A Tale of Glorious Uncertainty
Syed Maqsud Jamil
A Canadian Mountain Police man was doing his duty at Toronto's Country Curling Club Ground. A one-day match was going on between Pakistan and India during the 1997/98 series. The match was a mystery to the policeman. He asked people around what this game was about and why eleven people were huddled around the batsman. At that moment the shout went off, HOWZ "THAT! He raised his eyebrow and went off.
Darryl Hair deemed that the Pakistanis had cheated by tampering with the ball and penalised them by adding 5 runs to the English total. The Pakistanis belatedly realised that the whole team had been held as cheats without any proper evidence and the shame passed on to their nation. Their response however came late. Mike Gatting the English skipper of 1987-88 tour of Pakistan was fortunate to get away with conduct that was far more culpable in comparison to Inzamam's gentle protest to Hair. Shakoor Rana was the Pakistani Umpire at the Faisalabad Test. The English team was already fuming against allegedly horrible decisions by Umpire Shakil Khan in the earlier Test at Lahore. Shakoor Rana was known to be a capable, firm footed. He was authoritative like Darryl Hair, given to occasional sense of self-importance. The wellknown finger wagging match started when Shakoor Rana stopped English bowler Eddie Hemming who was about to bowl on the ground that English skipper Gatting was drawing the square leg fielder David Capel closer. Rana called Gatting and was reported to have termed the action as cheating. Gatting responded furiously wagging his finger at Rana who was equally enraged and hotly demanded an apology from Gatting. The game was held up, one whole day lost, and ultimately Gatting scribbled a regret note to Rana. Gatting did not have to face a disciplinary board nor was he fined.
Hair, being a lawyer is in a class by himself and his umpiring debut in 1992 in the Test Match between India and Australia, Hair as a home umpire gave 8 LBW decisions against the Indian batsmen compared to 2 against the Aussies. The title of his autobiography 'The Decision-Maker' offers a pen sketch of Hair. His dour looks, authoritarian airs and redoubtable bearing projects a cult of a dreaded high priest of cricket. When Alim Dar looks a shade like Hair, the Aussies challenge him. ICC's panel of neutral umpires is a laudable idea, but brusque sheriffs like Hair can only increase the list of persona non-grata umpires.
Cricket's most hair-raising tale was the 1932-33 bodyline series between Australia and England. Douglas I. Jardine, a typical British led the English side and he knew only too well that the difference between the two sides was Don Bradman. He came to Australia with a formidable pace battery in Nottinghamshire fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Billy Voce supported by WE Bowes and GOB Allen. Jardine employed a set of fearsome tactics of packing the leg side with fielders for Larwood and Voce to bowl at the ribs of the batsmen. It was like the Colonel directing his artillery barrages. The Aussie batsmen in trying to play the deliveries took body blows were struck on the head and ended up with broken ribs and fractured skulls. They lofted the deliveries into catches or played into their stumps. England won the 1" Test at Sydney by 10 wickets with Larwood taking 5 and Voce 4 wickets. Australia came back in the 2°d Test with the participation of Don Bradman who scored 103 in the second innings being bowled in the first innings for duck by Bowes. They won by 111 runs and the series was leveled. The bodyline bowling was unleashed in full fury in the 3"' Test at Adelaide. Aussie captain Billy Woodfull was struck above his heart by Larwood delivery and it prompted Jardine to immediately move a fielder in to bodyline position. Another Aussie batsman WAS Oldfield was struck on the head by a rising delivery of English bowler Bowes and suffered a fractured skull. There was a furore in Australia against the ungentlemanly truculence in bodyline bowling. The tour was on the verge of being called off. Nonchalant Douglas Jardine did not find anything wrong with it. Ultimately a restrictive clause was adopted against bodyline bowling. The series went 4-1 in favour of England. A note of interest for this region was that the Nawab of Pataudi Sr. scored 113 in the second knock in the 2nd Test for England.
Cricket has many fairy tales. One of the best Stories in Test cricket is the two tied matches. The first tied match was the inaugural test match between Australia and West Indies of the Frank Worrell Trophy held from December 9 to December 14 1960 at the Brisbane `Gabba' ground. A tied match is precisely when the match has been played up to its cut out closing time, the contending teams have completed its two innings and the final score is tied. At the Gabba Test West Indies scored 453 with quick fire 134 by Gary Sobers in the first innings. Australia scored 505 in their first knock. In the second knock West Indies were all out for 282. On the final day when the last over was to be bowled by Wes Hall, the clock read 5.56 P.M. The over was of 8 balls and Australia was 227 for 7. Six runs were needed and the winning target was 233. Wally Grout took a single leg, bye for Benaud to strike. He hooked the seventh ball and was caught by wicket keeper Gerry Alexander (228 for 8). The new batsman Ian Meckiff could not take a run from the sixth ball. Four runs from four balls, Grout fended the fourth ball, a bouncer, but the catch could not be taken, a run is taken (230 for 8). Meckiff swung the third ball for a boundary, got two runs, ran for the third and Grout was run out (232 for 9). The match was tied. Meckiff in the 7" ball dashed for a run but his stumps was broken by a direct throw from Conrad Hunte. Australia was all out for 232; one short of victory and the test match was tied. The second Tied Test in 1986 was first of the three test series between India and visiting Australian team. It was held at the Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Madras from between September 18 and September 22, 1986. Australia declared at 547 in the first innings and 170 for 5 in the second innings. India made 397 in their first innings and 348 all out in the second innings. The test was tied.
Nowadays cricket is electronic entertainment and the fairy tales of cricket are spun around showmanship of cricketing skills. The cricket stars play cricket and act their roles with actors' flair and love for exhibitionism. There was a time when cricket came after a long wait. The cricketing heroes of the time made their own day. There were little ones among them too? Hanif Mohammed of Pakistan and Roy Fredericks of West Indies did not have the chance to play cricket throughout the year. But when they played it meant much to them.
Pakistan was made to follow on at the Bridgetown Test of 1958-59 and Hanif batted for 16 hour 10 minutes to score 337 against the fiery pace attack of Wesley Hall, Roy Gilchrist and Charlie Griffith to save the match for Pakistan. It was not the age of helmet, chest and arm guard. Roy Fredericks was from Guyana West Indies but was only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed a little over 140 pounds. He played without helmet, chest and arm guard. It was the time of Australian pace battery of Denis Lillie, Jeff Thomson, Max Walker and Gary Gilmour. The showdown came at WACA, Perth against Lillie, Thomson, Walker and Mallet operating at full steam. Fredericks scored 169 in just three and a half-hour and it took him only 145 balls. The century came in 71 balls and Thomson threw his fastest delivery 99.68 miles per hour. Thomson's first three overs cost him 33 runs. The flamboyance with which Fredericks treated the likes of Lille and 'T'homson speaks of the height of the man in small frame. He treated fast bowling with utter disdain, got struck on the head, retired hurt but came again to hook the bouncer into the gallery. This is what the game of cricket is all about.
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