCA’s politics rival those of the political scenario in the state.
Even then, the general sense has been that Karnataka’s cricketers are of the Vishy class. Kumble has clearly worked hard to destroy that. For a cricketing star who got an important traffic junction named after him for taking 10 wickets in an innings, he is doing the state and its cricketing legacy a disservice. It might not mean much to those who celebrate the current jingoism and aggression that cricket and cricketers have been reduced to, but for those who love the game for the class it was associated with, it is sad.