On a July day in 1981, with England following on against Australia at Headingley, Godfrey Evans put out 500 to 1 odds against an English victory. That was the last time such odds were seen in a cricket match.
The English sports fans are a fickle lot when it comes to bare bodies in the summer, as the Indians found out in 2002. Give them a ten-second view of Rafael Nadal changing a T-shirt on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, and they clamour for more. They beseech him to take it off again well before he feels the need. Give them a charged up Sourav Ganguly waving his shirt with a bare torso from the Lord’s balcony, and 15-years later they are still talking about it in shocked whispers in the Long Room.
The eyes of the nearly 10,000 members of the Jewish faith in India (and cricket-lovers like you and me) will, however, be on the cricket team which is determined to put up a good show and try their best to climb the peak that holds the medals of Gold, something that has eluded them thus far.
There is a lesson in this for any coach-captain relationship. It is the lesson of mutual respect, which doesn’t always come with the job, but is developed over time as the two slowly realise that the end game for both is the same – the success of the team. Give and take is the only way to ensure that this relationship will succeed, and once that barrier of mistrust is breached, the team performance is assured. And it always begins with not only ‘hearing’ what the other person is saying, but actually ‘listening’ to them. In the Kumble-Kohli saga, this may well have been the missing piece.
The common thread that runs through the five youngest batsmen to score a century on Test debut, other than the remarkable feat itself, is that each of their lives reflected a uniqueness that keeps them in our memories, almost as if their deeds on the cricket field were not enough to get on with.
Don Bradman’s team won the Ashes and came away as the first and undoubtedly the last undefeated side to complete such a tour of the British Isles, and irrevocably and for all time to come, earned themselves the sobriquet of ‘The Invincibles’. But while all this was taking place on and off the field that summer of 1948, an almost unnoticed rivalry was on display between two of the greatest wicketkeepers the world has ever seen. Don Tallon and Godfrey Evans were separated by team rivalry but joined by their genius behind the stumps.
For Neville Cardus, there was far more to Ranji than his leg-glance, something almost mystical in the way that he played his game, indeed in the way he approached the game.
What is not open to debate is that on the 1948 tour of Great Britain, the Australians under Donald Bradman played 31 first-class fixtures and three other games across the length and breadth of England and Scotland, and did not lose a single match. They thus became the first Test team to tour Britain and not lose a match, earning themselves the sobriquet of ‘The Invincibles’.
Seething with indignation (one is not quite sure whether it was at their own ineptitude, the life-changing injustice of the invisible coin, the perceived bias in umpiring, or all of these put together), the teenagers who comprised the Lalmatia team decided to lodge a protest unlike any ever attempted on a cricket field.
Misbah has been the pillar on which the edifice of Pakistani cricket stands, the rock in the Zen garden that defines permanence, the Buddha that emanates serenity. He is also Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, winning 24 of the 53 matches he has captained in this far.