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The lion inside the man.

by Gaurav Sethi

Admire is not a word used loosely. In life, there will be many you love, like, very few you admire. You may not love or like these people, chances are, you may not even know them, at least not personally, but there will be something in them that will uplift you. Make you soar. Make you want to be like them. Make you want to do it like they do it. Hope to be as good as them.

To dig in. When it gets so tough, you don't want to even be there. You want to run away, anywhere, but be there. The man will dig in. Dig in so deep, you didn't know such deep reserves existed.

The man will go on and on and on. As if he is not a man. As if he is something else. What that something else is, is hard to tell. But he is not a man. The essence of the man will be a Japanese scroll with a red sun on CV Kamesh's headband in the gym. It says, lost in focus. CV Kamesh wears it every day at the gym.

Anil Kumble wore it every day on the cricket field. Not the band. The belief. Not just the belief, the action. Anil Kumble is more than the broken jaw. Anil Kumble is more than an anecdote.

Anil Kumble is the man. Not only when he took ten wickets. But when he took no wickets. He was the piercing squint of a lion's empty stomach on spotting its prey. He was the claws drawn out. He was the Natgeo clip when the deer outruns the lion. He was the Natgeo clip when the lion runs after another deer. And another deer. And another. Till he feeds that empty stomach. If not on the first day, then on the second or the third day. Kumble was the lion that knew a Test match can feed you on any one of the five days.

He preyed on batsmen with that knowledge. It wasn't until the 25th over that the first Pakistani wicket fell. By the 61st over, Anil Kumble had all ten.  14 in the match. He fell twice to Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqlain fell twice to him. This lion's elephant memory will remember that.

The man was more than the 619 Test wickets. Much more than the 337 ODI wickets. The man was the drama. Before every wicket. The appeal to the heavens. The umpire above. Arms raised. Back arched forward. Knees bent. “GIVE IT OUT.” The man preyed on the white cloaked figure as the lion preyed on the deer.

Anil Kumble knew that after feasting from Saturday to Thursday, lions are made to fast on Friday in the zoo. Anil Kumble knew an empty stomach is not such a bad thing. Anil Kumble knew how to straddle the wild and the zoo of world cricket. Anil Kumble survived both.

Welcome back to the jungle, Jumbo. You are remembered by your lion’s heart. This time could be no different. You’ve been blessed with a lion: Virat Kohli. A lion on top of his game. His kills could decide how far you go. Or can you readdress the imbalance amongst the cubs - from the den to the jungle? Indian cricket is ready for the straighter one, again.  Roar.

For Jumbo.  

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He was bespectacled, thick rimmed
Young and nerdy engineer type
Averse to any kind of hype
But eager like any beaver you ever saw

Nobody could read him
Nor batsman nor layman
He was the object of our ridicule
He was no less than a molecule
He was the reason we ragged in colleges
Any kid that that refused to fit in
He was the reason for our losses
He was the reason for our defeats
He was the reason we couldn’t fare better
As a nation, as a people, as a team

He was last choice captain
He was last man standing
He was broken in bandage
He was awoken in carnage

He was the very object of our scorn
Aren’t we happy now he’s gone?
He was the very object of our con
Aren't we happy now he's gone?
He was not Sachin, he was just Anil

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He served in Antigua
He served in Sydney
He served in Delhi
He served in Perth
He served in Bangalore
He just didn’t serve in lore

He was just a servant
Servant of the game

The glasses have long gone
And so the man

(written after Anil Kumble’s retirement)

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