The national selectors had made up their mind to drop Anil Kumble from the 2003-2004 Australia tour but former India skipper Saurav Ganguly put his foot down and ensured that the legendary spinner makes it to the series. This was disclosed by Ganguly himself during a promotional event in Mumbai.
"I will give you the example of Anil Kumble, who was probably the biggest match-winner India has ever produced in the last 20-25 years. I remember attending a selection meeting before the tour of Australia in 2003. I was the captain of the side and I knew, selectors were not very keen on having Anil on that tour," said Ganguly.
"As I entered the selection meeting, I could sense the selectors had made up their mind to leave Anil Kumble out. I kept on requesting and insisting that he is such a match winner, he is done so much good for Indian cricket. He must be in Australia and the selectors just didn't agree," said Ganguly at a programme of 'Surf Excel'.
Kumble is highest Indian wicket-taker in Tests, having grabbed 619 wickets in 132 matches with his best figures of 10/74 against Pakistan in New Delhi.
Kumble, who coached India before the current coach Ravi Shastri, has also 337 ODI wickets in 271 matches.
"The selectors wanted to pick a left-hand spinner because Australians don't play left-hand spin well, and this went on for a good couple of hours. It was getting late and John Wright came up to me and said Saurav let's finish this and go with what they said and I am sure we will do well," he said.
Ganguly said he told coach John Wright that if Kumble was not picked for that tour, he might not play for India.
"I told John that Kumble has been a champion for last 10 years, he is on his way down at the moment, maybe because he hasn't bowled well, but I actually feel it is a temporary thing," said Ganguly.
"I told John if you leave Anil, he may not play for India again. I said I am not going to sign the selection sheet till Anil is on the side. The selectors got fed up with me and said if I don't play well if the team does not play well and if Kumble does not play well, I will the first person to go before anyone goes. I said fine, I am ready to take that risk and we will see what happens," he added.
And after that Kumble was picked for the Australia tour and Ganguly said he came out with flying colours.
"Anil had an outstanding series, an outstanding year as well. He went on to pick 80 wickets that year, which was the most by any spinner in a calendar year in the history of Test cricket," said Ganguly.