India’s new Test captain relishes challenge

New Delhi, November 9:

India’s newly-appointed Test captain Anil Kumble admitted on Friday he was a stop-gap arrangement but said he looked forward to the challenge at the tail end of his career.

Kumble, 37, was on Thursday named captain for the upcoming three-Test home series against Pakistan as the selectors opted to give front-runner Mahendra Singh Dhoni more experience of the five-day game.

“I guess it has come at a stage when the next guy takes over and I have to make sure there is a smooth transition,” Kumble said. “It has come at the fag end of my career. But it has given me additional motivation to carry on and perform.”

Dhoni, 26, who took over as one-day and Twenty20 captain in September, was considered the leading candidate for the Test role after senior pro Sachin Tendulkar turned down an offer from the selectors. But the five-man selection committee, headed by former captain Dilip Vengsarkar, felt Dhoni’s 20 Tests in two years left the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman too raw to assume the mantle.

Kumble, a veteran of 118 Tests, succeeds his Karnataka teammate Rahul Dravid, who resigned after the England tour in September.

The leg-spinner is India’s most successful bowler and his 566 Test wickets are bettered only by Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan, who had 700 wickets before the ongoing Brisbane Test.

“I am not looking far ahead,” said Kumble, who was appointed only for the Pakistan series even though India tour Australia for four Tests in mid-December before hosting South Africa for three more Tests in March.

“Whatever job I have been given I have to ensure I do it well. I would like to cultivate a team ethic. I want us to be consistent like the Australians.” Kumble had captained India in a lone one-day international against England at Chennai in 2002 which his team won by four wickets. Kumble, who retired from one-day cricket after the World Cup in March, said he was honoured to be asked to lead in Tests.

The first Test against Pakistan begins on November 22 at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi, the same venue where Kumble took all 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan in 1999. The second Test will be played in Kolkata from November 30-December 4, while the third will be held in Bangalore from December 8-12.