India v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Delhi, 1998-99

Ten past 10

A decade to the day after his 10 for 74, Anil Kumble and some of his team-mates look back at the feat

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi  |  

Day four of the Delhi Test of 1999, February 7, a Sunday, started off on an ordinary note. The holiday crowd fervently supported the home team, like in any India-Pakistan contest. A week before, Pakistan had sneaked to the tightest of wins in Chennai to take lead in the two-Test series. India needed to win here. Chasing 420, Pakistan dashed off to an aggressive start, putting on a hundred without loss, planting doubts in the Indians' minds. But Anil Kumble had other ideas. Once he made the breakthrough, there was no stopping him. He went on to become only the second man in the history of Test cricket to record 10 wickets in an innings. To the day, it has been a decade. Kumble, some of his team-mates, and others who were there look back.

Nayan Mongia was involved in just the first of the 10 wickets - that of Shahid Afridi

Nayan Mongia was involved in just the first of the 10 wickets - that of Shahid Afridi Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

Anil Kumble It was a close game in Chennai [the first Test; India lost by 12 runs]. Everybody was disappointed. But once we reached Delhi, we were pretty confident of coming back and ensuring we levelled the series. We knew we had not lost a series for a long time.
Nayan Mongia, India wicketkeeper It was a good fightback in Chennai, and myself and Sachin [Tendulkar] had a good partnership while we were chasing. It hurt so much because we had come so close to victory from nowhere. When we reached Delhi we wanted to win it badly.

India elected to bat, and were restricted by Saqlain Mushtaq to a modest 252 on a pitch with low bounce.

Kumble It was a good surface - slightly underprepared, but one where if we batted well we knew we had the arsenal to pick up 20 wickets. It was a traditional wicket, low and slow. Going back to the previous times we had played at Delhi, there were low scores. But we were okay with even a small total. We just needed to bowl well.
Mongia Normally in the subcontinent we bat first and put on a big total. But this time, apart from [Sadagoppan] Ramesh, who was in good nick, and Azhar [Mohammad Azharuddin, the captain] nobody stayed in for long.

Pakistan failed to take advantage and were bundled out cheaply, for 178

Javagal Srinath, India opening bowler There was some movement in the early part of the day and we got some breakthroughs. It became flatter later but kept low, and allowed the spinners to run through later.
Kumble The pitch was a bit two-paced and we knew that if we could keep them quiet we would be able to get them out.

The 80-run lead was crucial. When India batted again, Ramesh fell short by four runs of a deserved century. No one else in the top order really got going, but Sourav Ganguly and Srinath put on 100 for the eighth wicket.

Kumble It was a crucial lead because chasing 400-plus in the fourth innings is a big ask. Ramesh batted brilliantly and unfortunately got out to Mushtaq [Ahmed] on 96. The openers needed to bat well and at least one of them did so. It was a creditable display by him.
Srinath I had prepared myself mentally to bat in that series. I held myself responsible when we lost the Chennai Test by 15 runs. So this time I wanted to bat for longer and managed to combine well with Ganguly that set up a good target.

Pakistan began their chase of 420 in ominous fashion: they marched to lunch on 100 for no loss. India's fast men failed to make any inroads.

Mongia We almost thought we would lose the Test the way Saeed Anwar and [Shahid] Afridi were batting.
Pradeep Magazine, journalist Azhar was criticised for being defensive. He delayed the introduction of spin for a bit too long before lunch.

During the break India's coach, Aunshuman Gaekwad, tried to calm his side's nerves with a pep talk.

Kumble We had to be patient. I knew I had a role to play as a senior bowler, as a spinner.
Gaekwad I had a chat with Azhar. I told him the only person at that juncture who would go through Pakistan on the Kotla pitch was Anil. So we had to take chances with him by making sure he did not get tired. Azhar handled Anil tremendously well and needs to be given credit.
Mongia The plan was to bowl stump to stump. The ball was keeping low and it was turning a bit. Saeed Anwar, Saleem Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq were all capable of holding on, but there were spots on the pitch that would give you some purchase.

Immediately after lunch the first wicket fell. Shahid Afridi stood his ground before eventually walking off.

Kumble Who walks? Nobody walks. It was a big nick. That wicket started everything and I knew it wouldn't be easy for the rest of the batsmen.
Mongia Afridi wasn't happy. But myself and Anil were convinced and we appealed hard and he had to walk eventually. It was a breakthrough we needed.

Four wickets fell in a flurry - Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam, Moin Khan, and Yousuf Youhana. But India were desperate to get the danger man, Anwar.

Kumble Anwar was making batting look easy. It was critical that we got him.
Gaekwad Anwar was taking the strike, batting well. He never looked in trouble. Anil tried to bowl from round the stumps to pitch it in the foot marks, but Anwar handled it well. Finally Anil came back over the wicket and trapped him with a slower legbreak. Once Anwar went I knew it was our game.

Pakistan were far from finished, though. Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram had entrenched themselves well going in to tea.

Kumble I was getting tired. I had bowled non-stop in the second session. The tea break came at the right time. With Akram and Malik there was always a chance. I knew Malik was injured, so I tried to hamper his movement. Since he was slightly slow in his foot movement, I pitched a quicker delivery. He went for the pull and the bounce deceived him.
Mongia Usually when Anil tried to bowl fast, he would pitch it a little up and the ball would skid on. This being a clay pitch, when it hit on the seam, it zipped in really fast. Malik expected it to bounce and got bowled.

Kumble had seven in the bag. Laker's record was in his sights. The crowd grew increasingly vocal. All day long the spectators had chanted against the visitors.

Ten and done: Kumble takes the last Pakistan wicket, and the stumps for a keepsake

Ten and done: Kumble takes the last Pakistan wicket, and the stumps for a keepsake Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

Magazine The crowd had been hostile throughout the day. The shouts of "Pakistan hai, hai" were deafening and the vistors did not appreciate it. Some of the visting media even objected to certain umpiring decisions. One of the Pakistan journalists said that some credit ought to go to the umpire, AV Jayaprakash, who was standing at the end from where Kumble picked up all his wickets. But they didn't really grudge Kumble his achievement.

Mushtaq and Saqlain fell on consecutive deliveries. Akram proved had been in for a while and was proving hard to dislodge. Azhar asked Srinath to bowl widish deliveries at the other end so Kumble could get his man.

Srinath Nobody had to come and tell me to not take that remaining wicket. Anil had been bowling well and he was on the verge of a record and it was just a unanimous decision. I had to bowl about two to three overs from the other end before Anil got Wasim.
Kumble I did remember the occasion when I was asked to do the same, when Kapil Dev was going for Richard Hadlee's record. I couldn't have asked Srinath to do it for too long, so I knew I had to get it soon. But there was no real pressure. Victory was more important than getting the 10 wickets.

Initially I thought I'd give him a single and get Waqar [Younis] out, as he was the new guy in, but that didn't happen because Akram refused to take a single. But he finally fell to a simple legbreak, edging to short leg.

It was destiny.

India had drawn level, but Kumble's feat had overshadowed the victory.

Magazine Before that match everyone would say he was not a huge turner, that he looked for uneven bounce in the wicket, took wickets only in Indian conditions, and that he was unattractive to watch. He had taken a lot of wickets but he was never treated at par with the likes of Chandra [BS Chandrasekar], [Erapalli] Prasanna and [Bishan Singh] Bedi. But that performance changed everything.
Gaekwad I jumped over and rushed to the ground immediately to join the team in its celebrations. I couldn't hold back my happiness. The previous evening, at a special meeting, the Prime Minister, AB Vajpayee, had asked me, "Kya vichar hain? Kal jeetna hain."(Hope you're aiming to win tomorrow?) Absolutely, I replied. The day after the win I got a call from the Prime Minister's Office, congratulating us.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo