Sports

CRICKET: ‘YOU TALKING TO ME?’

Written by Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi|Published September 16, 2018

The South African captain of England Tony Grieg shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth at Lord’s in 1976 as the West Indians watch

“Can’t bowl, can’t bat and can’t field.” This was what the former New Zealand wicket keeper Ian Smith said when Shoaib Malik dropped a catch in the slip during a Pakistan versus New Zealand Test match in 2009. Shoaib Malik had scores of 2, 32, 9 and 3 in the series, had taken two catches and gone wicket-less during the short tour Down Under. He just couldn’t give a befitting reply to his critic. However, Ian Smith must have been surprised when the batsman ended his Test career on a high note, scoring 245 runs in his third last Test and taking seven wickets in his final match against England six years later.

Cricket is full of such incidents. Just recently, a by-the-way comment from a West Indian great made an Indian all-rounder perform wonders in a Test match.

Javed Miandad mocking Kiran More

THE GROVEL GAFFE
(ENGLAND VS WEST INDIES)

The year was 1976 and the English cricket team was being led by Tony Grieg, a South Africa-born cricketer who didn’t represent his native country because it was banned from international sports due to apartheid sanctions. So when he predicted that his side would make the visitors ‘grovel’, it was taken literally by the West Indians whose ancestors had to endure slavery in the American continent.

Eos looks back at times when players and commentators tried to make snarky judgements on fellow cricketers and had to eat their words …

Every time he came out to bat, the West Indian pacers were all ready to ‘make him grovel’ and despite a good fourth Test where he scored 116 and an unbeaten 76, he failed big time in the other seven innings. He lasted for seven balls in the first match and was bowled by Andy Roberts for a duck; he could manage just 6 and 20 runs in the second match, was clean bowled in both innings for 9 and 3 runs, respectively, in the third while in the fifth Test, Michael Holding dismantled his stumps for a 22-ball 12 and a 4-ball 1. In turn, the Caribbean bowlers made Tony and Co. grovel!

WORLD CUP FILLIP
(INDIA VS PAKISTAN)

A screen grab of the Aamer Sohail and the Venkatesh Prasad incident during the 1996 World Cup

Although Pakistan and India had played a lot of matches in the 1980s and the early ’90s, their first encounter in a World Cup happened in 1992 when the event was held on the round robin league format. In the day-night encounter, the Pakistan side led by Imran Khan was comprehensively beaten by the star-studded Indian team which had Kapil Dev, Kris Srikkanth, Sanjay Manjrekar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar in the final XI. However, when the Indian wicket-keeper Kiran More excessively appealed while Javed Miandad was batting, the street fighter from Karachi lost his cool and made fun of the glove-man by jumping up and down in the air to imitate him, to the amusement of all. Pakistan lost the match by 43 runs but, within three weeks, Imran Khan lifted the trophy as the Green Shirts were crowned the World Champions.

Four years later, in the next edition of the mega event, Aamer Sohail tried to distract Venkatesh Prasad after hitting him for a glorious four towards the extra cover region. The stand-in Pakistan captain pointed his bat towards the bowler as if he was asking him to ‘fetch the ball’ and went back to his crease, not knowing that the next ball would be his last. The local lad Prasad bowled a gem of a delivery that sent Aamer’s stumps in different directions. Thus started the Pakistani team’s collapse in the quarterfinal and the defending champions had to return home from Bangalore, empty-handed.

THE LOST FIVER
(RASHID LATIF VS GEOFFREY BOYCOTT)

Rashid Latif

It was during the 1992-93 tour of England that the Pakistani wicket-keeper Moin Khan was dropped from the fifth and final Test because the team needed a reliable glove-man behind the wickets. That’s how the other keeper in the side named Rashid Latif was able to make his debut and impress all with his clean wicket-keeping. When he came to bat, player-turned-commentator Geoffrey Boycott approached Latif and asked him, “Can you bat, lad?” He got a “yes” in reply. The former England opening batsman bet a fiver on the youngster getting dismissed before scoring even 35 runs. But Rashid scored his maiden half century in his first outing. Needless to say, in the days before match-fixing and corruption scandals, the former England captain settled his debt with a smile.

Geoffrey Boycott

WRISTBAND ROW
(CURTLY AMBROSE VS DEAN JONES)

Ambrose and his white wristbands

It was a fine day at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1992-93 when, during the second World Series final, Australian batsman Dean Jones decided to play mind games with West Indian pacer Curtly Ambrose. In an attempt to distract the lanky pacer, Deano (as the batsman is fondly known) asked the umpire to make Ambrose remove his white wristbands because he couldn’t see the white ball coming out of his hand. A visibly shaken Ambrose complied with the umpire’s request but that made him very angry and he took it all out on the Aussies, bowling faster than ever before… or after.

Australia might have won the match and equaled the Best of Three Final series 1-1 instead of losing the trophy had Dean Jones kept his mouth shut — because the tormentor in chief for them was the same bowler who had to remove his wristband who ended up with bowling figures of 5 for 32.

NORMAL BOWLER!
(ROHIT SHARMA VS MOHAMMAD AMIR)

Mohammad Amir, who ended India’s hopes in the Champions Trophy in 2017, celebrates

Pakistan’s pacer Mohammad Amir is one of the most attacking bowlers in the world. Before he was found guilty of being involved in spot-fixing in 2010 and subsequently missed five years of his professional career, he was considered the most promising bowler of his generation.

Since his return, Amir is trying his best to make up for lost time and has helped Pakistan win matches with his accurate pace bowling. However, when Indian batsman Rohit Sharma was asked about the prospects of facing Amir in the Champions Trophy in 2017, Sharma replied with the six words that would come to haunt him later. “He is just a normal bowler.” That’s what he said, and that “normal bowler” went through the defences of the much vaunted Indian batting line-up in the final that included Virat Kohli and the same Rohit Sharma. How is that for a befitting reply?

The writer tweets @omair78

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 16th, 2018

About the author

Omair Alavi