Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Down Memory Lane - Illustrated Weekly article II

This article appeared in The Illustrated Weekly of India on Aug 23, 1970. The writer is a personal favorite, Ray Robinson. I recommend his book, "The Wildest Tests" which is a compilation of all tests which were stopped/interrupted due to crowd disturbance.(Sydney 1971, Cal 1969, Dacca 1969, Georgetown 1960's etc.). I had posted this article on r.s.c. in 1992, before the www days.

The Romance of Australian Cricket - Ray Robinson.

At the risk of being black-listed by every swimming club and tennis court, I believe that Australia's cricket has had more impact abroad than any other activity of my countrymen. Such a contention might make Dawn Fraser go in at the deep end, Ron Clarke run rings around it and Rod Laver contest the issue with an iresistable ace. But that is how it looks to me at the 200th anniversary of James Cook's mapping of Australia's east coast and his landing a few miles south of where Sydney Cricket Ground stands today.

Australian Cricket was not born with a silver spoon in its mouth; it was more like a foundling. Judging, by the game's development, desire to play cricket should be listed among the primeval urges of man. It was so strong among the soldiery, the fettered convicts and the free citizenry who pioneered the country that it impelled them to play without proper grounds, wickets, bats or balls. Not a pad to protect their legs or a glove their knuckles.

As a report of a match on the Victorian goldfields said: "Stumps were easily made but it took some time to form bats out of ironbark. After the whole diggings had been searched, a man was found with a good sized rubber ball." For another match the ball was of string, tightly knitted. The first real bats were discards from a club in England. From such adverse beginnings players were gradually developed who made Australia the first country to beat the English at their own game. The first proper match was played 15 years after the original penal settlement was set up beside Sydney harbour. By 1821 Governor Macquarie was ordering bats from His Majesty's lumber yard for his schoolboy son, Lachlan.

Betting on a match between Soldiers ( 57th Regiment) and Natives (Civilians) went far beyond the 20 pound wager a side. Bets were made in sawn timber, fat pigs, maize, boots and snakeskin shoes. By 1832 a Sydney pub, "The Cricketers", hung out a painted sign, depicting a match on the town racecourse (now Hyde Park). Girls became keen watchers, as now but in more voluminous rigouts than the sunfrocks and miniskirts seen by the Nawab of Pataudi's team at
Australian grounds three years ago. Beginning visits in 1861, English teams were too skilful, outclassing sides of 15 or more. So thirteen aborgines were trained to tour England in 1868. Their tribal names were too long and difficult for white man's toungues, so they were given nicknames such as "Bullocky", "Twopenny" "Cuzens", "Johnny Mullagh" and "Sundown". England was too cold for them. "King Cole" died and two others were sent home. Six men of aborginal or mixed blood have since played first class cricket; and two of the part bloods Ernie Toshack and Grahame Thomas, have represented their country on tour.

The First Test
Historians rank as the first test, an 1877 Melbourne match in which 11 New South Wales and Victorian colonials staggered everyone by defeating England by 45 runs. In a return match a few days later, the Englishmen won by four wickets, so they were able to lift their heads and escape social ostracism on their return home. Within a year the Australians formed a team to tackle the English on their own softer wickets in the first of the 25 tours at frequent intervals. On the last tour of England, Bill Lawry's men halved the rubber, thereby retaining the ashes, which England last held in 1956. For the seventeenth team in 1930, on the first tour of his four visits, Sir Donald Bradman totalled 974 runs in five tests and leg spinner Clarrie Grimmet took 29 wickets (by a wise piece of migration, Grimmet had moved to Australia from his birthplace New Zealand). Bradman's 974 is still the record for one series and Graham Mckenzie is the only
Australian who has equalled Grimmet's 29 wickets in England.

{Note: This article was written in 1973, Terry Alderman with 42 wickets in 1981/89 , Dennis Lillee with 39 in 1981 etc have long since erased the record - Arun}

Interstate matches groom the best district club players for Test selection. In appreciation of a tour enjoyed by his English team of Australia in 1892, Lord Sheffield gave the cricket council 150 pounds. The council spent it on a silver shield - the equivalent of India's Ranji trophy. Originally New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia competed for this Sheffield shield, and now they have to contend with Queensland and Western Australia, while Tasmania awaits admittance.

The first visit by the South Africans was in 1910 and by West Indians in 1930 (a West Indian living in Victoria, Sam Morris had played for Australia against England in 1884)

The Select Five
In all Australians have played 318 tests against six countries for 145 wins and 89 losses. Four series have been in India (1956-57, 64-65, 69-70) and two against India touring Australia. Only five visiting batsmen have scored a century in each innings of a test in Australia: Suttcliffe, Hammond, Compton, Hazare and Kanhai. On the strength of his 116 and 145 for Lala Amarnath's side in 1948, Vijay Hazare shares with Dennis Compton, the distinction of having done so against such a formidable fast pair as Lindwall and Miller.

How stands Australian Cricket today? Most of the test players are enjoying a winter's relaxation, after suffering in South Africa the worst drubbing ever dealt to Australia's team.

{Note: Aus lost 4-1 in SA (1971). In Durban Richards got 140 and Pollock got 274 in what is now known as the Durban massacre - Arun}

Bill Lawry, who has led the team in 20 tests, is far from disconsolate. He believes the team will regain concentration and form for the coming series against England, who are due to arrive in November. Lawry would like to continue as captain but, when assked about reports that he might be relieved of the post, he calmly answered: "The selectors have plenty of time to think about these things and we will have to wait and see"

{Note:Aus lost 0-2 in the 6+1 = 7 test series. This was the most notorious since the bodyline series of 1932-33. John Snow was hailed as the new Larwood. Lawry stepped down and a certain spectacular batsman called Ian Chappell took over to add some respectibility. Read John Snow's "Cricket Rebel" for a better understanding of this series. A young gun took over from Brian Taber as the Oz wicketkeeper. He was understandly nervous and made quite a few errors - resulting in an unenviable nickname; "Old Iron Gloves". Rod Marsh would retire many years later as a legend. - Arun}

Though a triumphant Australian IX sharpens boy cricketers' enthusiasm, and gives the whole country's cricket a fillip, the test team's fortunes can be overestimated as an index to the game's health. Lower attendances are common at racecourses, cricket grounds and most other sports in a prosperous land where many prefer beaches, motoring and playing lawn- -bowls to watching cricketers, swimmers and tennis stars. Television viewers can see the last couple of hours of first-class matches in the comforts of their homes. The worst effect of smaller crowds is to lessen newspaper space for cricket - in the belief that public interest is falling. I believe a more thorough survey would show that thousands more twirl their telephone dials to get cricket scores than any other sport in the Post Office's services. This is in addition to the Australian Broadcasting Commision's network giving excellent descriptions and topnotch comments by Alan McGilvray, Lindsay Hassett, Frank Tyson, Bill Johnston and others.

Cricket is in the first five of Australian spectator sports, the other four being all year horse-racing, trotting, dog-racing and half- year football. Cricketers have seen the word "test" taken up by football and other sports. The largest crowd at any Australian game watch football played on the cricket grounds of Melbourne and Sydney. Of all sports, cricket has done most to provide stands and other amenities for spectators.

---Some redundant stats about crowds deleted - Arun ----

Sales of cricket equipment are the highest in Australia's history. About 106,000 bats a year are imported from England, India and Pakistan, in addtion to Australian made bats. Australian balls, pads and gloves have attained such a standard that few are imported. Half a million balls are used each year, three fifth's of them stitched leather. Players say the top quality balls outdo the best English makes in most conditions.

Comparison with other sports shows another sign of health. Lawn Tennis has difficulty in financing teams' tours abroad, and Olympic and Commonwealth Games officials have to write begging letters to companies to raise athletes' and swimmers' expenses. Not so Australian cricketers who tour the world, attracting big crowds. From the recent tour of Ceylon, India and South Africa, 136,000 dollars have so far been shared among state cricket associations for ploughing back into the game.

One day of the Melbourne Test against Sir Frank Worrell's West Indians in 1961 was watched by 90,800, a world record for cricket. From the 1963 Melbourne Test by Benaud's and Dexter's teams, the Englishmen's share 28,000 pounds, was the most they collected from a Test anywhere. Dull play immediately depresses gates, Sydney crowds have never fully recovered from the "horror" anticlimax test of 1963. the backwash of this disenchantment was being felt when India toured Australia five years later. No other group of sporting idols quite rival the prestige attained by the captains of Australia since World War I, especially Woodfull, Bradman and Benaud. Many people, who cannot name the last four generals, that commanded the army or the eight Prime Ministers since 1930, do much better recalling the regular skippers: Armstrong, Collins, Ryder, Woodfull, Bradman, Hassett, Ian Johnson, Benaud, Simpson and Lawry.

As a national pattern, Australians mostly attempt more shots than Englishmen and bowl better on true, dry wickets, but are ouplayed if the ball is seaming off helpful surfaces. Benaud, Simpson and Lawry's sides earned a reputation for fielding and catching. Yet dropped catches did much to lose the last four tests. The coming series against the thirtieth team from England will probably be decided more by catching skill than anything else.



Anonymous Srivaths said...

Where on earth did you dig this up from? Is there an online archive? And where does one find all those books you mentioned?

1:17 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...


I got this article in 1992 from the archives of my college library. I have bought those books in old books shops (esp in Pherozshah Mehta Road, Mumbai) over the course of 20 years. :-)

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Srivaths said...

Can you tell me where else one can find cricket literature in India - apart from Select in Bangalore? And are you the JohnCleese from the old #cricket days?
And one final Q. Which college has cric. lit. in its archives?

1:07 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...

Srivaths - Select was the one good place where i found good cricket books. I found an autographed copy of Ajit Wadekar's autobio for Rs. 25 in 1995. Unfortunately, I haven't found another book shop in Bangalore that can come close to the stock that Select has in its shelves.

Yes, to question 2. I was indeed jc of the old #cricket days. Boy, does that bring back memories. What handle did you use back then?

I found it in Indian magazines in US Univs here. In Bangalore, try some public libraries - they often have old books and you may be lucky to come across one.

Thanks for writing.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Srivaths said...

I doubt you'd remember me. I was RealDeal back then. Yes those were better days, as compared to the dumbing down that occurred subsequently.

9:52 PM  

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