Let’s face it: the line is Australia’s all-purpose alibi, a cover-all for a free-for-all. Let’s further face it: most sledging is abuse by another name. It erupts in every team, but only Machiavellian Australia uses it systematically, unashamedly, proudly, under the tired and empty old slogan of ‘‘hard but fair’’, often targeting their most temperamentally brittle opponent, pushing and poking and prodding until at last they explode.
Different exponents of knuckeball embrace different methods. Zaheer crooked his forefinger behind the ball and flicks it out as it leaves his hand. Australia’s Andrew Tye uses cross-seam, so that he gets a better grip and control. He sometimes cocks his wrists at release so that he gets some “tweak”. Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, bowls with an upright seam and bends the knuckles of the forefinger and middle finger to hold the seam with the fingertips. The thumb acts like a backrest.
The best chance a spinner has to take a wicket is when the batsman is forced to play an attacking shot, and the length that most legspinners bowl forces batsmen to attack.
Dravid enjoys an iconic status in Indian cricket, and rightly so. He is perhaps so trapped in the brand-painted portrait of an ideal gentleman that the perceived goodness eclipses his tactical acumen and other achievements.
If there is one thing cricketers of all abilities can agree on, it’s that the game will inevitably break your heart. Ask any opening batsman who has been dismissed in the first over of an innings or a bowler who has been forced to toil away in the baking sun for no reward. But that does not mean one can’t love the game, and if you’re like these Sri Lankan cricketers, you’ll want to express your affection in the most overt way possible. Before Roshan Mahanama published his biography, Retired Hurt, detailing the highs and lows of his career, he was smitten with cricket. His bat received most of the attention as he would kiss the top of its handle before taking guard, in the hope that it would bring him luck.
Age-group cricket is an established path to the senior game, with performances here occasionally getting more attention than those on the first-class circuit. Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Sarfraz Ahmed, Hashim Amla, Michael Clarke, Cameron White and Denesh Ramdin are some of those who shone in junior cricket and went on to captain their countries in top-level cricket.
Let me tell you a story about Kohli. During the Champions Trophy, before the semifinal when India played Bangladesh, there was an event at Lord’s to commemorate the 70th year of India’s independence. It was hosted by the Indian High Commission at Lord’s, a very nice occasion. The Indian team came. A lot of people, mostly Indians. It was very nice, but after a while people started to talk among themselves when someone was on the microphone. And Kohli went up to the microphone, asked if he could take it, and said, “I think you should listen to what is being said”. That was admirable. That wasn’t artificial. It wasn’t arrogant. He had the nerve and courage to stand up and tell people, in effect, that they were being rude. I thought that was terrific. When he spoke, he spoke very well indeed. He doesn’t look plastic to me in the slightest. He looks animated and intense, perhaps a little over-excitable, but that’s a good quality too. He is very engaged. He wants everybody to be absolutely on the ball … I like the look of him as a captain.