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How Anil Kumble survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Anil Kumble, while in conversation with Ravichandran Ashwin on his YouTube channel, revealed how he survived the Indian Ocean tsunami that ravaged South Asia in 2004.

Kumble was on holiday in Chennai with his wife and son, and was about to leave for his home city Bangalore on the morning of December 26, 2004 – the day the tsunami hit the city. Recalling the details of the calamity, he revealed that he was at hotel Fisherman’s Cove when the first wave hit.

The former India leg-spinner only learnt of the magnitude of the disaster after reaching Bangalore later in the day. Over 200,000 people were killed by the tsunami.

“We were staying at Fisherman’s Cove [in Chennai],” Kumble recalled. “It was my wife and I and our son – just the three of us. My son was about ten months old and we travelled by air. We didn’t want to drive down because it would take six hours and we didn’t want my son to travel that long.

“We enjoyed the holiday and the day the tsunami happened, we were leaving, so I was to check out early because we had, I think, a 11.30 flight, so I was to leave at around 9.30 from the hotel.

“Somehow, you know my wife, kept waking up that night very uneasy. She kept waking me up saying, ‘Look, what’s the time? I’m not feeling well. I’m feeling a bit uneasy.’ So we woke up early, we had a coffee looking at the sea. Everything was calm, it was cloudy.

“Around 8.30, we went to the breakfast area and as you’re aware, the breakfast area is slightly at an elevation. And we were having breakfast probably when the first wave hit. I was not even aware that this had happened. As we were checking out I saw a young couple in their bathrobes, you know literally drenched, and they were shivering.

“I couldn’t make out what it was. We just walked out and sat in the car. After Fisherman’s Cove, there’s a bridge, and I could literally touch the water because the level of the water was barely one foot from the bridge and it was frothing.

“We could see a lot of people, you know how you see in the movies, where people carry whatever they can and walking with pots and pans, kids on their shoulder and whatever bags they could have.

“Our driver kept getting calls on his phone then we asked him to focus on driving, but he kept saying, ‘A lot of water has come.’ We couldn’t believe what he was saying, there was no rain, we hadn’t heard of a tsunami. We didn’t know what was happening.

“When I came back to Bangalore and then switched on the television that’s when I realised that a tsunami had happened, so we were totally unaware as to what had happened.

“A couple of years back I met the [hotel] manager, I asked him what had happened. He said, ‘The cottages you were in, the water had come in, and once you passed the bridge, the second wave which came submerged the bridge as well.’ So we were probably destined and saved just in the nick of time.”

Kumble confirmed during the conversation that there were “no fatalities” at the hotel he stayed but there was “some loss of property.”

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