Over the past few months, the closer we have got to the much anticipated Australia-India Test series, more often have the names of Steve Smith and David Warner, two men who should not be seen on the field during this series, been mentioned. That by itself is not surprising. They have been the two pillars of Australian cricket in recent years, and the possibility, indeed certainty, that the team will have to do without them in this crucial series is causing understandable heartburn.
KL Rahul is hanging on for dear life but using up the rope quickly. The frayed ends at the edge of the cliff are visible, and it won’t be long before it snaps.
In December 1958, my father, then 22-years old, had watched the 6 feet 2 inches tall, 21-year old fast bowler in his debut series, running in almost from the boundary of the impossibly large Eden Gardens, broad shoulders swinging rhythmically from side to side, right hand curled by his hip, moving in sympathy with each stride, a smooth transition to a classical fast bowler’s leap, and the ball screaming down at over 90-miles per hour, headed straight at the mesmerised Indian opener. The menacing follow through and the flying crucifix around the neck completed the larger than life imagery.
Early in the 1970s however, the nation found one man who prized his wicket like no Indian had done before, scored runs with technical ability, preciseness and most importantly a consistency rarely seen from an Indian batsman. With 774 runs against the mighty West Indies in his debut series, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar had already signalled he was someone special, and over the next decade and a half, he would become the foundation on which modern Indian batting would build its future.
Get ready Australia for a summer the likes of which you haven’t experienced in years. When was the last time you were up 3-0 in a Test series on Christmas Eve? Been a while? Fret not, Santa Shastri is bringing his all conquering boys to your shores to cheer you up and put you in the mood for a New Year’s party to remember.
What no one on the ground had realised was that coming in to bat, Bradman had been four runs short of 7000 runs and he had been dismissed sixty-nine times in the past. The addition of those four runs would have taken his average, over the twenty years since his debut, past 100. The most untimely duck in the history of cricket was fated to immortalise the number 99.94.
Old Trafford was a ground that had suffered widespread damage from bombing during the war, with both the field and stadium being affected. While the ground was playable, parts of the stadium were unusable leaving limited seating.
When the 1948 tour started, while Invincibility was an early objective, it was not the primary one, nor the secondary. This was the golden age of the Ashes contest, and Australia had had the urn securely locked up since 1934. The last time they had given it away to England was during the 1932-33 Bodyline series and a year later with neither Larwood nor Jardine in the team, they had wrested it right back from the lion’s den. In 1948, Bradman’s first priority had been to retain the Ashes. This done, a win or draw in the fourth Test at Leeds would clinch the series. Invincibility, the third goal, he was convinced, would follow.