Quick single: He came like a king
Hammond’s walk was the most handsome in all cricket, smooth in the evenness of stride, precise in balance. It was a flow of movement linking stillness to stillness. It was, as much as any feature of athletics, the poetry of motion.
JM Kilburn’s effusive description of Wally Hammond, walking to the crease at Lord’s in 1938, continued: “He came like a king and he looked like a king in his coming.” Kilburn acknowledges that Hammond essentially did not look any different that day than he normally did walking to the crease, although there was “an added quality”. It’s not that real or imagined otherness of the day Hammond went on to score 240 that interests me, but that he could be recognised by his walk.
The cricketers, if in silhouette and without context of match or location, that could be identified from their walk to the crease, is not, I think, great in number. Two immediately come to my mind. There’s Viv Richards, hips swaying, shoulders rolling. And I think I could pick out Alan Border: short steps and head tilted upwards to the sky and turning, like a meerkat looking out for airborne predators.
I am sure that if you watched a team all summer, you could come to recognise each player from his or her non-batting or bowling movements. For those of us following the game at a distance, or seeing a little of a lot of cricketers, there needs to be something very distinctive for the silhouette test to work.
With Jonny Bairstow’s recall to the England Test team, we have two players to view in the Ashes contest with very individual ways of running. Bairstow, in the field, works his limbs like someone unfamiliar with cross-country skis, trying to escape a polar bear over snow. Steve Smith, running between the wickets is a flurry of arms, legs and bat.
In the six months that I have had the picture at the head of this piece on my wall, I have come to enjoy it for an associated reason. In this case, though, it’s not movement that identifies the player, but fixed posture. Each of England’s three slip fielders (and to a lesser extent, the gulley) has a characteristic stance: feet position, bracing of the knees, prominence of backside, tension in the arms and shoulders. I am convinced I could recognise them separately from the context of the opening delivery of the 2005 Ashes. Are there other slip-fielders you find similarly recognisable?
Age 11, at the 1979 Prudential World Cup Final
My Dad helped me find my seat in the Compton Upper, hung around until play was about to start, had a word with the steward and said, “See you at lunchtime”. I sat alone to watch the West Indies bat first against England. Through some circumstance, that neither of us can now remember, Dad had two tickets for the World Cup Final, in different parts of Lord’s.
Being alone didn’t particularly bother me, as I sat hunched watching the play in a bubble of concentration. I recorded each delivery on a lined A4 sheet, each over a new row. The innings progressing vertically down the sheet, with special notations for appeals, bouncers and extras. That summer, captivated by Bill Frindall’s published scorecards of the 1978/79 Ashes series, I had progressed from scorebook to scoring system.
“We want the West Indies to win the toss and bat,” Dad had explained on the drive into London. He had come to watch the world’s best cricket team and didn’t want to be shortchanged by England batting first and setting a low total. England had made only 165 and 221 batting first in their final group match and semi-final. I, despite the objectivity of my scoring obsession, wanted England to win, unlikely as I understood that to be. Dad had his way: Greenidge and Haynes opened the batting. But England, thrillingly, provided an early highlight as the West Indies openers, soon to become famous for their running between the wickets, took on England’s scruffy, slouching square leg, Randall, who threw down the stumps.
Of Richards’ century, I have no distinct memory, other than that his presence in the middle was double-edged. While he stayed, England’s victory chances diminished; if he were to fall, particularly on a morning when the rest of the West Indies top-order were dismissed cheaply, I wouldn’t see the game of cricket that my Dad said we had come to view. On that day, Richards was out-batted by Collis King. I do remember King swinging England’s fifth bowler (Boycott-Gooch-Larkins) high to the legside. Sixes, even in limited overs matches, were rare – a sudden instinctive reaction of the batsman, not the practiced tactical objective of the current game.
I know, at some point late in the innings, I blurted out, “Old can’t bowl. He’s finished his overs.” My neighbour pointed to the numbers at the foot of the Tavern scoreboard which demonstrated that Brearley’s management of his bowlers was more reliable than my scoring system.
As the West Indies accelerated at the end of their innings, a top edge headed high towards the Tavern. Brearley, with short, fast steps and grey-hair tipped backwards, pursued the ball down the slope like an uncle chasing a frisbee at a family picnic. He took the running catch giving me my first live example of a cricket incident that is so much more satisfying viewed from the stands than on TV. The eye can assimilate the trajectory of the ball and the fielder’s burst of motion much better than a single camera.
England’s openers, Boycott and Brearley started slowly, before continuing at the same pace. More amble than run chase. I learnt a new word during their partnership. Sitting on the row behind me was a local with an American acquaintance. Boycott and Bearley are now “expendable” the local explained, willing some aggression from England’s openers, bent on building a platform. I was uncomfortable that the American was getting his first taste of cricket at the World Cup Final. Shouldn’t he have to serve an apprenticeship: the fifth day of a drawn Test? Sunday afternoon viewing of a televised John Player League fixture, interrupted by athletics from Crystal Palace?
At some point during the afternoon, my Dad found a seat nearby. Several rows back, a group of West Indies supporters, confident at the match’s outcome, were laughing and trading quips. As England’s wickets started to fall, their target still distant, the exchanges behind us became more passionate. “One of them has put a bet on Holding taking five wickets,” my Dad whispered. But it was not Holding, but Joel Garner’s yorkers, released above the Pavilion sightscreen, that England’s middle order could not repel, let alone attack and lift the scoring rate. The long, steady opening partnership had come with the promise of a flourish from England’s long batting order, but only produced an anti-climax.
No one was more vocal in their disappointment at the outcome than the man who had backed Michael Holding. While we followed the celebrating West Indies fans out of the stand towards the outfield, he continued to chunter, more aggrieved than a fan of the reigning World Champions should be. And I, at 11 a witness to a World Cup Final, fully recorded in my scoring ledger, was the more content.
Who dares is occasionally defeated – part 2
Barely one in fifty target-setting declarations in Test cricket results in a loss for the team who make the declaration. Just eleven in Test cricket history. With the odds seemingly so heavily stacked against it happening, a match-by-match review should produce some treasures – and numbers six to eleven of this series throw up some magnificent innings and even a turning point in the history of the game. The first five were described in Who dares is occasionally defeated.
Clive Lloyd West Indies v India, Port-of-Spain (April 1976)
Lloyd’s 13th match as captain was to have a far-reaching impact on test cricket. His team had been well ahead from early on day 1 of this match. With a comfortable lead of 400 on a slow turning pitch, with three spinners in his side, Lloyd declared after lunch on the fourth day. India had almost five sessions to score the runs.
Generous or not, it required a magnificent, record-breaking effort from India’s upper order – centuries for Gavaskar and Vishwanath and a sheet-anchor 85 from Mohinder Armanath. The other triumvirate whose role was significant were the three West Indies spinners – Jumadeen, Padmore and Imtiaz Ali. Their impotency – absolutely (two wickets in 105 overs) and relative to the Indian spinners – set Lloyd on the path to the all pace attack of the next two decades. It was a rapid transformation with four quick bowlers in place two tests later.
Bishen Bedi Australia v India, Perth (December 1977)
The calculation made by captains approaching a declaration is between size of lead and time available to win. In this case, Bedi’s calculation was how long he dare bat on without an injury to a key bowler. With nine wickets down, himself and Chandrasekhar at the crease and Thomson at full-throttle, he was not sacrificing much run-scoring potential cutting short the innings.
The match had been closely fought with neither team able to secure a telling advantage. This was true through most of the fourth innings, where a nightwatchman’s century (AL Mann) played a major part in a creating a dramatic finish with Australia reaching their target of 339 with two wickets to spare and time running out. Bedi became the second captain in test history to have both suffered and benefited from a loss after a declaration.
David Gower England v West Indies, Lord’s (July 1984)
This is the only one of the eleven matches that I saw any of in the flesh – day 3 when Botham’s bowling took England to the unusual position of a first innings lead against the West Indies. One of his eight wickets in the innings was Richards, given LBW after a half-hearted appeal. At the time it felt as though the umpire, Barry Meyer, was as carried away as the crowd with England’s competitiveness.
Gower declared with nine wickets down early on day 5, setting a target of 342. More controversial than this decision was Lamb’s, and presumably Gower’s, to leave the field for bad light the previous evening when England’s lead was building. Greenidge’s response would have made any such cavils academic as he powered to 214* and a nine wicket victory. The West Indies’ progress was updated on my classroom blackboard by a chemistry teacher who was invigilating some low key afternoon-long test, wearing headphones.
Despite the defeat, this was England’s highpoint of a five-nil series defeat. Lloyd became the third captain in test history to have both suffered and benefited from a loss after a declaration.
Adam Gilchrist England v Australia, Headingley (August 2001)
Stand-in captain Gilchrist brought his attacking frame of mind to Test leadership setting England a target of 314 in a possible 110 overs. Poor weather meant that the full allotment would not be bowled and an inspired innings from Mark Butcher (174*) took England to a rare and unlikely victory when the loss of early wickets on day 5 had made a draw a more reasonable aspiration.
Asked about how he had prepared himself for the afternoon assault on Australia’s magnificent four bowlers, Butcher memorably explained that at lunch he had sat in the shower with a fag and cup of coffee.
Of losses following declarations, this was one of the most comprehensive turnarounds: 1st innings lead of 139, which became a lead over 300 with four wickets down on day four when Gilchrist waved his batsmen in. Steve Waugh was fit for the next test and Australia continued on their winning ways.
Graeme Smith Australia v South Africa, Sydney (January 2006)
Graeme Smith holds the test record for most target-setting declarations (23) and the most drawn matches (16) following those declarations. This is his single defeat.
Losing one-nil, on the final morning of the series, Smith gambled: setting Australia 287 in 76 overs. An onslaught from Ponting saw the target swallowed in just 60 overs, for the loss of only two wickets – setting a new record for a fourth innings winning total at Sydney. Smith’s positive outlook was evident throughout the game as he had declared the 1st innings, becoming the second captain to lose a match after declaring both innings.
Kevin Pietersen India v England, Chennai (December 2008)
Oh the ups and downs of KP. In this, his second (of three) test matches in charge, he cut short England’s innings and set India’s galacticos a target of 387 in around 110 overs. The declaration wasn’t reckless, or even particularly bold, as nine wickets were down and Panesar due to join Anderson.
In sharp contrast to England’s meandering afternoon of batting on the 4th day, Sehwag launched India that evening with 83 from 68 balls. On day 5, Tendulkar and Yuvraj guided India on a record-breaking run-chase.
Despite the loss, Pietersen’s stock was high, having led his team back to India after the Mumbai terror attacks. Within months, at loggerheads with Coach Peter Moores, he had had to step down. Perhaps more significant for his current predicament, at least one of his teammates was unimpressed by his conduct.
The difficulty chasing a substantial total in the fourth innings is the cricketing truism that informs every captain setting a target. These six examples, despite the success of the run-chase, support that belief, as each was driven by one or more outstanding batting performance.
Only Lloyd and Gilchrist made declarations that allowed a fundamental alteration to the course of the game. In three of the matches featured, the declaring captain probably sacrificed little as his team was already nine wickets down. In the remaining case, Smith’s was motivated by the need seize the last opportunity to draw level in the series.
Did you follow, watch or even attend any of these matches – perhaps as one of the sparse fifth day crowd rewarded with a brush with cricket history? Your recollections would be a very welcome addition to this project.
This article is the sixth in a series investigating target-setting declarations in Test cricket. The full series is found by selecting ‘Declarations’ from the top menu bar.
For Caribbean, not country
Darren Sammy’s 2012 tourists, currently competing for the Wisden Trophy, comprise citizens of eight countries. Much is made, for very different reasons, of the varied national backgrounds of the England team. A far more interesting task in building a cohesive team is that of the West Indies captain. Local rivalries are often the fiercest, yet taming or channeling those rivalries is the everyday job of the leaders of Caribbean cricket’s representative team.
This post explores the contributions of the different nations of the West Indies. When the team first featured in Test cricket, in 1928, nationhood was more than a generation away. One of the disappointments of the scheduling of this year’s tour of England by the West Indies is that it doesn’t coincide with the golden jubilee of Jamaican and Trinidadian independence, both of which will be celebrated in August 2012. Maybe that will spur them to deny the home nation a cricket victory at the time of its own jubilee, which is being celebrated during the tour.
290 cricketers have represented the West Indies. The pie chart shows the national origin of those cricketers (NB three players born outside of the region are excluded).
The next pie chart shows the recent official population figure for those nations. Comparing the two charts, Barbados stands out for providing a number of cricketers out of proportion to its size. Jamaica, on the other hand, has contributed fewer cricketers than is proportional to its population.
I have also looked at the contribution of each nation to the two major disciplines of cricket. I have compared the proportion of all test caps awarded to players of each nation with the proportion of all West Indies runs scored and wickets taken by players of each nation.
Guyana emerges as a source of runs (Clive Lloyd, Roy Fredericks, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul). Barbados, Jamaica and Antigua have provided wickets out of proportion to their number of test caps.
The last perspective I have taken is to see how the make-up of the test team has changed over time. I have divided West Indies test match history into four blocks:
1928-49 – early years (31 tests 22% won, 39% lost, 39% drawn)
1949-73 – competing home and away (115 tests 33% won, 29% lost, 37% drawn, 1% tied)
1974-91 – the best team in the world (144 tests 46% won, 17% lost, 37% drawn )
1992-2012 – decline (191 tests 23% won, 47% lost, 30% drawn)
The numbers on the graph represent the number of debutants from each part of the West Indies in each period. It is notable that only a handful of players in the 80 years of West Indies cricket have played for a team other than the one that represents their birthplace. The transfer market seen in English and Australian domestic cricket doesn’t exist. But it wouldn’t: they are playing for their country in their domestic competition. The West Indies and international cricket exists at a level above.
The story of the chart is that West Indies cricket has become more diverse, in terms of homeland, over time. For nearly 30 years, all test players were from one of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica or Trinidad. The first man to break the hold of the big four was Alphonso Roberts from St Vincent, the 92nd West Indian Test cricketer, who made his debut in 1956 against New Zealand. IVA Richards was the 151st player to be selected for the West Indies. His achievements and his presence would have made it impossible for West Indies selectors to take a narrow view thereafter – whatever other local tensions were played out in selection meetings.
In the current period, 20% of debutants have come from outside the traditional tetrarchy. The wider sourcing has had the greatest impact on Trinidad’s contribution to the Test team, with Barbados and Jamaica contributing around 25% and 20%, respectively, throughout the test team’s history. The current touring team, shorn of some of the most notable names in West Indies cricket, including Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, is unusual for having a lone Jamaican.
I would be interested in the views of those closer than I to West Indian cricket on what accounts for these changes.
- Is there perceived to have been something akin to the ‘home counties’ bias that affected England selection practices in the late twentieth century?
- Has interest in cricket in, say, Trinidad, waned? – notwithstanding the emergence and dominance of Brian Lara.
- Have there been great players from, say Grenada or Montserrat, who were denied cricket at the highest level because of their birthplace?