The Australia-West Indies world cup match on June 6 reminded one of another encounter which went down in history as the first tied test. This time the roles were reversed as Andre Russell skied the ball and was safely caught at midwicket by Glenn Maxwell. In the tied Test at Melbourne in 1960 two famous West Indians, Wesley Hall and Rohan Kanhai, collided while trying to catch the ball and Australia almost romped home before Lindsay Kline was run out by a direct hit from Joe Solomon. We read about it in India’s Sport and Pastime. Then too, the Australians had won a closely contested series 2-1. The West Indians went down narrowly by 15 runs at Trent Bridge. The common thread was the measured Aussie professionalism off-set by West Indian exuberance, the light and shade of cricket, without which contrasting elements the portrait of cricket is never complete.
Yet the skills of the Caribbean Islanders make their ebullience as exemplary as the deftness of the Aussies. When they finally got their act together under Clive Lloyd, the world was treated to 16 years of their unchallenged supremacy. Glimpses of their versatility were caught at the World Cup in Russell’s abandon alongside the young captain Jason Holder’s disciplined endeavour to put his team’s run chase together. It was none other than the legendary Michael Holding who noticed Holder’s ability to mix defence with aggression according to the requirements of the situation. Holding was nicknamed “whispering death” because of his smooth run-up and lethal pace and was one of Clive Lloyd’s famous fast bowling spearheads. Was Holding watching the advent of another Clive Lloyd, to strike a balance between ability and temperament?
He might well have because in the encounter with Pakistan the West Indies’ had unleashed a fast, short-pitched bowling barrage which had unsettled the opposition and shot them out for next to nothing. The bowling was not only aggressive but skilful as the pacemen bowled intimidatingly, but stayed within the ambit of the law which restricts the number of bouncers bowled in an over. They were short enough to rattle the batsman but not high enough to be no-balled. In the old days the West Indians had not only undone the Australians and the English, traditional players of quick bowling and producers of fast bowlers but South Asians, unused to the pace and bounce of foreign wickets and the bowlers produced by them. But at Trent Bridge, the West Indians themselves suffered their comeuppance at the hands of left-handed paceman Mitchell Starc who reaped a bowler’s century, i.e. five wickets, to announce that the Australians also meant business.
South Asia has produced three World Cup winners and two very promising teams from Bangladesh and Afghanistan; exponents of the supple wrist work in batting and spin bowling like the others. It remains to be seen how dissimilitude and diversity make cricket’s highest stage a celebration of human talent and aptitude.
By Uttam Sen
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