After Sydney the Aftermath – Ashwin, Ramadhin and Mental Scaring

In Australia’s total of 659 – 4 declared at the Sydney Test, Ashwin Ravichandran bowled 44 overs with 5 maidens and took no wickets for 157 (3.56/over). 

His fingers will be sore for some days but perhaps nowhere near as sore as his mind which during two long days in the field will have received as much of a battering as the ball.

In his three tests prior to this one, Ashwin had taken 26 wickets for around 500 runs and must have thought that the world lay between his finger tips.

But when Clarke joined Ponting on Day One their hand gestures, nods and smiles suggested that they were now reading Ashwin’s ‘wrong’un’.  Third Man thought it looked ominous. 

288 runs later when Hussey took Punter’s place at the Sydney Reading Club it became obvious that the Aussie batsmen had decoded something more valuable than Linear B.

Ashwin now faces at least two problems going forward (as the managerialists like to say these days): living with the mental scar tissue received at the SCG and working out a new disguise for the caroom ball. 

Keep your thumb in, chum?

A similar thing happened to Sonny Ramadhin at Birmingham when the West Indies toured England in 1957.  Those “two pals of mine”, Ramadhin and Valentine had caused consternation in international cricket since first appearing on the scene as twenty year olds in the early 1950s.

Ramadhin bowled with the hand facing the batsman and flicked the ball up with the index finger to make it turn very slightly from off to leg or up or up with the ring finger to make it turn from leg to off. 

Batsmen like to play back to spin, especially when it’s something they cannot read, and in those days when they did come forward they had been coached to find a contact point well in front of the leading pad.

Many played Ramadhin for his reputed turn and were bowled through the gate or caught off the outside edge or trapped lbw by straighter deliveries.

The Birmingham Test lives long in the minds of those who were there. Or in the less reliable memories of those who fiddled with the horizontal hold knob on their tiny screened TVs vainly hoping to control the frustratingly unstable and flickering black and white images broadcast in 405 line technology by the BBC.

England won the toss and batted. They were spared Valentine, who was unable to play, but Ramadhin with 7 for 49 in 31 overs, 16 of them maidens, continued to mesmerize and disarm in the home side’s meagre total of 186.

The West Indies cruised to 474 which included an exceptional innings of 161 by the sublime O.G. ‘Collie’ Smith who was all-too soon tragically to be killed in a car crash while back inEnglandplaying league cricket.

The scene was set for an innings defeat and with Colin Cowdrey joining his captain Peter May at 113 for 3 that looked a certainty.  But May, who had made 30 in the first innings proposed to play forward to the spinner and to keep his bat close to his pad. What he lost in narrowing the angle he gained in broadening the barrier. 

The innovation worked and was also taken up Cowdrey.  Although never dominating Ramadhin (he went for less than 2 an over), the two ‘amateur’ batsman nullified the threat posed by the ‘crafty’ professional and ground out a partnership of 414 over 8 hours and 20 minutes.

Cowdrey was eventually out for 154 and when May declared the innings closed at 583/4 his score was 285. 

These heroics were immediately mythologized, at a time when national pride had been badly dented by the debacle of Suez and the ‘mother country’ was looking for any evidence with which to deny its decline as both a colonial and a world power.

Ramadhin’s figures in the innings were 98 overs (588 balls), 35 maidens, 179 runs for 2 wickets.  In the match as a whole he had bowled 774 balls.

Although not excessively punished with the bat, the psychological effect of this experience and the development of bat-and-pad play, meant that Ramadhin never again had the impact on Test cricket that he had formerly exercised.

And Ashwin, will there be an aftermath from this experience?

When the players eventually fly westwards to Perth, his mind is likely to be whirling as fast as the fins in the jet’s engines.  For him Perth will be a real Test.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “After Sydney the Aftermath – Ashwin, Ramadhin and Mental Scaring

  1. John Halliwell

    Thanks for the trip back to ’57, TM. Fascinating stuff. I realised that May and Cowdrey had achieved something very special the following morning at school assembly when Isabel, the head girl, carried out a review of the main stories from the day’s papers. I remember her quoting the headline from one paper. It was either ‘Ramadhin Conquered’ or ‘Ramadhin Destroyed’. I was shocked and almost euphoric. As it was the formidable Isabel who had picked out a sport story (unknown to that point) and had spat out that headline, I reasoned that Sonny was a dead duck.

    • John,
      Thanks for the previous pointer to this match.
      It is a cracking example of humans compulsively comprehending matters as narratives. The apparently invincible foe. The out of the ordinary ‘chivalric’ hero (in this case symbolized in May and Cowdrey’s ‘amateur’/noble status) who is morally different, not only from his foe but from those who have tried to win through before. Beowulf, St George etc. Cowdrey is the sword bearer/esquire to May’s knight. (And like Patroclus does not survive.) The scene is decline and the fragmentation of power – in this case Empire and a denial of impotence (post Suez). Made even more poignant as it was a reassertion of the supremacy of amateurism over the encoachment of professionalism. The ‘key’ is provided by the innovative bat ‘n pad technique/brain over guile. And the ‘threat’ is totally removed by the valour and brightly burning goodness of the hero. [No wonder his time as Chairman of Selectors seemed such a let down.]
      This transactionist interpretation was no doubt what Isabel ( a Boudica archetype ! ) was reacting to that morning and explains why she remained a devotee of PBH ever more.
      TM

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  3. John Halliwell

    I expected so much more of May as Chairman of Selectors, but that surely was unrealistic. Would that master escapee Houdini have been any good as Governor of Alcatraz? It simply doesn’t follow.

    Practically every cricket book I read in the 60s and 70s referred to PBH as the greatest post-war English batsman. Has the passage of forty plus more years changed the common view of those in the best position to judge? I simply don’t know. But I can say that I watched May score 174 at Old Trafford in 1958 – against Statham in his pomp, and sat at the boundary edge, wide-eyed at the brilliance of the England captain,

    TM, I do hope the Boudican archetype Isabel, with gleaming knives on her chariot’s wheels, followed May’s career from that day on – I can just see her sat at OT in 1961 shaking her head in disbelief as Benaud bowled May round his legs, quickly followed by a bout of apoplexy as Close went into headless-chicken mode. She knew a thing or two did Isabel.

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