Never a regular member in the ODI teams, India's most
successful bowler, Anil Kumble, is determined to make it to the 2007 World Cup
and "sign off in style".
Left out of the team for the ICC Champions Trophy to be played on his home turf in October-November because of fitness issues, Kumble is hopeful of being a part of the World Cup squad.
The 35-year-old engineer, one of the game's greatest spinners with 533 Test wickets and 329 ODI scalps, said in Bangalore today, "I will have to make it to the World Cup squad to sign off in style."
The Bangalore bowler is banking on matches slated after the Champions Trophy to hitch-hike himself on to the World Cup squad.
"I'm hopeful that I will be a part of the set up (for World Cup). Some more international matches are coming up after the Champions Trophy. It all depends on that," he said.
Kumble has been out of India's one-day scheme of things for more than a year with his age and fitness being cited as the minus points but the Bangalore bowler thinks neither of it is an issue as far as he is concerned.
"I don't think age has got anything to do with cricket. It's all about your fitness, about how you feel and how you are bowling.
"In terms of fitness, I am really feeling good. There is a little bit of tendonitis problem in my shoulder but the rest of the body is absolutely fine. It's just a matter of couple of weeks before I should be back to bowling properly."
Kumble admitted that he was disappointed at missing out on the chance to play in the Champions Trophy.
"I was looking forward to being a part of the Champions Trophy. But you cannot help with injuries when you play so much of cricket. Sometimes you need a bit of luck too. I was doing well but then this tendonitis (happened). But it is not serious, there's a lot of cricket coming up and I'm really looking forward to that."
India have a busy season ahead starting with the Malaysian tri-series (September 12-24) and the Champions Trophy. The Indians will leave for a tour of South Africa to play three Tests and five ODIs in November-December followed by a triangular series at home with Sri Lanka and West Indies, which would probably be their final build-up for World Cup 2007 in the Caribbean in March-April.
Asked how he was planning to prepare for the World Cup, Kumble said, "I think whenever I get an opportunity to play the shorter version of the game, I will be a part of it and try and get used to it.
"Having played 17 years of international cricket, I don't think it takes too much time for me to get used to it. It's always good to be a part of the international set up. I'll have to just wait for a couple of months to do that."
Kumble brushed aside concerns that his latest injury might come in his way of playing for India.
"It is a very mild tendonitis, inflammation of the
tendon in the shoulder which has already settled down. It's like any bruise
which takes a little bit of time to heal. Since I have had a previous shoulder
problem, I just need to be a bit more cautious.
"I don't think it is anything serious. I am already feeling a lot better that what it was a week ago. Every week it is improving and within a couple of weeks I will start to bowl. I have already started to bowl a little bit. I should be fine hundred per cent shortly."
With 533 Test wickets in his kitty, Kumble said he was hopeful of reaching the 600-wicket milestone but as far as ODIs were concerned, he was just concentrating on making a comeback.
"Another 70 wickets is pretty realistic, let us see. 600 will be a good target to get to. In one-dayers, I am just looking forward to coming back into the scheme of things again."
Recalling his recent stint with Surrey which was cut short due to the injury, Kumble said he was pleased to have contributed to the team's victories.
"It was really good. I think Surrey as a club is very professional. People there were really good to me. It (injury) was a bit of a setback for them because they can sign only two overseas players."
"I, being their second overseas signing, had signed for the last two months of the season. And I could play for only one month. In whatever short stay I had with them we had a successful run. We won all the matches except one Twenty20 semi-final. It was a good five weeks of cricket in England and I enjoyed it," Kumble said.
How did he motivate himself for such a performance?
"I think it's passion for the game which makes all the difference. When you go out there and you have the ball in your hand, you don't really worry about which team you are playing. You just want your team to win. If you have that kind of passion and if you go out with that kind of intensity you will surely perform."
Asked to sum up his career till now, Kumble said, "It is very satisfying. It gives you a lot of satisfaction when you look back at whatever you have tried to achieve in the 17 years of first-class cricket career so far.
"Consistency and performance have always been most important to me. And also the team success. It's good to be a part of a successful team. It's been a great career so far and when I look back it feels good. If you want to be successful in life you need to have dedication and commitment."