Anil Kumble emerging from the stands to bowl with a broken jaw is arguably the most courageous act the game of cricket has ever witnessed.
With his face heavily bandaged, the former leg-spinner delivered 14 consecutive overs and dismissed the legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara. After the incident, Kumble said: “At least I can now go home with the thought that I tried my best.”
The incident happened during India’s 2002 tour of West Indies and after almost a decade and a half Kumble has finally opened up about the famous incident. In an interview with Wisden India, he fondly recalled the gallant act.
Kumble, who is currently in the Caribbeans for his first coaching assignment with team India, said: “I got (Brian) Lara out. Probably because he looked at my bandaged face and didn’t really focus on watching the ball I bowled. Maybe, I scared him that way. Watch the video. Every time you hit the pad in front, you appeal. It doesn’t matter whether you can open your mouth or not.”
India’s most successful bowler in Tests further added: “Sure enough, there’s the Lara dismissal and also Carl Hooper sent back, only to be reprieved by a rare no-ball, fuelled possibly by a combination of adrenalin and pain-killers.”
Batting at No. 7 Kumble was hit by Merv Dillon. He spat out blood but continued to bat for another 20 minutes. The series was poised 1-1 and this was the fourth Test. India declared at 513 for 9.
Kumble said: “It was banged in short and I lost it. It hit me on the jaw and I felt something was missing when I swirled my tongue around in my mouth. I felt something was wrong. Andrew Leipus (Physio) came to the middle and there was blood spewing all over the place. I asked him to take a look and he said my teeth were all in place, nothing missing.”
“I was then taken to the local hospital for an X-ray, and they had no facility to do an oral X-ray. They made me lie down and shot the X-ray film from where they could. And the image was so vague that it could barely capture the eye sockets, forget about a crack in the jaw.“
Dr Raj Jamula who was called to treat the injury said: “On the left side of the jaw, there was a fracture. The two parts had separated and it was immediately clear they needed to be held together. Working with a colleague, I put in some wiring, trying to keep the two sides together.“
And the dentist was surprised When Kumble asked him whether is ready to bowl.
Dr Jamula said, “Honestly, I was a bit surprised by his reaction. As soon as I wired him up inside his mouth, something changed in his expression. He told me he didn’t feel pain anymore and funnily enough was standing up and rolling his arm over, trying to see whether he could bowl.”
The match ended in a draw but will be always remembered fondly for Kumble’s heroics.