Sunday, June 13, 2021

When in the mood, Brian Lara a genius, no less. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

 


When in the mood, Brian Lara was a genius, no less. Caribbean flair, and not any textbook principles, was the hallmark of his batting. High backlift, braced knees, a hop this way and that in the crease, flashing blade and terrific bat speed, and deft wrist-work on either side of the wicket were characteristics of his inimitable style. When he put his mind to it, he was amongst the very best ever, in the traditional form perhaps next only to Bradman.

As super success embraced him, Lara was quick to assume the airs of a megastar. Petulance, brushes with authority and stormy personal life began to cast a shadow over his career. For a long time it seemed that he might go the way of so many hugely talented sportsmen like George Best who frittered away their God-given gifts and ultimately destroyed themselves.

It is said that the pressure of expectations got the better of Lara. To his credit, he broke free of the stupor and applied his mind to his batting, returning as one of the greatest rungetters the game has seen. The difference between Lara and Tendulkar - hugely talented as both are in their unique ways - was that Tendulkar remained grounded, a dedicated player, committed team man, modest and content in the security of family life. He never allowed the unprecedented adulation to swamp him, nor did the burden of having to perform constantly stifle him. He sailed along, darling of millions, everyone’s very own endearing Sachin. If he had a flaw, as we have already discussed, it was that he would get carried away by his own brilliance and give his wicket away when there were many, many more runs for the taking.

That 277 at Sydney in 1992-93, Lara’s first Test hundred, when the West Indies were desperately defending their status as top dogs, was only advance notice of what was to follow. Lara emulated Bradman by holding the records for the highest scores in Tests as well as first-class cricket. Sir Garfield Sobers walked on to the Antigua Recreation Ground to embrace Lara as the new hero went past his Test record. In that 1993-94 series against England, Lara hit up 798 runs at an average of 99.75.

The world had still not stopped applauding Lara when he astounded everyone by piling up an unbeaten 501 for Warwickshire versus Durham at Birmingham. It was a new frontier - as a famous television series on space odysseys declared - where no man had gone before. In a matter of days he did what no batsman, not Grace nor Bradman, had done in 117 years. The English bowlers must have dreaded the sight of his punishing blade as he carved out 765 runs in the six-Test series on their soil in 1995 at an average of 85.

In between, Lara had not relished the slower wickets of India during the 1994-95 series. Not long after, when the euphoria of having scaled great highs so early in his career wore off, Lara began appearing listless and disinterested. It was akin to the feeling of unease that Bradman experienced in 1932, but Lara’s malaise was more severe. Bradman never allowed his performances to dip, Lara could not defy his slump.

He recovered, to the good fortune of cricket-lovers around the world. The first sign of a turnaround came in 1998-99. That season his stock had slumped to abysmal depths in South Africa as the West Indies were trounced 5-0 in the Test series. Then they were beaten by Australia in the first Test at home. There were shrill voices all around demanding that Lara be stripped of the captaincy. And then he struck. He scored a superb 213 to lead the West Indies to victory over Steve Waugh’s side at Kingston. In the very next Test at Bridgetown he carried his team to an exhilarating one-wicket triumph with a stupendous unbeaten 153. So gripping was the game that the Jamaican prime minister postponed meetings to watch the finale. The West Indies actually led the series 2-1 now, and Lara was again being hailed as a superhero everywhere. This was akin to Bradman’s stirring fightback in 1936-37, but not quite as decisive in the end. The Australians eventually levelled the series, but Lara had once again shown what he was really capable of.

The big turnaround eventually came in 2001-02 in the Emerald Island after a prolonged illness. He began with his 221 off the Sri Lankan bowling at Colombo in that landmark season. In three Tests, Lara scored 668 runs at an average of 114.66 with 3 hundreds. Though he suffered a serious arm injury as a result of a mid-pitch collision, he came back stronger than ever. Since that series, in the last six years till his retirement from Test cricket in 2006-07, he scored an average of a Test double century a year.        

When Sri Lanka made a return visit to the Caribbean islands the next season, Lara slammed 209 at Gros Islet. After he regained the captaincy in 2003, and perhaps consumed by a burning desire to finish his career in a blaze of glory, Lara was unstoppable. He played two big knocks in the 2003-04 season. He first slammed 202 against South Africa at Johannesburg. During the course of that innings he hit the highest number of runs in an over in Test cricket. He smashed Robin Peterson for 4.6.6.4.4.4, a total of 28 runs.

Matthew Hayden had taken away Lara’s Test record that season. The Prince of Trinidad, though, was not ready to be dethroned. And so Hayden had the pleasure, and privilege, of being Test cricket’s top-scorer for only a few months.  Lara returned to the same venue and against the very opponents of a decade earlier and reclaimed his coveted record. Again he went to a territory no Test cricketer had treaded before, reaching 400 before he returned unconquered. He had emulated Bradman by hitting up two scores of 300-plus in Test cricket. India’s Virender Sehwag joined the club at Chennai in 2007-08. But while Bradman was never able to reset the Test record, Lara, incredibly, got it back. That there was a gap of a decade between the two high watermarks, makes his achievements even more laudable.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages


Available on Amazon at an attractive price: https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859  

Indra Vikram Singh's other books available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1


 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Aravinda de Silva, superb, compact technique coupled with exhilarating strokeplay. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

 


Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva, on the other hand, was a gifted batsman. During the early stages of his career he would play brilliant cameos before throwing his wicket away through poor shot selection. For this he was called ‘Mad Max’. Gradually he learnt to temper himself and matured into one of the most exciting strokeplayers of modern times. In many ways, one felt, he was a more aggressive version of Gavaskar.

In fact the Indian maestro was initially an attacking player, with a penchant for the hook shot. But after the first flush of his memorable maiden series, when success became harder to come by, Gavaskar developed into an accumulator of runs, rather than a destroyer of bowling. De Silva retained the sparkle, though it has to be said that he was a middle-order batsman who could indulge in strokeplay with greater freedom than Gavaskar whose primary task was to see off the new ball and take away the sting from those menacing pacemen. Gavaskar and de Silva were of similar stature, maybe the latter was even a wee bit shorter, both compact and well balanced and similarly correct in strokeplay.

De Silva would drive in glorious fashion through the covers, or cut off the back foot, and was quick to hook or pull the short ones. When he got into the groove he was liable to pull off a string of big scores. His highest Test score of 267 came against New Zealand in 1990-91, the same match in which Martin Crowe registered his personal best of 299. De Silva scored centuries in each innings of a Test twice, against Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo in 1996-97, when he was unbeaten in both innings, and against India on the same ground the next season.

His most prolific year was 1997 when he amassed 1220 runs at an average of 76.25 with 7 hundreds, the most since Vivian Richards got as many 21 years earlier. In his 93 Tests, de Silva logged up 6361 runs at an average of 42.97 with 20 centuries.

The 1996 World Cup was memorable for de Silva’s superb strokeplay. His 91 against Zimbabwe was followed by 145 versus Kenya, the highest for Sri Lanka in a One-dayer. In the semi-final he hit 66 of the 85 runs scored while he was in, against India. In the final he brought up victory with his unbeaten 107. That was in addition to his stint of three for 42 with the ball. He was man-of-the-match in the semifinal as well as final. If the player-of-the-tournament award had not been decided before the semi-finals, it would surely have gone to de Silva. In the latter half of the nineties, de Silva was doubtlessly one of the three best batsmen in the world, the others being Tendulkar and Lara. There is nothing more to be said.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages


Available on Amazon at an attractive price: https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859  

Indra Vikram Singh's other books available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Steve Waugh, legendary warrior. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

 

Steve Waugh was different; cool of mind and stout of spirit, he was a fighter to the core. He left arguably the biggest impact on the game in Australia since Bradman. His predecessor Allan Border was also a gritty batsman, and became the highest run-getter in Test cricket. But Border would grind the opposition, rather than dominate them, and the one feature that characterised his batting was his propensity to sweep. When the chips were down Border would be an immovable object for the opposition, but there was nothing endearing about him.

That was not the case with Steve Waugh. He was forever proving his critics wrong through sheer strength of character. His twin Mark was far more talented with the bat as well as a fielder, and more elegant by miles. But it was Steve who first broke into the Australian team and stayed in longer. He played a key role in Australia’s first World Cup triumph in 1987 as a bowler sans nerves, and a lower middle-order batsman with an abundance of commonsense. His stock as a batsman continued to rise, and he became a reliable rungetter by the late eighties.

It was under Border’s captaincy, and with the guiding hand of Bobby Simpson, that Australia won the 1987 World Cup, but try as he might he could not turn Australia into the best in the world in either form of the game. That changed when the more genial and composed Mark Taylor took over. Steve Waugh, helped by twin Mark, stood up to the West Indies pacemen in a titanic battle at Kingston in 1994-95, which was crucial for wresting the Test series 2-1, amazingly for the first time against these rivals in nine attempts since the heady days of 1975-76. In that Test Steve Waugh scored 200 and Mark Waugh 126. 

Then Australia were runners-up in the 1996 World Cup, with Mark Waugh in delightful form, but Steve not too far behind with bat and ball. Steve Waugh first took over the One-day captaincy, and then the top job in Tests as well. The start belied what lay ahead as Brian Lara’s genius denied Australia a Test series win in the Caribbean in 1998-99, and then Steve Waugh’s team faltered in the early stages of the 1999 World Cup. But Australia were unstoppable once Waugh’s fighting hundred, aided by a gaffe in the field by Herschelle Gibbs, in their last super-six match, and subsequent tie in the semi-final, also against South Africa, breathed life into the team.          

They went on to lift the 1999 World Cup, and then carve an unprecedented 16 consecutive Test victories. Steve Waugh built one of the greatest teams in history, and his own batting continued to rise to greater heights. He scored an exhilarating century at Sydney in the 2002-03 Ashes series as a scathing riposte to his critics who wanted him out of the side. When he took his final bow a year later, he was given a touching farewell.

By then he was the most capped player ever at 168 Tests, Australia’s second-highest rungetter with 10,927 runs at an average of 51.06, and their top century maker with 32, surpassing Bradman’s tally. Steve Waugh never gave in, or gave up, the quintessential warrior always searching for new frontiers. He was strong on the back foot through the off-side, and played the slog sweep better than most. More admired than loved, he had no shot that would delight the connoisseur, but he was effective. He never learnt to deal with the rising delivery, but coped well enough. If ever there was a player with little natural ability, but achieved super success by dint of hard work, resilience and determination, it would have to be Steve Waugh.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages

Available on Amazon at an attractive price:  

https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859  

Indra Vikram Singh's other books available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The legendary Sunil Gavaskar’s Test debut on this day 50 years ago. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

 

Gavaskar’s arrival was indicative of the fact that Indian cricket had come of age. The spin quartet of Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bishen Singh Bedi were at the height of their powers. Gavaskar showed that fast bowling could not only be tackled but also scored off, in a prolific if not dominant fashion. Before him, Indian batsmen, with some notable exceptions, had the dubious reputation of stepping away to leg when confronted with genuine pace, and floundering against swing. Gavaskar changed it all.

There was a new captain at the helm, Ajit Wadekar, on that path-breaking tour of the Caribbean in 1971, ending at least for the time being the Pataudi era which had also begun in the West Indies nine years earlier. The signs were ominous as India won the second Test at Port of Spain by 7 wickets. It was India’s first victory over the West Indies in six series, home and away, and helped clinch the rubber, with the other four Tests drawn. Gavaskar scored 65 and 67 not out on debut, and gave solid starts in both innings along with Bombay (now Mumbai) colleague Ashok Mankad.

Two other Bombay stars made it a habit of pulling India out of troubled waters. In the first Test at Kingston, with India tottering at 75 for five, Dilip Sardesai (212) and Eknath Solkar (61) put on 137 runs to help raise a respectable total of 387. With no play on the first day, the follow-on could be enforced in the four-day Test with a lead of 150 runs, and Wadekar in his maiden Test as captain inflicted this ignominy on the hosts. The ageing Rohan Kanhai and skipper Garfield Sobers brought back memories of their halcyon days in a match-saving fourth-wicket partnership of 173 runs. Kanhai scored 56 and 158 not out, and Sobers 44 and 93. It seemed that the experienced middle-order would have to see the West Indies through, for the bowling was depleted, with Sobers having to bowl long stints. 

It was not to be. Sobers and Kanhai did not fire in the second Test, and Clive Lloyd was a disappointment through the series. India won the Test with ease, heralding one of the happiest phases in their history, and marking the beginning of the end of Sobers’ days as leader. The brilliant side that he had inherited from Worrell, and which flowered under him in the mid-sixties, had all but disintegrated.

In that triumph at Port of Spain, after Gavaskar’s promising debut, once again Sardesai (112) and Solkar (55) added 114 for the fifth wicket to give India a handsome first innings lead. Then as Wadekar, in a master-stroke, brought on the tall left-arm spinner Salim Durrani who castled Lloyd (15) and Sobers (0), India were on the road to victory. Gavaskar ultimately brought up the win in the company of Abid Ali. 

That was the point when Indian cricket earned its self-respect, and emerged from the shadows onto the world stage. The man to show the way was the little opener. Rarely has one man done so much to change the fortunes of a nation’s sport.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages

Available on Amazon at an attractive price: 

https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859  

Indra Vikram Singh's other books available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Martin Crowe…..classy strokeplayer, one of New Zealand’s best. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century

Perhaps the best batsman New Zealand produced is Martin Crowe. A classical strokeplayer, Crowe offered a straight bat and a still head, and his exquisite timing enabled him to caress the ball to the boundary. He was fluent and very easy on the eye. 

One rates him so high not just because he became the highest rungetter with the best average, and notched the most centuries and top score, for his country in the 77 Tests that he played. He logged up 5444 runs at an average of 45.36 with 17 hundreds and a highest score of 299 against Sri Lanka at Wellington in 1990-91. These are fine figures, particularly for a batsman from New Zealand where the ball darts around. But Crowe’s batting transcended these numbers.

Stephen Fleming scored many more runs later, though at a significantly lower average, but he was nowhere as elegant or dominant as Crowe, nor so reliable. Fleming did not have a left-hander’s inherent grace, and his shot-selection invariably left a lot to be desired as he often lost his wicket after playing far too many cameos. Crowe had a touch of class and rarely gave the impression of being troubled by the bowling.

In One-day Internationals he scored 4704 runs at an average of 38.55, and his finest hour in this form came in the 1992 World Cup at home when he was captain. He inspired his team to seven consecutive wins before losing in the last round-robin match, and then the semi-final as well, to Pakistan each time. 

With the bat he was in brilliant touch, beginning with a superb 100 not out as New Zealand upset holders Australia, and then played more unbeaten innings of 74, 81 and 73, before being run out for 91 in the semi-final. Crowe hit 456 runs at an average of 114, to win the player-of-the-tournament award. Knee injury curtailed his career, but Martin Crowe shall remain one of the most classy strokeplayers the game has seen.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century


Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages

Available on Amazon at an attractive price: 

https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859  

Indra Vikram Singh's other books available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Two classic books by Indra Vikram Singh available on Amazon at attractive prices

 



A Maharaja's Turf

Collector’s edition on the triumph of Maharaja Shri Vijaysinhji

of Rajpipla in the Epsom Derby of England in 1934

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6

Fully Illustrated

Hardcover with jacket 8.75 x 11.5 x 0.6 inches (landscape)

Weight 500 grams

140 Pages

Available at an attractive price on Amazon  https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166832

This is the story of the exhilarating victory of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla in the Epsom Derby of England in 1934, the only Indian owner to win the blue riband of the turf in its history dating back to 1780. The dapper Indian prince’s horse Windsor Lad, ridden by Charlie Smirke, left the hitherto undefeated favourite Colombo trailing in third place in the presence of royalty led by King George V and Queen Mary, and a multitude of an estimated quarter to half a million people on that damp afternoon of 6th June. The triumph earned the Maharaja a unique hat-trick of Derby victories as he had already clinched the first Indian Derby at Calcutta in 1919 with his horse Tipster, and the Irish Derby at Curragh in 1926 with Embargo.

Trained by Marcus Marsh, Windsor Lad went on to be rated as one of the finest horses of the 20th century. Marcus Marsh’s father, Richard, had trained Derby-winning horses for the then reigning King George V and the late King Edward VII.  

The enthralling tale recounted by the Maharaja’s grandson Indra Vikram Singh offers an insider's insight, and is embellished with rare media photographs of the race and from the Rajpipla royal family collection over many generations. It has been extensively researched from about 80 newspapers and magazines of 1934, five books and websites, and carries articles by the Maharaja himself. There are news reports, cartoons and caricatures which open out a whole new world. Featured are the British royal family, the Aga Khan, Maharaja Man Singh II of Jaipur and the leading racehorses, owners, trainers and jockeys of the day, among other eminent personalities.

The book captures the era between the two World Wars, of imperial times and a royal lifestyle, also going back centuries into history, connecting the past and the present and depicting the march of time, even as the thrilling race remains the central theme. It unfolds the tale of the uncanny prophesy of Gipsy Lee, the several coincidences around the number 13, the defeat of a 'super-horse', and the unrelenting quest of a prince to realise his dream that is bound to keep the reader transfixed.

Don’s Century 

Biography of Don Bradman

and a panaroma of batting from the 1860s to the present times

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages  

Available at an attractive price on Amazon  https://www.amazon.in/dp/8190166859 


The questions still asked are: how great was Don Bradman actually, was he just a run-getting machine and a statistical marvel, or was he truly the best there has ever been, have there been other batsmen as good or better than Bradman. Don’s Century analyses Bradman’s batting technique, brings forth his amazing achievements at the crease, and assesses the merits of other great batsmen from the 1860s to the present times. Written in the centenary year of the peerless Don Bradman, the book is a celebration of the life and magic of the willow of The Don, and also of the art of batting and indeed the game of cricket. 

The 11-chapter book by Indra Vikram Singh, the only Indian biographer of Bradman, interspersed with stories and comments from legendary writers and cricketers alike, and extensively researched from scores of old publications, has three sections.

The main segment showcases Bradman's days at the crease from Bowral to Sydney, on to Lord's and Leeds, back to Adelaide, and finishing at The Oval in 1948. The legend begins with young Don’s rise to the top, his first fifty and hundred in the backwaters of Bowral, the maiden double century against Wingello and triple ton versus Moss Vale, hundred on first-class debut and on to Test cricket. Bradman’s legendary feats in the Test arena are recalled in all their magnificence, the hundreds in his first Test series, the unprecedented and still-unparalleled triumphs of the Ashes tour of 1930, and annihilation of the West Indies and South African teams.

The saga undergoes a dramatic twist with the vicious Bodyline attack that was devised solely to decimate the genius of Bradman. This chapter carries extracts from letters received by the author from England’s Bob Wyatt who was vice captain to Douglas Jardine during that infamous series.

The aftermath of Bodyline, Bradman’s exhilarating fightbacks on and off the field, how his stirring deeds brought solace to the suffering millions during the Great Depression, and his resilience as captain of Australia are presented lucidly, leading to the sabbatical brought about by the Second World War. The final lap of The Don’s career after the war, the firm hold on the Ashes, his exploits against the first Indian team after the nation’s independence, and finally the 1948 tour of England by his ‘Invincibles’ are described vividly and objectively. The text is supplemented by twenty scorecards detailing Bradman’s finest achievements in the first-class and Test arenas.

A large chapter in the middle is a panorama of batting portraying thirty-four of the best players down the ages, for no story of Sir Donald Bradman can be complete without an appraisal of other giants of the crease.

Commencing with the colossus of the Victorian era Dr. W.G. Grace, the captivating genius Prince Ranjitsinhji, the endearing and enthralling Victor Trumper from Australia, the complete master Sir Jack Hobbs, continuing with the likes of Frank Woolley, Charles 'Governor General' Macartney, Bill Ponsford, Walter Hammond, Stan McCabe, the forbear to West Indies giants George Headley, the brilliant South Africans Bruce Mitchell and Dudley Nourse, India’s Vijay Merchant, Sir Leonard Hutton, Dennis Compton, Neil Harvey, Arthur Morris, the inimitable Ws Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott, the original little master Pakistan’s Hanif Mohammad, the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers, Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Greg Chappell, Sunil Gavaskar, Sir Vivian Richards, arguably New Zealand’s finest Martin Crowe, Steve Waugh, the exhilarating Sri Lankan Aravinda de Silva, and concluding with the champions of the modern era Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden, and many more referred to down history, how good they were, and how they compared with each other and Bradman.

They include some of Bradman's favourite players. This is not just a factual or statistical segment, but importantly talks about the epochs and conditions they played in, and also has interesting little tales. It traces the evolution and development of the game from W.G. Grace’s days in the 1860s till the present day.

The third and concluding part explores the vicissitudes of Bradman’s life, trials and tribulations, his persona, way of life and quest for excellence, the detractors, friends and family, post-retirement days and role as cricket administrator, and the final stretch of one of the most amazing stories ever, of a sporting hero and icon beyond compare. A handwritten letter from The Don received by the author Indra Vikram Singh in 1999, and an article based on it that he wrote at Bradman’s demise in 2001, are all featured in this tribute to the unquestioned king of kings of the crease.

There are nearly 100 classic photographs of Bradman and other greats in sepia brown from the top agencies of the world. A comprehensive statistics section highlighting Bradman’s accomplishments and records sums up the inspirational tale. A detailed index makes the book extremely user-friendly.

Indra Vikram Singh's books available on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.in/s?k=Indra+Vikram+Singh&i=stripbooks&rh=p_6%3AA3HSV0N9AV7NOK&dc&qid=1602408830&rnid=1318474031&ref=sr_nr_p_6_1

Monday, December 7, 2020

Vivian Richards…..monarch of all he surveyed. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

 


A batsman who many modern observers rate second to Bradman is Viv Richards. Sir Vivian was indeed king, monarch of all he surveyed in the sheer dominance of his strokeplay. He was mesmerised by Chandrasekhar on debut at Bangalore in 1974-75, and overshadowed by another first-timer Gordon Greenidge who nearly got a hundred in each innings. Richards set the record right in the very next Test.

I was fortunate to see that knock of his at the Ferozshah Kotla. At that time we knew nothing about the awesome strokeplay that he was capable of, but his power was certainly in evidence. One shot that has remained in my memory was the one he played while batting at the pavilion end. He hit one of the spinners straight and high, up above the big advertisement hoarding perched atop the stands, landing probably in the centre of the adjoining Ambedkar Football Stadium. I have never seen a cricket ball sailing that high ever again. Brijesh Patel, fielding at extra-cover, rolled his fingers around his eyes as though spotting the little spheroid with a pair of binoculars. It was a hit nobody ever forgets.

The other thing that I noticed was his dead-bat defence. Time and again during that long innings he would drop deliveries from the spinners Venkataraghavan, Prasanna and Bedi right under his eyes. He would then either bend down and pick up the ball, or tap it with his bat, passing it to the forward short-leg fielder Solkar. Whenever I hear people talk about Richards’ tremendous strokeplay, and how they felt he was vulnerable early in his innings because he whipped balls from outside his off-stump to the on-side, I always think back to that impregnable defence. Of course he was a blaster, but he was also a master for, like all the great players, he had a very good defence. People, particularly English ‘experts’, mocked at Bradman as well early in his career. Look what he did to them.

It was indeed a delight to see Richards bring up his first Test century and go on the rampage towards the latter stages, returning unconquered with 192. It was the beginning of the Richards saga. He was soon to become the best West Indies batsman and rule the world of cricket until he called it a day 16 years later. 

When the just-appointed England captain Tony Greig made a stupid statement before the 1976 series that he would make the West Indies “grovel”, Richards took it as a personal affront. He hammered the English bowling like no one else had done since Bradman in 1930. He slammed 232 at Trent Bridge, 135 at Old Trafford and 291, his highest Test score, at the Oval, aggregating 829 runs at an average of 118.42 in four Tests. Later Australia’s Mark Taylor got 10 more runs in England in 1989. Nobody has scored so many for the West Indies in a Test series. That year he hit up 1710 runs (in just the first eight months) at an average of 90 in 11 Tests with 7 hundreds. No one had scored as many runs in a year. The opposition: the great pace bowlers of Australia, Lillee and Thomson at their height, among others; the celebrated Indian spinners; and the pace and swing in England. The king had been crowned. It took another batsman, Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan, three decades to score more runs in a calendar year, 1788 with 9 hundreds, also in 11 Tests. 

A decade later in 1985-86, Richards blasted the fastest recorded hundred in terms of balls. He brought up his century in 56 deliveries before delighted home fans at St. John’s, Antigua, against England. 

Richards was the first batsman to dominate in Tests as well as One-day Internationals. If his electrifying fielding turned the World Cup final versus Australia in 1975, four years later his tremendous 139-run fifth-wicket stand with Collis King turned the second World Cup final. Richards scored 138 to raise a match-winning total. In 1984, also against England, he smashed the then highest-ever One-day International score of 189 not out. Michael Holding was a virtual bystander in an unbroken last-wicket partnership of 106. In 1987 he surpassed Kapil Dev’s World Cup record innings by crashing 181 off the Sri Lankan bowling at Karachi.

He took over the captaincy of the West Indies after Clive Lloyd retired in 1985 and under him the West Indies continued to rule world cricket in both its forms. They, however, could not reclaim the World Cup after the shocking defeat at the hands of India in 1983. 

When he called it a day, Richards had surpassed Sobers’ highest Test aggregate for the West Indies, finishing with 8540 runs at an average of 50.23 with 24 hundreds. A brilliant fielder anywhere, he also overtook Sobers in terms of catches, clutching 122 of his own. Add to this 6721 runs in One-day Internationals with an outstanding average of 47, and a strike rate of 90.20, the first to aggregate 1000 runs in the World Cup, and we have inarguably the best batsman in both forms of the game put together until Sachin Tendulkar took over the mantle.           

Statistics, though, scarcely tell the tale of one of the most self-assured cricketers ever. Helmets came into the game early in Richards’ career but he shunned them even when confronted with the fastest of bowlers. He would walk out to the crease proudly wearing his maroon West Indies cap, head tilted at a jaunty angle, chewing gum, as if strolling in a park looking at the birds on the trees. He could have been a character straight out of wild-west movies, aware of the danger but playing it cool, mind ever alert for a swift draw of his pistol. And, man, did he shoot them down, his powerful frame steering that heavy bat with great speed.

His haughty stance itself would put the jitters in the hearts of all but the most strong-hearted of bowlers. And then he would stun them by firing a bullet from outside the off-stump, screaming to the mid-wicket boundary before the startled fielders could even react. Yes, it was like a shot from a gun, not a stroke off a bat.

Richards made stroke-making look so natural, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. He would spot the ball early and then either take a big stride forward or rock back, or even step away to leg and whack the ball away. His stunning drives and pulls would leave the bowlers looking on in despair. Richards made a virtue of backing away to leg and hitting inside-out through the line. The desperation of the bowlers and fielding captains can then be imagined. To a ball pitched on or outside the off-stump, Richards could cream it across the line to the on-side; and to the delivery on or outside the leg-stump, he might loft it through the line on the off-side. If he chose to, he would just as well slam it in orthodox fashion. That is why captains were confused as to the field to employ, and the bowlers confounded regarding the line to bowl. That is also the reason why he scored so rapidly. 

They said he was vulnerable early because he was not copybook. That is only an illusion thrown up by mere theorists. Which batsman is not vulnerable early in his innings? If he were that vulnerable, he would have been sorted out early in his career by the world’s best bowlers. Instead he sorted out the greatest bowlers through his long career. Vivian Richards was an original, just as Bradman was. That is why armchair critics picked holes in their techniques as if there were a law as to how one should bat. They would do well to remember that Bradman and Richards were a law unto themselves. Just look at the scorecards, and the outstanding results their teams achieved.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century



Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated

Paperback French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

Weight 480 grams

188 pages

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