NEW DELHI: Very few have the insight about Anil Kumble, the champion player, like his long time bowling partner Harbhajan Singh, who feels that Test captain Virat Kohli will find the most ideal "friend, philosopher and guide" as the duo aim to take Indian cricket to next level.
"With no disrespect to anyone, Anil Kumble will forever remain India's greatest ever match-winner in Test cricket. And he will bring that hunger to win in this team also. Virat will get to learn a lot from the man himself. Virat doesn't believe in draws and neither did Anil bhai. He will be Virat's ideal friend, philosopher and guide," Harbhajan told PTI during an interview.
Having played alongside Kumble for a decade, Harbhajan straightway pointed out what Kumble would bring to the table.
"Unbelievable work ethic and discipline. And top it all, his ability to devise strategies against opposition batsmen. Let me tell you, under Anil bhai, boys will learn the art of winning Test matches on fourth and fifth day. He will change the misconception that Indian spinners need tailor-made wickets to win Tests at home," said India's third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.
Harbhajan feels that coaching degree at the international level is the least important thing.
"Tell me what's the role of a coach? At this level, his role is to help the captain in devising strategy. In Mumbai Indians, he would speak to me and Lasith Malinga -- as we were the leaders in bowling department. We would tell what we are planning and he would give us his feedback. And when you got that feedback, you knew that he had done his homework," said Harbhajan.
Harbhajan gave the example of how they had sorted out Matthew Hayden during the 2004-05 home series against Australia and it was mainly because of Kumble's planning.
"During the 2001 series, Hayden got 549 runs. With his reach, he was even sweeping deliveries well outside the off-stump. During the 2004-05 series, even though we lost 1-2, we had sorted Hayden out as he got less than 250 runs (244 runs in 8 innings). It was Anil bhai, who made me aware about the areas to bowl to Hayden. I got him out thrice, Anil bhai and (Murali) Kartik got him once for not many," Harbhajan fondly recalled.
Having bowled hundreds of overs from the other end, how does he describe Kumble the bowler with 619 Test wickets, especially without a vicious googly or an effective leg-break like Shane Warne?
Harbhajan replied: "His above average intelligence. You can replace Dictionary's Intelligence with Anil Kumble! His biggest asset as a bowler was ability to land the ball on seam. He could do it 95 out of 100 times. The moment SG Test lands on seam, it kicks up. So even on barren pitches, Anil bhai would get the ball to kick up. I don't think any Indian bowler has been as consistent about his length like him."
For Harbhajan, Kumble was a team man par excellence.
"Often, there were times in overseas conditions, when a single spinner played and Anil bhai had to sit out because of team composition. I have never seen him get upset or lose his cool. His attitude in those time had been: If it benefits the team, he is game. That's what is being a perfect team man," concluded one half of the famed 'Spin Twin'.