Tag Archives: Clive Lloyd

Go Look at the Trophy: Read the Names

India, where are your young men of change, where are your revolutionary Test cricketers?  It is your time or it is no time. Go look at the Trophy: Read the names.

The Border/Gavaskar Trophy being contested at this moment may prove to be a seminal Test series to match that of the 1928-29 series between Australia and England. It may change the course of cricketing history. Let’s hope so.

In 1928, Australia, after a period of dominance in world cricket found their stars aging but its Cricket Board, out of touch and inert, were unable to reconstruct their side in time before coming up against a very strong England side.

Australia were hammered 1 – 4.  For England across the series, Hammond scored 905 runs at an average of 113.12, and Hendren, Sutcliffe,Hobbsand Jardine all averaged over 40.

Among the England bowlers Geary, White, Larwood and Tate took 79 wickets between them.

But although it was not obvious at the time, the series initiated an exciting period of change in Test cricket  – a period of unprecedented attack and counter attack.

That series-drubbing deeply influenced the mentality of a young Australian debutante in the side, Don Bradman, who went on to bat  without mercy in the return series when he surpassed Hammond with an aggregate of 974 runs in 7 innings at an average of 139.14, as Australia, with nine players in their twenties of whom six were under 23, regained the Ashes.

The Bradman experience led to Jardine (and Warner’s) experiment with leg theory, as cricket’s evolution accelerated once more and the world’s most exciting bowlers tested the Australian batsmen to the limit outside the off stump as well as outside the leg.  It was pace, raw pace, even more than direction that placed some of the best batsmen in the world under the most intense of investigations.  It was cricket being played out there … by both teams.

Today in the third Test of this series, played at Perth, India have again been put to the sword.  Perth was always going to be India’s Nemisis – fast, bouncy, alien – and yet also the perfect surface for Warner to attack with an extraordinary 69 ball century and who on 104 is still there with his partner at 149/0.  Perth cricket is Test cricket.

How will India respond, not tomorrow, not during the rest of the series, but strategically?

First they are going to have to decide whether they just want to nurture T20 experts or find someway of decontaminating their game and its effect on young players.  Of repairing the damaged inflicted on their batting DNA by the IPL.

Secondly, if they are to compete away from home, surely they have to do something about their wickets.  (It is a shame that Test wickets, like Test umpires, are not the responsibility of the ICC, but, although this will happen one day, Third Man is not holding his breath.)

Drubbings can have either a paralysing effect on the victim or they can energize.  An establishment can retreat to its bunker and press on regardless in a state of delusion (like the Australian Cricket Board in 1928), or it can respond with change, innovation and renewed vigour. Batsmen can ‘farm’ the riches of the IPL or say, as many in other countries have, “I want to be judged as a Test cricketer and found exceptional.”

Bradman, who won the PR battle, was an exceptional cricketer because he was a man of steel.  Jardine, who did not, was also exceptional and made England winners in a manner that was revolutionary and before its time.

Young Indian batsmen have been quick to take up the innovations of others and exercise them in T20 and may have looked more promising for Test cricket than they really are.

Change is effected not by innovators but by revolutionaries, men of steel and extraordinary substance – the Bradmen, the Jardines, the Clive Lloyds, the Steve Waughs and especially the Borders and the Gavaskars who now fittingly lend their names to the contests between their two countries.

India, where are your young men of change, where are your revolutionary Test cricketers?  It is your time or it is no time. Go look at the Trophy and read the names.

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Paradise Regained – The Return to Eden: Window on the Whirled Cup I

Third Man’s World Cup Blimp – a non rigid, buoyant airship – will after all be seen at Eden Gardens, provided you view the tournament from the window of his Time Machine – note the early and tantalising view recently glimpsed above.

ICC inspectors have given the thumbs up to three world cup matches at Eden Gardens in March.

But this great coliseum of cricket, that holds in excess of 100,000 people, will not stage one of the few eagerly awaited first round ties: resurgent England against indomitable India.

Their match scheduled for 27th February will now take place in Bangalore where the non-rigid, bouyant Mayor has already made known his lengthy list of required freebees.

The 2011 World Cup is a massive test for the ICC after the last event staged in the West Indies left so many questions unanswered: odd and questionable results, over priced tickets and wasteful redevelopment that replaced warm vital heritage with concrete, sand and chillingly soulless stadia.

Cricket does not respond well to austerity.  The 50 over format is losing support.  The need to help emerging nations but at the same time maintain interest at the start of the competition is a difficult if not impossible balancing act.

Tournaments have really only been successful when the very best of the world’s cricketers have produced radical reinterpretations of the game that gave rise to transformative strategies, changing for the better the way the game is played at every level and in every form.

This was the case thanks to the early West Indian campaigns which not only brought forth great innings by Kanhai and Lloyd who in the first final came together at a rocky 50 – 3 and put on a total of 149 but also gave rise to the unyielding Australian response that got within 17 runs of their the then massive 292 run target. 

Or the response the Caribbean side’s 1979 Oval semi-final score of 293 for 6  engendered from Pakistan’s Majid and Zaheer who accelerated with breathtaking elegance from 10 – 1 to 176 before Zed was dismissed by Croft for 93, challenging the hitherto hegemony of power with their graceful wristy stroke-play.

It was also the case in 1983 when India showed how to defend a meagre total of 183 when their six bowlers confined the brightest of batsmen: Greenidge, Haynes, Richards and Lloyd, to three runs an over and defeat by 43 runs in an innovative orchestration of pressure that achieve the most unexpected of victories. 

And finally, in1996 at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, it was also the stage on which the Sri Lankans unveiled ‘fearless’ cricket with their blistering, relentless jaw-dropping counterattacks, match after match. 

Cricket would never be the same after Sri Lanka, chasing Australia’s 241 and having they had lost the explosive Jayasuriya to a run out, and his fellow opener Kaluwitharana for 23,  de Silva and Gurusinha continued their by previous standards reckless assault on McGrath, Fleming, Warne and Reiffel to blow Australia away with twenty balls to spare.

Each of these moments created by the World Cup were turning points in the history of cricket – some were pure innovations, others the rediscovery of lost approaches but each were felt by those watching or listening across the globe to be pivotal turning points through gates into a new Eden, where a fresh conception of what cricketers could achieve changed the nature of cricket itself.

That role of hot house laboratory appears now to have moved to the T20 arena. It could be that the innovations of 120 ball, 10 wicket innings will find a powerful new expression in the 50 over format over the coming month.  If not, then, its undisguised purpose will be that of a cash cow providing a few corporate freebies for the likes of the Mayor of Bangalore.

In his 1941 essay “The Lion and the Unicorn“, George Orwell referred to a stereotype he nicknamed the Blimps who he characterised as having lost their vitality over the previous thirty years, “writhing impotently under the changes that were happening.”

The next forty days and forty nights will tell whether Third Man’s World Cup Blimp is an accurate charactisation or whether the tournament that once regularly replenished the eternal springs of cricket is once again “the potent fountain for the changes that are happening” and cricketers and cricket lovers once again regain Paradise through the Gates of Eden.

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Finding the Northumberland-charity-night-match Within

Two of Third Man’s favourite books are It never rains … A Cricketer’s Lot by Peter Roebuck and On and Off the Field by Ed Smith.  Both are diaries of a cricket season written by young professionals battling with their demons and insecurities in the perenial search for form.  The first describes the 1983 season, the second that of 2003.

In early 1983 the Somerset squad meet up for pre-season training at Millfield School.    Roebuck has just returned from spending the winter teaching and coaching in Australia.  He feels fit having spent time training with some Rugby players down under, but is unwell having eaten a tinned fruit cocktail during a stop over in Bombey.  “Today I am ill and didn’t go to work – does work sound okay?” 

He is experimenting with what is now called a trigger movement.  “Can’t quite work out how to bat this season.  Always before, I’ve stood still and blocked the ball.  Today I tried to get more behind it by moving before the ball is bowled … Trouble is, it doesn’t work for me somehow.  I don’t know how Boycott and the rest do it so well.” 

Roebuck is a very fine writer and never more so than when he is analysing aspects of the game that he understands so well.  Through him we get a ring-side seat close to the action. “Good players appear to arrive in the right place at the right time as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  They are always balanced and in command of the ball, always playing the ball near to their bodies.  How do they do it?  They play very late.  Apart from that, you can’t really generalise about excellent batsmen.”

Wednesday 14 April (happy Jungian coincidence as TM is writing this on the anniversary) finds Roebuck making his acquaintance with the club’s new bowling machine.  “It’s a strange contraption with splints and what appears to be tyres whirling round. It shoots the ball out without warning  so that if you put it on high speed you feel like a coconut.”  [What would PMR make of Merlyn, the latest Warne-imitating spin machine that ‘beeps’ and flashes its lights before spitting out late drifting, steep dipping, buzzing breaks ?]

In 20 minutes he faces 150 balls.  Gradually more end up past the bowler.  [TM remembers Ken Palmer doing this exercise a few years before in much the same way but using expendable young net bowlers.  Might be a Somerset thing.] 

As pre-season continues Roebuck appears to be the only person in the club to use the machine – one can imagine the views of the other professionals, which include I.T. Botham, both on the use of the machine itself and on the eccentricity shown by Roebuck in using it at all.

Eccentricity?  Saturday 30th July v Lancashire at Old Trafford (1st day) and Roebuck is off alone in Manchester that evening, to see a play at the Royal Exchange.  “It must be heartbreaking for actors steeped in experience to play to half-empty houses.  Not that there were many at Old Trafford this afternoon for Richards and Clive Lloyd.”

Somerset’s stumbling season reaches its special climax at a Lord’s Nat West final.  “Arrived to find a deserted visitors’ dressing room filled only by balloons and telegrams.  There had been long lines of people waiting for the gates to open, and these provided the first inkling that the day would contrast sharply with yesterday’s nonsense at Taunton.”

His fortunes conclude with a charity night match in Northumberland.  He bats brilliantly (according to the local newspaper) to the astonishment of his team-mates.  He hits straight sixes, backs away to play some delicate late cuts and steps inside a left-arm spinner to lift him over cover.  He reflects that he’d never even tried to bat like this before, never even given himself the chance to play these shots.

Was it a freak?  “Perhaps the insecurity of batting, sharpened as it is by being my career, has caused me to concentrate on the avoidance of failure rather than accepting the challenges … To succeed in this I would have to be more tolerant of bad dismissals, I’d have to endure mishap with a shrug and a laugh.  Probably I’ve been too intense about it all.” 

In Roebuck’s autobiography, Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh, his father described his son as ‘obscure and oblique’.  Certainly no batsman’s stance ever expressed so vividly the internal contortions of a batsman’s psyche.  Now this mind, clear and direct from the media centre, helps to disentangle our thinking on the game in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is a must read for cricketers wishing to escape their demons and find the Northumberland-charity-night-match within them.  And essential reading for Directors of Cricket, selectors and coaches who should create the environment in which young cricketers can play without fear. 

It never rains … looks to be out of print but can be purchased at Abebooks for 65p plus postage at a number of booksellers. 

Tomorrow TM hopes to borrow the Wellsian time contraption to visit 2003.

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