Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Tony Becca | Cricket, a game of many moods

Published:Sunday | April 2, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Sir Garfield Sobers

I was born during the dark clouds of the second World War, and to those who were born after that, I make no apologies for it, even if, to a few, I am considered old fashion for my views, and especially so, on cricket.

And my view on cricket is simply this: for whatever reason, cricket today is a game for all kinds of people, for three kinds of people, including those who love it for its skill between bat and ball, for its excitement, drama, and surprises, and those who prefer it for its artificial atmosphere and finishes, and especially after a quick 20-over affair.

And I respect and admire all three versions of the game, but I love the original one, the one that fully tests ones skills in the many aspects of the game, including technique with bat and ball, the intricacies of the game, and the many variables as it meanders through the unknown and on to the end for one to five days.

I love cricket for what it really is: a game of skill, of excitement and drama, of surprises and disappointments, and, as Mark Nicholas, the former captain of Hampshire, has said, one of the rearguard action.

Now a journalist, Nicholas, writing on cricinfo.com recently, wrote that people have apparently turned off Test cricket because of its length, its total dependency on technique, the possibility of enduring maiden overs after and maiden overs day after day as batsmen fight for survival, and the ever-present possibility of the dreaded draw.

To Nicholas, however, and for me also, the draw is not a dreaded draw, at least not all the time. The draw, which can be really be boring at times, can also be an attraction, and an exciting, nail-biting one.

And it can be, as it has been on many, many occasions, as exciting as many thrilling victories, when the draw comes after victory seemed almost a certainty or almost a foregone conclusion for one team, and when one team appears dead and buried.

At such times, it is almost like a miracle to come away alive and ready to fight another day.

 

MEMORABLE INSTANCES

 

Nicholas mentioned a few memorable instances when the dead got up and walked, when, at Old Trafford in 2005, Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, and Glen McGrath batted Australia to safety before a full house, when Australia had England on the ropes in Cardiff in 2009 and Monty Panesar and James Anderson fought the good fight to save the game, and when, at Adelaide in 2012, newcomer Faf du Plesis joined A. B. deVilliers and batted all day as South Africa denied Australia what seemed an easy victory.

The victory at Old Trafford was so exciting that according to Nicholas, England's captain Michael Vaughan was heard saying to his players as Australia celebrated the draw, "See, even the mighty Australians are celebrating a draw with us."

My memories suggest to me that the draw is an important part of cricket, and that many of the game's most memorable and historic moments involves great and surprising escapes.

How can I forget, as a teenager, when Denis Atkinson and Clairemont Depeiza of the West Indies batted for over a day and scored 348 for the seventh wicket against Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Richie Benaud and company of Australia to save a Test match in 1955?

 

1963 TEST MATCH AT LORD'S

 

How can I forget, as a young man, the Test match at Lord's in 1963, when the West Indies went all out for victory on the last day, with fast bowler Wes Hall bowling non-stop all day, and when Hall started bowling the last over of the day, Colin Cowdrey, with his left-arm in plaster, came out to bat left-handed as the last man for England with six runs to get and one wicket in hand?

How can I forget either, Garry Sobers and David Holford, with the West Indies on 95 for five in their second innings and just eight runs ahead of England at Lord's in 1966, putting on 274 to save the game? And how can I forget, as a man, that wonderful performance of V. V. S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid in Kolkatain 2001, when, after being dismissed for 171 and following on 274 runs behind, they stroked 281 and 180 in a partnership of 340 to pull an amazing victory?

How can I forget that day at Trent Bridgein in 1966 when, with the West Indies in trouble and fighting to save the game, Derek Underwood and company, on a rainy Saturday, bowled maiden after maiden overs before Rohan Kanhai and Basil Butcher gave the Monday crowd a batting display to remember, or just recently, in Ranchi in India, when Australians Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh, with the Indians getting ready to celebrate with champagne, batted for 64 overs on the last day and scored 123 runs on a "turner" to rob India of what seemed a certain victory?

And how can I forget that day in Chittagong when, at tea time on the final day, England were 1000 without loss and, to everyone's shock, to some dismay, to others jubilation, went on to lose to Bangladesh as all 10 second-innings wickets fell for 64 runs in 21.3 overs,

These were not normal deeds, neither were they regular deeds, but there have been many more instances of two batsmen, a batsman and an all-rounder, a batsman and a tail-ender, or two tail-enders have gone beyond the norm by defying the odds and by frustrating the opposition when all seems lost.

Cricket is a game of many parts, of skill, charm, and elegance, of strength and speed, concentration and staying power, and, of course, of the excitement of flying sixes and acrobatic fielding.