To love cricket is to appreciate the sheer joy of the highest forms of sport — the elements that stretch human talent to the limit, that transform mechanical skill into beauty, that assert the pleasures of complexity over those of instant gratification. No form of the game showcases these qualities better than Test cricket.
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.
“The team is going through a bit of a transition,” he says. “We’ve got youngsters coming in Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Aiden Markram and Wiaan Mulder. It’s a very interesting phase. It’s almost like this is our generation and we are learning from the seniors but this is going to be our time to take over, not in a hierarchy type of way, just in a sense that we are going to take the team forward now.”
Carlisle remembered a story Ngidi told him from his childhood about the first time he turned up at cricket practice. “He wanted to be a batsman but didn’t have any kit, so he decided to give bowling a go,” Carlisle said. “The rest is history.”
Rohit is an enabling idea and it is his fate to deal with the same philistinism that conceptual art and its pioneers have had to suffer. The Turner Prize, the most prestigious award in the British art world, was won in 2001 by Martin Creed for an installation that consisted of an empty room and a timer switch that turned the lights on and off every five seconds. Everyone sneered then; twelve years later, the Tate bought it for its permanent collection for more than a hundred thousand pounds. Rohit is Creed’s installation – his absent runs are that empty room, those timer lights are twinkling intimations of his genius.
The charming Hyderabadi Jaisimha did not even have to hold a bat — his walk from the pavilion alone was worth the price of the ticket. Relaxed, collar up, seemingly swaying to the beat of music only he could hear. He could bring a crowd to its feet by merely pushing his hair back. And when he finally held a bat in hand, he swung between mastery and vulnerability, but he couldn’t play an ugly stroke even if he tried.
His truant bat; his gimbaling wrists; his now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t obscuring of the stumps: Smith confounds all precept. But the method is of a piece with the preliminaries, the multiple touches of his pads and helmet to check that everything is still attached, the stiff-legged double tap of the bat, the bent-knee double-squat address of the bowler; to follow, the signature followings-through, including, when he lets the ball go, a gesture of the bat as if bestowing a knighthood. Then, as he sets off for a little recuperative amble, a movement of the right arm as though slipping it into a sleeve.
Consider this scenario then. India are going to South Africa without any left-arm quicks who might give Ashwin rough to work with. South Africa won’t give him dry pitches or left-hand batsmen – only two – to exploit. We could possibly have ourselves a situation deep into a Test where India are desperate for a wicket and there is a rough outside a right-hand batsman’s leg stump. Might we see Ashwin the legspinner then?
A rousing square-drive off Andy Roberts, or a hooked six off Malcolm Marshall, could sustain the Madras cricket fan for a decade. Rajinikanth, after all, is not known as much for garrulous oratory, as he is for a quip here or a joke there. The gossip magazines in Madras had more important things to talk about than run aggregates and hundreds. They needed to discuss Srikkanth’s addition of an extra ‘k’ to his name, so he could make it 9 letters long, for numerological reasons. They felt the need to weigh in on his decisi
With a technique that many people still believe is unorthodox, Smith has eliminated or severely minimised two modes of dismissal – bowled or LBW – against fast bowlers. To succeed against him you need a pitch or bowler capable of beating the outside edge of the bat. On the current Australian tracks that is almost an impossible task. It is time for fast bowlers to be creative and conjure up alternative methods to dismiss a batsman that is starting to impose himself like Bradman. Bowling at his stumps is simply not going to work. Good luck to all the quick bowlers around the world.
Ambidextrous bowling is terribly hard, but a bunch of young players are beginning to uncover its enormous potential
It’s been a while since Ravi Chaturvedi did his last radio commentary stint for All India Radio. It all started in 1976, when Chaturvedi did commentary alongside the late Suresh Saraiya in the India vs West Indies Test series, famous for the Bishan Singh Bedi-led India’s 403-run chase and the bloodbath in the following Test at Kingston, Jamaica. Chaturvedi’s 80-year innings has been masterly – both on and off the pitch. It’s been just like the title of English cricket legend Charles Burgess (CB) Fry’s autobiography, Life Worth Living.
News clippings have always been close to cricketers’ hearts, but a few like the late India wicketkeeper Budhi Kunderan lost them forever
If writing a book could be compared to batting in a cricket match, Anindya Dutta would probably be at 314 not out. Launched at the Oxford Book Store in Park Street, Kolkata last Sunday, Spell-Binding Spells for Dutta began from the suggestion of a fellow cricket writer who read his article on a series of bowling spells and sensed there could be a book in it. Hesitant at first, Dutta, a well-known contributing author to portals like Cricinfo and Sports star, has managed to combine a stellar list of individuals who have put their heart out with the ball in the gentleman’s game. Written in a lucid language, Dutta’s Spell-Binding Spells is a must read for cricket lovers. The narratives, comparisons and incidents will draw readers of all age groups.
Spell-binding Spells is a book for the cricket pandits as also for those who want to read an exciting tale with sensational / surprise endings. The research by the author on 50 of these magical spells is staggering, spanning over 140 years – covering Tests, first-class matches, ODIs, Twenty20 hit outs and matches played in the USA and Canada. The book is unique in the sense that it uses present tense throughout. Thus even a match played a century ago reads like it is being played now, in front of your eyes!
I could call it a good book, a brilliant book, but neither would do the book justice. What the book captures, is the essence of cricket. The story behind each spell, the statistics, the dramatic twists and turns that accompanied it, have all been effortlessly captured by author Anindya using a unique easily absorbed narrative style. You will like reading this book. If you truly love cricket, you will want this book in your collection. Get the book. You won’t regret it.
England also ran into the anti-Bradman: 35-year-old Jack Iverson couldn’t bat and couldn’t field, but his puzzling spin – he propelled the ball with his middle finger as if flicking a pea off a knife – brought him 21 wickets at 15 in what turned out to be his only Test series.
There is a famous story of Chandra once beating Sunil Gavaskar in a match with a legbreak, and following on through to the batsman. Not to sledge him but to ask, “Suna kya?” (Did you hear that?), as a Mukesh song wafted to the pitch from a spectator’s transistor.
it was Chandra who gave Anil Kumble, India’s most successful bowler, the advice that made the difference. “I asked him to lengthen his run-up.” More importantly, he told Kumble, “Coaches will tell you, as they told me, flight the ball more, turn more, bowl more slowly, and a whole lot of things, because they cannot understand you. Have the strength to ignore such advice.”
Tipsy, intoxicated, inebriated, temulent, fuddled, cut, fresh, merry, tight, plastered, sloshed, smashed, raddled, crapulous, bibulous, ebrious, potulent, potvaliant, pissed. The English seem to have as many synonyms for drunk as the Eskimos do for snow. Spend enough time at the cricket, and you’ll likely spot each and every last little variation on the theme being demonstrated somewhere in the ground.
Just imagining it, I am overcome with feelings of lust and confusion. It doesn’t matter who it is, when a bowler runs in at absolute top speed and that fast bowling mane is roaring behind them, oh, you are about to have a cricketing climax. It’s the perfect erogenous moment, even before he has let the ball go, the fire, the hair, then he hits the crease, the train speeds for the tunnel, you reach for a cigarette. I need a lie-down.
In the English summer of 1967, the All India Schoolboys (led by the late Mumbai all-rounder Ajit Naik and managed by ex-India captain Col Hemu Adhikari) engaged cricket lovers with their attractive cricket which helped them win nine of their 17 matches. Only once in their eight drawn games were they in danger of losing. This was the same year in which the senior India team led, by MAK Pataudi, suffered a 0-3 loss to Brian Close’s Englishmen.
Some scholars have tried to finger the medieval Icelandic pastime of Knattleikr (literally: ball game) as a possible origin for cricket. Egil’s Saga gives a vivid depiction of one match, in which our hero responds badly to some Viking-style sledging. “Then Egil got angry and lifted up the bat and struck Grim, whereupon Grim seized him and threw him down with a heavy fall, and handled him roughly, and said he would thrash him if he did not behave… Then Egil bounded upon Grim, and drove the axe into his head, so that it at once pierced his brain”. Makes that James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja spat seem like a very mild difference of opinion.
Throughout our half-hour interview on a balcony overlooking the now deserted Lord’s square, it’s impossible to ignore the boyish delight that Nadella takes in his surroundings. This is his first ever visit to the grandest venue in the game, and he drinks in every detail – not least his fellow Hyderabadi Mohammad Azharuddin’s place on the away dressing room’s honours board. As for the chance not only to set foot on the hallowed turf but to bowl a few balls as well, he greets this with near incredulity. It seems that, even for the boss of an US$85 billion corporation, there are still some experiences that money cannot buy.
Three seconds can stay with you forever. In 1973 in the West Indies, a giant fan crosses the boundary fence and asks the great Australian cricketer Greg Chappell to autograph a Barbadian $10 note. Chappell obliges and asks if the young man plays cricket, to which the West Indian replies: “I will play against you one day.” He does. His name is Joel Garner, a fast bowler, and eventually he becomes a legend himself, but the story isn’t done. Twenty-five years later, in 1998, a journalist in Mumbai asks Garner about this currency note and the West Indian laughs and produces it. He’s had it laminated and carries it everywhere.
This is not Archi’s dream, this is Archi’s reality. It is beyond his dreams; it is his first real home. There are no bombs on this field, only cricket and love. Here the only running he does is between the wickets. Here the only danger is when he is bowling, and here when something goes boom, it isn’t a bomb but a thump off his blade. Now when he fights, he is a warrior with a bat, the Shahid Afridi of Kansas.
“Curtly speak to no man!” Did he actually utter these immortal words at me? I think so, though equally they may have been paraphrased by David Williams, West Indies’ diminutive reserve keeper, who became my improbable sidekick in the impasse that ensued. Curtly never signs autographs in the middle of a match, Williams explained to me while serving up his own – especially not when he is losing, he might have added. But neither was Ambrose walking away from me and my outstretched pen, so – for who knows what reason? Emboldened by Gooch’s 154 at Headingley, perhaps? – I chose not to walk away either.
The summer of ’83, the summer we won the World Cup, the last summer of my father’s life, the summer Mithun Chakraborty and I played for India, the summer that lingers on.
Arguably the two finest wicketkeepers of their generation, yet neither could forge a consistent England Test career in an era dominated by the theory that keepers also needed to be matchwinning batsmen
The number 99.94 is so phenomenal, astounding, intimidating, and awe-inspiring at the same time that the mind refuses to think beyond it. While the world knows all about the greatest cricketer the world has seen, re-living Bradman trivia is probably still an exercise.
Afridi is still coming down the wicket to have those really intense mid-over chats. What on earth does he discuss? “Some say the end is near. Some say we’ll see armageddon soon”, or “I’m gonna try smack every ball for six, please get me back on strike”.
We can throw shade at MS Dhoni for failing to finish on occasion. We’re entitled to as expectant fans. But to doubt his eligibility or call for his removal from the ODI side is to saw off the branch the Indian team is sitting on.
Cricket takes time, and older players are one of the few social groups that are no longer time-poor. Many love the game but ended their club careers because they didn’t want to take up a place that might be filled by a young player. Age-group cricket relieves that burden, and offers a team full of peers to play with. For them it’s a place to belong again.
One of those rare moments in the history of the game when man’s best friend accompanied him on to the ground and ended up demolishing the opponents.
In 2004, Dinesh Chandimal stood on a hill and watched in horror his house being flooded and then being washed away. He resolved to fight for his family and take care of them. He did that through his cricket.
The first ball he faced in English club cricket was bowled by Eddo Brandes, pro at that season’s eventual champions Haslingden. “I had him absolutely plumb lbw,” recalls Brandes, but the presence of a couple of thousand spectators dissuaded the umpire from pooping the party, and Richards went on to score 87, one fewer than Rishton’s margin of victory. “I saw him in a hotel foyer at the World Cup later that year and he admitted he was stone dead,” laughs Brandes.
No, traditional cricket is not supposed to be played in whites. Not unless there is a very specific window of traditionalism. Arunabha Sengupta looks at the way the cricket dress has evolved through the years.
Madhavrao Scindia: He was smart, handsome and an astute politician. He loved cricket and went on to become president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. He had a wish—to open the batting with Sunil Gavaskar and have a partnership of 50 runs……The duo put on 50 runs and then, fortunately for the opponents, a meeting in Delhi required the maharaja to depart urgently. It was a true royal departure; the match was halted as everyone bid him adieu.
Some in the leadership in the team are of the view that Saha is the best pure wicketkeeper in the world right now. “If team coach and captain are saying this then it is a big morale boost, because it is not an easy job keeping wicket,” Saha said.
You do not struggle to breathe after a comma. You are still in sync when you arrive at a semicolon. And you want to read more when you complete it with a period.
Shikhar Dhawan wasn’t included in the Test squad for Sri Lanka. However, his phenomenal run in Champions Trophy – he was the leading run-getter with 338 runs at 67.60 – kept him on the radar. He was included in the tour party once it emerged that M Vijay hadn’t completely recovered from his wrist surgery. Dhawan warmed up with 41 in the tour game. On the opening day of the series in Galle, he ran Sri Lanka’s attack ragged, smashing 190, 126 of those coming in the second session. Galle was also the venue of his previous Test century, in 2015.
Before the two, the pre-eminent spinners in the world were either wristspinners or fingerspinners with a bit of mystery about them. Fingerspinners without mystery were there just to tie one end up until the pitch started doing things for them. The most mystery these two have ever carried in their kitbags is the carrom ball, whose oldest known practitioner, without going as far back as Jack Iverson, is Herath and whose best proponent today, arguably, is Ashwin.
An 80-year-old man is drilling cover drives and pull shots in a way that makes him look like Don Bradman reincarnated. Tony Shillinglaw is a Bradman evangelist. About 30 years ago, the former Minor Counties cricketer started teaching himself how to bat like the boy from Bowral. “Here’s a man who was 66 per cent better than anyone who has played,” he said.
It is a long journey ahead for them. However, they can dream of finding help on their way, and that help needs to come from you. Will you show enough interest to influence the broadcasters to telecast matches? Or will you forget the tournament conveniently after getting ‘inspired’ and forget the tournament and this Lord’s near-miss entirely? That, Indian fans, is a choice you have to make. They will do their bit, perhaps more than you are aware of, but will you do this for them?
The next four hours are spent by the Marina, sipping beer — Patterson insists on having a milder, imported one — and sharing a massive snapper with some fried bammy. It is over these four hours, as we talk about everything from the heady heights of his cricketing career to the “dark days that were as dark as midnight” as he calls them, that you realise why the Caribbean and the cricketing universe doesn’t quite know what really happened to Patterson. For, even he has been struggling to make sense of it.
Harmanpreet was white hot. She was incendiary. She was flaming magnesium, the heart of a new star, a solid-fuel cocktail of audacity and skill, a comet tail of ice and fire burning up on re-entry. She was so fired up that she melted down, volcanically, mid-innings. So determined to succeed that she didn’t notice scoring a hundred. So consumed by her momentum that she forgot how to hesitate, much less be lost. When you’re aflame miles above a planetary surface, all that burns away.
It was an innings to remember. It reminded me of Virender Sehwag at his best and loftiest. I refer to India’s Harmanpreet Kaur’s hurricane 171 not out in the women’s World Cup semi-final against Australia at Derby, England. It was sensational as she belted 20 fours and seven sixes, her unbeaten 171 coming off 115 balls; her last 103 off only 40 balls at an amazing strike rate of 257.50.
For her entire career, Mithali Raj has been burdened with being the one and only. Now, with her team-mates stepping up, she has a chance to bow out of her last World Cup in style
“It was Vinoo Mankad all the way”- Vijay Hazare. The Indian captain’s simple but eloquent tribute to his lead bowler placed India’s first Test victory in perspective. It was their 25th Test, the opponents were England, and the venue Madras.
Soon after that he scored his first triple-century. Arvind wanted to take him out of Rajkot and move to Bangalore, but Reena vetoed it. “You are worrying unnecessarily,” she told Arvind. “He will play for India.” “I don’t know where she got that confidence from,” Arvind says. “And then she added these words: ‘Nobody will be able to stop him. Write these words down, I’ll sign the paper.’ “Not for the first or the last time I was outvoted by the mother-son duo.”
Throw-down specialist Raghu, who ‘bowls’ 145-150 kph for hours at nets, has been the unsung hero behind India’s batting exploits
The exceptional athlete dares. He changes minds. He overturns theories. He mocks the armchair critic. He finds a route. Wimbledon could be won only from the forecourt. This was fact. Borg turned it into fiction.
Spiro Zavos, former Kiwi cricketer and columnist in Sydney Morning Herald, reviews ‘A Gentleman’s Game’. He says: “This is a cricket book full of great delights by an enthusiast who has an eye, like a master batsman, to make telling strokes to push his stories along. Writing a book, to my mind, is the equivalent in cricket of making a century. Anindya Dutta’s century, to continue this analogy, has been made in the first-class arena. Well played!”
I picked up a relatively unknown writer’s book A Gentleman’s Game with disbelief and sceptism. And I was pleasantly surprised. After reading it my faith in the nobility of cricket was restored as the author Anindya Dutta has delved in the rich heritage of cricket without covering up the dark spots. The author has gone a long way to restore our love and respect for the game when in the past anything unfair or corrupt was called, “it’s not cricket.” Written in an interesting and easy-to-read style A Gentleman’s Game – Reflections on Cricket History shows many aspects of cricket; the good, the bad, the gallant and the paradoxical. This is Anindya Dutta’s first book. I can safely predict that it will not be his last.
Any Pak-Indo clash is a mega event on the subcontinent but today’s match will have a sharp edge. It will be the first final between the two countries since 2008 and the first time they will be contesting the final of an ICC organised 50-over event – World Cup or Champions Trophy.
It is somewhat annoying, the way popular cricket books these days are confined to autobiographies or biographies of (mostly contemporary) cricketers. What cricket certainly lacks are the accounts of the educated, passionate spectator, something that provides the reader with an outsider’s viewpoint: in other words, our viewpoint. Dutta does that nicely. He is not lured by the infamous Cardusian trap of compromising facts for prose that has hoodwinked the cricket reader over decades, and as a result he puts together a nice, perfectly readable book. For example, he does not hesitate to mention that “the leg-glance was not Ranji’s invention…” Make no mistake: he is a trivia-monger of the wackiest order, which, as far as cricket-lovers go, is as big a compliment as it gets.
The Australians and Englishmen and Indians and everyone else can go on harping about system and mental disintegration and how winning is a habit and whatnot. That is the wise, the scientific way to go about it. What they should not do, however, is make a prediction when Pakistan are playing cricket. It is not the wisest thing to do.
They weren’t supposed to be here. They weren’t supposed to win, supposed to has never been part of the Pakistan vocabulary. This was business as unusual for them. Today was very different, and totally the same. Just another glorious day in Pakistan’s quest for elegant chaos and endless joy.
We learnt, on Sunday and in January, that Nadal and Federer don’t just win matches, they stretch the idea of excellence and test imaginations. We learnt on Sunday that Nadal has returned to what he used to be on clay, a breaker more of the spirit than merely the serve. Sport is best played with the free mind but Nadal at the Open suffocated rivals into self-doubt: Where is the space to hit? How close to the line must I hit? Why does his side of the court look smaller? How many times must I end a point? I know I should hit to his weakness but can you tell me where is it? Is life fair?
The Mamai brothers are members of the Maasai Cricket Warriors, a team intent on ending FGM. They began playing in 2007 after a South African wildlife researcher introduced them to the game. Her cricket gear was a novelty for the Maasai, but the movements she taught them were not. “Throwing the ball is like throwing a spear,” says Christopher Ole Ngais, 23. “And batting, that’s like using a shield.”
If this particular inquest found that the state pathologist had made such a fundamental error in the case, then that would have opened up all previous convictions or decisions regarding his cases, and would have meant everyone in custody on the basis of his pathology would have had grounds for appeal.
“There is more glamour attached to batting than bowling,” Don Bradman once wrote, since “the majority of people go to cricket hoping to see a scintillating innings”. Bowlers, Bradman reckoned, must “possess a tremendous love” for cricket. “What else would drive them to such exertions?”
Whether it’s Kumble or someone else, we’ve seen enough of Kohli’s captaincy style to know that he needs a adult in the room. Not someone being laddish in age like Shastri, or put up to be a place-holder mascot like Sehwag, but a person substantial enough to call time on hissy fits and hubris. Come back, Gary Kirsten, there’s nothing to forgive.
Sometimes people tell me that writing this way is wrong. An indignant demand to expel the subject matter. That sport has no place in politics. Sport is politics. There’s no other way about it. Each exists within the other, whether the political wrangling within any organised sport, or the position of sport as a tool for those outside it. Sport happens in the same world as everything else. You cannot apply a tourniquet at the stadium gates.
A lot will of course depend on the overhead conditions and the nature of the surface, but all other things being equal, my bowling attack will be Bhuvi, Bumrah, Umesh, Jadeja and Ashwin.
“A court of equity must seek to strike a fair balance between the right of the plaintiffs to have quiet enjoyment of their house and garden without exposure to cricket balls occasionally falling like thunderbolts from the heavens, and the opportunity of the inhabitants of the village in which they live to continue to enjoy the manly sport which constitutes a summer recreation for adults and young persons”
By the 18th century cricket had spread outside England. The English had played cricket in Aleppo, Syria before North America and India. In 1709 Kent and Surrey had played the first inter-county match. The first laws were laid down in 1744, but in cricket the wicket consisted of two stumps with a solitary bail atop. Then came May 23, 1775, when ‘Lumpy’ Stevens bowled three deliveries at John Small — deliveries that would change cricket forever.
It is hard to shape perception and natural biases, but the more numbers we get, the more they begin to tell their own stories, moving away from conventional wisdom in cricket. While most of the pioneering will happen in T20 leagues, international cricket will catch up. Cricket has never been changing faster than it is now. T20 is finding trends and abandoning them quicker than you can say “Sunil Narine, opening batsman”.
Ashley Mallett, an off-spinner himself, while writing on the three great off-spinners, mentioned: “Technically I rate the little Indian off-spinner Prasanna a better bowler than Gibbs. I’ve seen Laker in Australia and I’ve seen Gibbs. Gibbs, I rate above Laker, but below Prasanna. I place Prasanna, if not above, at least at par with another genius off-spinner, the Sri Lankan wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.”
In the long history of Test cricket, only two pairs scored as many runs in partnership at such a high average. Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe were one, Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting the other. Then it is Misbah and Younis, 3,213 altogether, at 68.36.
I asked him about his famed double-bouncer policy. It was known in cricketing circles that Roberts’ first bouncer was a sucker ball that was meant to be hooked. His follow-up bouncer was delivered at lightning speed and often turned into a jaw-seeking missile. He chuckled. He said that was rubbish. With a glint in his eye, he said simply, “I didn’t like being hooked. The next ball was always going to be quicker.” He chuckled again.
In his autobiography, Richie Benaud had advised upcoming commentators to abstain from using words like ‘catastrophe’ or ‘disaster’ — since they typically refer to events like natural calamities, wars, riots, and the likes. Anything on a cricket ground could not come close in comparison. It is tempting, though, to use words of the same magnitude while describing the thrashing Australia had dished out Essex 65 years back.
Packer wanted the telecast rights of cricket. He wanted to convince the chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, Bob Parish, that this was a deal he could not refuse. But ACB was not a professional organisation. They had not yet signed the deal to renew the contract for Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), but Parish had all but finalised talks for a $21,000 three-year deal. Packer offered $1.5 million for three years. His famous offer statement reverberates around the cricket world even today, “Gentlemen, there is a whore in each one of us. Name your price.”
WSC was the biggest game changer in cricket history; bigger than Bodyline, bigger than Ben Hur. No golden chariots, no jousting between knights in silver armour on horsebacks but top-class cricketers demanding proper payment for their days in the sun.
It is a well-known fact that Syed Zaheer Abbas Kirmani is known by his middle names. We will not include him or the man usually known as Syed Kirmani
How did the term hat-trick come about? Arunabha Sengupta digs into the history of the game to find the origins of the word.
Satyajit himself was a slow spinner who played for Calcutta University; he later instilled the same attribute in Feluda, whose tales have been possibly the most popular and most translated among all detectives in the history of Bengali literature. Feluda mentioned his skills in his first full-length novel Badshahi Angti
For all the sledging, accusations of cheating, ball-tampering and general bad behaviour, cricket remains a polite sport, one in which the bowling side has to put in a request to receive a wicket. Over the years, however, the requests have gone from solicitations to urgent beseeching to high-decibel assaults on the umpire’s psyche.
“Colossal scoring even the most insatiable of gluttons may tire of,” Jessop wrote, “but good fielding never palls.” This team is ideally set up to avoid the first part of this sentence and prove the second.
Professional or amateur, it’s a sinking feeling to be told there’s no space for you in the team. It’s the party you can’t get into. The captain or the coach is the bouncer at the nightclub door, that same door you’ve just watched all the guys saunter through before your way is barred. “Not you, son. Not tonight.” Perhaps you can see inside the club. You can see your mates drinking and dancing, having a good time while you stand on the cold pavement outside, alone.
After watching Austin Waugh bat last year, Peter FitzSimons wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: “On his current trajectory, in about five years, Steve will be known as father of Austin Waugh.”
Ranji, the conjurer, could create angles acute and exotic from a bat that swished like a wand. Fry on the other hand dealt with the mathematical perfection of the right angle, conservatively adhering to the principles of the straight bat. While Ranji created and essayed the leg-glance with spirit free and feet lissom, Fry was known to be stiff of style with cast-iron defence, with grandeur emerging from the soundest theory in glorious drives.
One of the fallouts of being successful in IPL is that you become a household name in a very short span of time. One may score runs by the thousands or take a bushel of wickets in First-Class cricket, but if you have a half-decent IPL season, then you will leave the domestic performer way behind in the visibility stakes. That is a truism that one must both understand and accept; but along with visibility and fame comes the need to be equanimous, humble and balanced, and that is a challenge that, I will be delighted to see increasingly from the young guns.
An awestruck John Woodcock wrote in The Cricketer: “I only hope that the Boycott who fastens his seat-belt at London Airport next week is the same man who made 146 against Surrey and who won the award as Man of the Match. It is quite likely that Boycott will open England’s innings for a decade to come. The prospect of his doing so in his ascetic mood is hard to entertain.” Boycott opened batting for England for over a decade-and-a-half after the final, but certainly did so in ‘ascetic mood’.
There was little doubt that Grimmett was the greatest cricketer on the ground that day. His supreme career records were built around his relentless accuracy, insatiable stamina, and able to control the amount and direction of turn without visible change in action. He never lost control of line and length, even as the batsmen chanced their arms.
We often hear fans cry out for them as batsmen rack up the runs in T20, but there are reasons for why they aren’t as effective as they once were
Many were said to be oblivious of mints and their effect on swing. The message dripped out, however, and by the turn of the century, the breath of county cricketers improved immeasurably
A criticism sometimes made of Don bradman’s career record — generally by fans of a more recent player attempting to claim that their favourite was better — is that he only played Tests in two countries. His famous average of 99.94 would, they claim, have been brought down to earth if he had played in other countries — specifically in India, which they think of as the ultimate challenge for Australian batsmen, and one in which very few succeed.
“With Hedley Verity gone, I don’t think there is a better left-hander than Mankad,” said the Australia captain Lindsay Hassett.
Twenty-eight years ago, Sachin Tendulkar was still playing school – level cricket and was on the verge of making his Ranji Trophy debut. Most people expected big things from the 15 year old school-boy, but as this CV shows, Tendulkar himself was quite modest while describing his already superlative performances.
When Migala goes back to Australia now, he goes to matches, sees those same people he once showed the garish new shirts to, “I see them holding hands with their grandchildren, eating an ice cream. Granddad is in his blazer and the kid is in a green Melbourne Stars shirt, and he’s asking him about Don Bradman. And that’s a beautiful moment. But that doesn’t happen unless you’re prepared to make yourself uncomfortable, to take that risk.”
This explosion of India’s seam bowling might yet be what Kohli needs to conquer the world. He used them like snipers at times at home, but when they tour, they will be his front line.
Before Neville Cardus, cricket was reported. With him it was felt and appreciated. Unfortunately, Yes, his cricket chronicles mingle fact and fabrication to the extent that the boundaries disappear.
To Dharamsala, then, and the fourth Test between India and Australia, where a 22-year-old debutant named Kuldeep Yadav just ripped through Australia’s batting order. Yadav bowls left-arm wrist spin. Which, and here’s the hitch, means he’s known as a chinaman bowler. Problem being, of course, that the rest of the world knows that word as a dated, offensive, racial epithet.
Prasanna got the ball above the eyeline, hard-spun and dipping wickedly, but his change of pace was the greatest of his assets for he seemed to first have the ball on a string and haul it back his way when the batsman advanced. The next ball would be a little flatter and quicker, and the batsman would stumble forward, slamming down his bat quickly lest the ball crash into the stumps. Prasanna continually changed his pace, and watching him weave his magic was compelling viewing.
India’s reliable middle order batsman Mohinder Amarnath experienced an amazing twist of fortunes in the Test arena from December 1982 to December 1984. In the first six months – against Imran Khan in Pakistan and against Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts in West Indies – he plundered 1182 runs at 69.53 runs in 11 Tests, with five centuries and seven fifties on foreign soil. Then came a huge fall. After 4 and 7 in two Tests against Pakistan in India, he had a horror series against the West Indies: 0 and 0 at Kanpur, 1 and 0 at Delhi, followed by 0 and 0 at Kolkata.
India’s captain and master batsman, Virat Kohli with 4497 runs at 49.90 in 56 Tests, is passing through a rough patch against Australia. It may comfort Kohli and his supporters to learn that great batsmen in the past have also experienced such lean trots.
And then came Maxwell. Who knew whence he originated? Some said that he hatched from an eagle egg atop a mountain in the days when the world was new. Some said he was born from the union of a lion and a snake, and had been raised by elephants in an underground city. Some said that he came into being when the sun and the moon made a bet that they could turn an exploding star into a responsible citizen.
Ponting gave up his vices to get the most out of himself, Kohli has given up seemingly everything from MSG to sugar to do the same. There is a ruthlessness to them. The ultimate professionals: if they can get an edge, they will take it. That Michael Jordan sense of winning is what matters: If I need to be perfect to win, I’ll be perfect. The rest is noise.
Gilchrist was the time-travelling robot god of wicketkeeping’s future. If there had been wicketkeepers who could bat before Gilchrist, there had been none who batted like him. Gilchrist walked out with kerosene and a box of matches and just had fun with it.
Decades back, they had earned the term ‘Ugly Australians’ for a reason. They have played cricket the hard way. Professional sport is supposed to be played hard. However, you should also be able to take what you give. Unfortunately, being at the receiving end does not go that well with Australia.
Australia’s spinners are competent but not extraordinary; they must be respected but not feared. Once you sort that out in your head, runs in the middle are not really that hard to come by.
The delivery needs to have a loop. This loop, which we used to call flight, needs to be a constant. Over the years, you increase this loop, adjust it. You lock the batsman first and then spread the web – he gets trapped steadily.
The current generation of Indian cricketers have grown up watching Ganguly and in more ways than one, the person who seems to have been most inspired by Ganguly’s aggression is undoubtedly Virat Kohli. In a recent interview, Kohli remarked, “From Dada (Ganguly) I have learnt not to back out from any situation. Not have second thoughts.”
The case against Peter Handscomb and Steve Smith, I regret to write, looks to be very strong. My authority for this statement is Hanscomb himself, from his Twitter account: “I referred smudga to look at the box… my fault and was unaware of the rule. Shouldn’t take anything away from what was an amazing game!”
Take the Kohli lbw from the first innings. You know, the one we lost several years of our lives watching. Did he hit the ball before it hit his pad? Maybe, maybe not, back and forth, over and over, again and again. He has hit the ball. No he hasn’t. What was I seeing? Was there a small spike first? Were my ears working? What did I hear? Can I trust what I saw? Did the pad move before the bat or because of the bat? What is bat? What is pad? I want a lie down.
From Kilimanjaro to war escapades, via Fleet Street and a wild century, the remarkable story of Major Robert Crisp, D.S.O, M.C.
Kohli tonked questions on Steve Smith’s ‘brain fade’ out of the park, looked back with pride on his team’s comeback from the Pune debacle, praised KL Rahul’s batting efforts, and doffed his hat at Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who laid the foundation for India’s 75-run win with an exceptional partnership on Day 3.
I angrily promise myself to get my book completely filled with autographs of cricket superstars and to leave no proverbial stones unturned in my devotion to this singular cause. In a rare moment of weakness, a 12-year-old atheist invokes the cricket gods and beseeches their magnanimity.
That this is a four-Test series is to India’s advantage. There is plenty of time to bounce back from the Pune defeat, and especially given the quality that is at Virat’s disposal. It is debatable if there will be a Pune-type pitch for the rest of the series, and I strongly advocate that there should not be, because a surface of that nature pretty much balances out the gulf between the sides. While Pune cannot be wished away as a bad dream, India can use it as a template of what not to do. And emerge stronger by imbibing the lessons.
Sometimes life just gives you lemons, and instead of whining, the best thing to do is spin one against the flat of your palm three or four times, walk a few steps then explode into a powerful jump and hurl that lemon into the air, the arc describing a perfect parabola until that last vicious dip onto the perfect length, luring the batsman forward only to rip past the edge, a sudden rich aroma of citrus filling your senses…
Melinda Farrell journeys from Mumbai to Pune by train to catch the first Test between India and Australia and also manages to take a peek at one of the most extensive cricket museums in India
Steven Smith’s Australia were supposed to be left distraught by a nightmarish Pune pitch. Virat Kohli’s India were supposed to continue on their merry way. That’s not what happened.
Grimmett emphasised that the key to spin bowling – legspin and offspin – was how the ball arrived, not where it landed.
Farokh Engineer was dynamic with bat and a sprightly chatterbox behind stumps. He also scored 94 in the first session of a Test, was a Brylcreem model, and remains the last Parsee to play for India.
Perhaps “doosra” is the most significant word in cricket. After all, it’s the first term from a South Asian language to have entered the mainstream.
Traditionally, a journalist’s role has been to report in an objective and detached manner. In modern times, this approach does not always fit within the desires of the publication, broadcast or audience.
Few people are christened after three famous cricketers, but being Sunil Gavaskar’s son came with its own perks: Rohan Jaiviswa Gavaskar was named after three of Gavaskar’s favourite cricketers — Rohan Kanhai, ML Jaisimha, and Gundappa Viswanath.
The state of the pitches is a major talking point, rightly or wrongly, every time a team tours the subcontinent. So what kind of surfaces can Australia expect when their Test series kicks off in India next week?
It is said that when Arjun and Karan finally faced each other on the seventeenth day of the great war, the winds stopped blowing and the oceans stopped flowing. Their soldiers – a million men on either side – dropped their spears and swords to the ground, unable to divert their eyes from the warriors.
From Sugar Ray Robinson v Jake LaMotta to Bowie Race Track, a date traditionally associated with romance has a history of sporting slaughter
Three decades ago in Madras (now Chennai), Mala Mukerjee had at her disposal none of the technical wizardry that characterises coverage of modern sporting events. She was a spectator at a cricket match. And she captured a unique and indelible slice of cricket history with a Nikon F3, a shutter cord and a tripod – and an amateur’s enthusiasm.
There was something about cricket which even the great Don Bradman took 18 years to understand. He encountered it in 1930. And since then, while bowlers all across the world were busy finding an answer to Bradman, the Don himself was scratching his head to find the answer to that problem. It was a cricket puzzle by the well-known astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, based on an ‘imaginary scoreboard’. He introduced Bradman to it in 1930, about which the latter mentions in his book The Art of Cricket.
Ladha Ramji Nakum was one of the early fast bowlers in Indian cricket history. Test cricket came too late for him, but that did not stop him from tormenting batsmen with his relentless aggression and raw pace for over a decade. While he never enjoyed the stature of his younger brother Amar Singh, Ramji carved a niche of his own in the Bombay Quadrangular.
Acclaimed cricket umpire Louis Patrick “Lou” Rowan died on the Gold Coast on Friday aged 91. He umpired in 26 Tests from 1963 to 1971 and in the inaugural one-day international in Melbourne in January 1971. He was Australia’s oldest Test umpire who stood no nonsense from anyone, Test cricketers included.
One of the very first cricket books I was ever given, on the occasion of my tenth birthday, was a slim black paperback called Great Australian Cricket Pictures (1975). When I retrieve it from the shelf now, it falls open at page 87, corroborative of my boyhood fascination with the image it contains.
JL Carr, Shehan Karunatilaka and Joseph O’Neill have written cricket fiction well but PG Wodehouse is its finest servant.
The American Dream is a seductive mistress. Eight years ago, I too rolled the dice and travelled across the Atlantic, following the permanent migratory patterns of many physicians before me. Despite my new domiciliary allegiance, I remained tethered to the game of cricket. It is perhaps a mutation, inbuilt within our genes, passed on from one generation to the the next, which causes us Indians to irrevocably fall in love with the game from the very first time we wield a bat in our hands. A cricket fan(atic) for 25 years, a father for a week, I was forced to think last night how I would explain India’s preoccupation with the game to my first-born.
The period between 1890 and 1914 was like any other era, with almost the same mix of dashing daredevilry with the bat and methodically precise stonewalling.
Afghanistan are a side who identify with their Pashtun brother in heart, mind and cricket.
Mohammad Azharuddin unleashed his willow at its brutal best, combining aestheticism and ferocity against England in the Calcutta Test of 1993.
For the sheer pleasure that he gave the world as a batsman, Rohan Bholalall Kanhai is my favourite cricketer. Averaging fractionally under 48 in a distinguished Test career that saw him rise to become the captain of West Indies, Rohan had Bradmanesque qualities.
Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson has died. He was aged 85, a good innings for a fast bowler who put his body through the agonies of contortions and exertions in his quest to be, in the opinion of Richie Benaud, “the fastest bowler I ever saw”.
The only Test cricketer to live for over 100 years was South Africa’s Norman Gordon (1911- 2014), 103 years and 27 days old. I thought that this record would be broken by another South African Test cricketer, fast bowler Lindsay Tuckett. But Tuckett passed away on Monday aged 97 years and 212 days.