Anil Kumble on Sehwag’s big second chance

Anecdotes, tech pitches and fan fervor mark Hotstar CricFest


Ritu Jha


The first CricFest hosted by Hotstar failed to draw a large number of San Francisco Bay Area cricket fans, but two former Indian players, Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag, delighted the attendees when they shared anecdotes, including the highs and lows that defined them.

Kumble also discussed his technology startup Spektacom and about his signing deal with Microsoft.

Sehwag described how Kumble had been impressed by can-do attitude and confidence to let him play in Australia.

As the story went, Sehwag dropped from India’s One Day International(ODI) team after a string of bad performances.

He said he got a call from Dilip Vengsarkar, a former cricketer who was an administrator at the time, about going to Australia after another player, Gautam Gambhir, injured his shoulder.

“What will I tell the media? I have not scored runs and still you picked me up? I am surprised,” Sehwag said he told Vengsarkar, who judiciously against telling the media he was surprised.

According Sehwag, “Even before Vengsarkar’s call, Anil Kumble (who was captain), called me and told me, ‘You are going to Australia. We are not taking Gautam Gambhir. His shoulder is injured.’ I said, ‘You should take Akash Chopra. He has made so many runs.’ But Kumble said. ‘I want you, not Akash Chopra; we have many Akash Chopras in my team – like Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar, (VVS) Lakshman.’ Kumble picked me and we went to Australia. The first Test match was in Melbourne. I didn’t play and we lost. He (Kumble) said, ‘Viru, wait. You will get your chance. Yuvraj Singh scored 175 runs against Pakistan before we came to Australia. So, let him play two Test matches and if he doesn’t score then we will give you chance.’

“I kept asking when will I get my chance. Even at the Sydney Test I keeping requesting for a chance to play.

So there was 10 days, break after Sydney and Melbourne matches and Kumble finally said, ‘If you score 20 plus runs in the practice game you will get your chance.’ I scored a 100 in the practice game in 19 balls and then played my first Test match and scored a century,” Sehwag said.

He said the idea was to have someone who could put fear into the opposition, particularly the bowlers.

“We were the only country that has traveled to Australia during that period and come back without losing a series,” he said.

Kumble said that while Sehwag was not in the best form before being called and had lost his place in the team, it was important to have confidence in them since motivation is affected when one is dropped.

“I felt that there is a need for someone like Viru to just be pushed into international scene again,” Kumble said. “I was sure he would score those runs. It was not that he was not a good player or that he lost his skills but he did lose his confidence. All he needed was to be back. Once back he never looked back there on,” said Kumble, adding that he made a mistake in not bringing him on earlier in the series.

“I should have picked him in the first Test. We would probably have won the series,” Kumble said.

Kumble’s decision ensured that Sehwag never looked back, even earning the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World for his performance the next year.

The discussion shifted to Spektacom, Kumble’s startup, which has tied up with Microsoft.

Kumble, a mechanical engineer by education, said he was always interested in technology and that Spektacom addresses his interest.

“I was the first one to carry a computer into the dressing room – in 1997,” he said.

He spoke of his company’s technology which provides real-time data from a cricket bat.

“There is a AI, built into the bat. I am hoping that generates a lot more data,” said Kumble, adding that this helps characterize the batsman.

According to a Microsoft statement, Spektacom’s inobtrusive sensors captures a number of data points. That data, combined with information from a “stump box” behind the wicket and equipped with Azure Sphere, will be securely uploaded to the Microsoft Cloud in real-time.

Jake Lush McCrum ,GM for cricket operation for Rajasthan Royals distributing T-shirt at the CricFest in San Francisco.

Jake Lush McCrum ,GM for cricket operation for Rajasthan Royals, used the opportunity to also announced the launching of a TV show with Hotsar called US6. The Homecoming.

“We are here to spread the word about Rajasthan Royals in the US. We want to help the growth of cricket here,” McCrum told indica.

“In future we hope to do more in the US – in terms of coaching,” he said, adding that his team was in the learning phase now, and addressing the fact that there are not many cricket grounds in the country.

“We are looking at how much development needs to happen, and where we can support in the future.” he said, adding that collaborations with local groups could come after this exploratory trip.

Local cricket players told indica they were looking forward to meeting Kumble and Sehwag.

Seventh-grader Ritwik Chitgopkar, 12, said he has been playing for three years at the San Ramon Cricket Association.

San Ramon Cricket Association players at CricFest.

“My grandpa was here in 2015. That was the year of the ICC World Cup. I watched the match and fell in love with cricket. I started as a bowler but turned into a batsman,” Chitgopkar said. “I like football, but now play cricket. After school and family, cricket is the biggest thing for me.”

His father Shyam Chitgopkar said they travel outside California to play cricket and that Ritwik wants to represent the US one day.

Chitgopkar’sfriend Sanik Ghosh, also 12 and in the same team as him, said he has been playing since 10 and also liked batting better.

“I used to play soccer and stopped but probably I will play for the US (cricket) team,” he told indica, adding that another friend a year younger, Ayush Batghare, planned to do the same.

Ipsita Dasgupta, president of Hotstar International and Strategy at the Star India television network was also hopeful about the future of women’s cricket.

“We hope everyone is going to watch the Women’s World Cup,” she said. That will have to wait awhile since that’s in 2021.

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