Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The ComBat(s), and 500-1 - Lillee means Business!

Dennis Keith Lillee, the Western Australian speedster was regarded as one of the most fiery fast-bowlers of all time, and arguably the greatest of his generation. He was very well known for his never-say-die attitude in the game. These incidents in the game's history either give us a glimpse into the bad-boy image of Lillee or portay his superb business acumen. Take it either way! :)

The ComBat:
Guys, Don't be tricked into believing that you're reading a cover story on one of the stupidest dogfights in the history of the game. That's not meant for now. Do wait for somemore time. :)

Graham Monoghan was a former club cricketer, a friend and business-partner of Lillee. Taking a cue from the usage of metal supplanting the usage of wood in the making of cheaper baseball bats, he came up with a process which produced a inexpensive cricket bat, which was made of Aluminium. This was actually intended as a cheap replacement for traditional cricket bats in schools and developing countries.

It was the second day of the opening test between England and Australia on the 15th of December, 1979 at the WACA, Perth. The series was a truncated one with only 3 test matches. At the end of the first day, Australia were in some trouble at 232 for 8, with Lillee unbeaten on 11. Out walked Lillee, with the aluminium bat, its trade name being ComBat. This was done by Lillee to use it as a marketing stunt actually, as there were no rules against the use of such a bat then. Lillee had already used the aluminium bat in a test 12 days earlier against the Caribbeans at the Gabba. On that occasion, he was neither objected by the visitors nor did he make any significant impact, as he hit the ball just once though with an emphatic sound, before being dismissed lbw by Joel Garner for nought. In the match at the WACA, the english skipper Mike Brearley did not take it as amusing as the Windies took it.

The trouble came on the fourth ball of the second day, when Lillee hit Botham down the ground for three runs. Greg Chappell, the then Aussie skipper, felt that the ball should have gone to the fence had Lillee used a conventional bat and blaming the metal bat, he sent out the 12th man into the ground with two conventional bats for Lillee. Brearley was complaining by then to the umpires, that the bat was damaging the ball. Lillee refused to budge and packed off the 12th man Rodney Hogg. Realizing that the match had to go on, Chappell took upon the task himself and forced Lillee to bat with a normal bat. Lillee finally hurled away his metal bat and the match resumed.

An Unnoticed offense of Match-fixing:
It was Australia vs England in the third test at Headingley, played between the 16-21 of July, 1981. Australia was in such a strong position to win the match, that some bookmakers in the ground were offering odds of 500-1 for an England victory.

This was flashed on the scoreboard during a break in the game, and when the Aussie players Lillee and Marsh saw this, they felt that was absurd and decided to try out their luck at betting. True to their luck(!), Botham came out and smashed an amazing 149 to set up the match nicely. But still, in the Aussie second innings, with a paltry target of 130 to be achieved, and at the score of 56/1, the expectations everywhere would have been that of the Aussies romping home and taking a lead of 2-0. But that was not what to be. In one of the most dramatic collapses of test cricket history, more so when viewed as the aftermaths of the bookies episode, they lost their last nine wickets for a meagre 55 runs and it was an unlikely English victory by a margin of 18 runs, with Bob Willis finishing with an incredible figures of 8/43. As a result, Marsh and Lillee collected 7500 pounds from the bookies.

Lillee was quoted as saying later, "I would have naturally swapped the money for a win, but Being a small-time punter, I had been unable to resist the juicy 500-1. It was as simple as that."

It was an openly discussed issue but the two men received no official censure. There has never been even a suggestion that the bets affected their performance in the game.

The Real COMBAT - The Infamous Kick:

Now finally, we come to discuss about the ugly dogfight involving Lillee and Miandad. :) It was the 1st game of the 3-match series between Australia and Pakistan in Nov-Dec 1981. Australia held the upperhand throughout the game after they dismissed the Pakistanis for a paltry 62 in their first innings on a bouncy WACA strip. Pakistan were set a monumental target of 543 to win the match in the fourth innings.

Among the greatest players of their generation, Miandad and Lillee could very well have been two peas from the same pod. Instead, they became the bitterest of enemies. When Miandad was batting, he turned Lillee behind square and set off for a single. He collided with the bowler, but witnesses observed that Lillee had deliberately moved into the batsman's path. The blame lay with Lillee, in the eyes of the media and everyone else. As Lillee turned to go back to his mark he maintained that Miandad struck him from behind with his bat; Miandad countered with the claim that Lillee had kicked him as he passed. Lillee then turned to confront Miandad, and Miandad lifted his bat above his head as if to strike him. Wisden described this ugly fracas as "one of the most undignified incidents in Test history".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The notorious disciplinarian in the game!!

Everyone, who is an ardent follower of cricket, would certainly feel that the Aussies are the worst in terms of their behaviour and on-field discipline. So, by seeing the title of the post, they would certainly expect to see an article on an Oz player. But, that's not to be.

This post is dedicated to Sunil Gavaskar, who is certainly hailed to be one of the best batsmen in the history of world cricket, if not the best. Even Sachin Tendulkar, according to the old purists, doesn't deserve a better position in the numbers game ahead of Sunny as the greatest batsman from the subcontinent. Cricket is generally termed as gentleman's game and many people say that the Australians are the sole reason for the game's image being tarnished with regard to this comment. But, this argument takes a certain beating when we analyse the career and life of the great Sunny Gavaskar, who hailed from India, considered to be one of the countries where the game is played in the perfectly right spirit. Now, Let's take a plunge into the infamous heroics of the legend.

It was the first ever cricket world cup in the year 1975, the Prudential World Cup held in England. And what a spoiler of a game it was to open the tournament. It was England vs India on the 7th of June, 1975, at the Mecca of Cricket, Lord's Cricket Stadium. It was a fantastic innings of One-day cricket displayed by the English, scoring a mammoth 334 for the loss of 4 wickets in their allotted 60 overs. But, alas! Their Indian counterparts, Gavaskar in particular, made a huge mess of the new concept of ODIs. Chasing the huge target, India gave such a disappointing exhibition of batting that even their own large contingent of supporters were totally frustrated with it. The culprit was Gavaskar himself obviously, who played a snail-paced innings of an unbeaten 36 while carrying the bat throughout the 60 overs, with he himself playing 174 deliveries. India crawled to 132/3 at the end of 60 overs, playing with absolutely no intent. Anyone who had the class of Gavaskar, would not play with such stupidity unless he himself wished to deliberately do so. It was alleged that he did this deliberately to show his resentment against the appointment of Venkatraghavan as the captain.

At the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the 1980-81 Tour Down Under, when skipper Gavaskar was given out by the Australian umpire Rex Whitehead, he ordered his fellow batsman Chetan Chauhan off the field, refusing to continue with the match. Is this a show of sportsmanship against the very people whom you term, are of unsporty nature?

In the third test against England at the Eden Gardens, India adopted such a defensive tactic under Gavaskar, that even a highly mediocre English bowling attack was made to look deadly. The hostile crowd watched patiently as India batted painfully slow to reach 437/7 at the end of 203 overs, playing for over two days. As expected, the match was drawn, but the crowd trouble went out of hand. The local police prompted the Indian team to address the public. When the team entered, Gavaskar was pelted with fruit for making the game so dumb and boring. Though what the crowd did was unwise, he should have accepted responsibility for the stupid way in which the team played the game. Instead, He created a scene and vowed at that time that he would never ever play at the Eden Gardens again after that. And keeping his word, he missed the next fixture at the venue two years later, ending his consecutive streak of 106 test appearances, which was a world record at that point of time.

Thus, our own legend, the great Sunny Gavaskar has been the point of discussion of many an issue on the disciplinary front. But, we can frequently see in the media these days, his accusations and the pointing out of the basic discipline which the Australian cricketers must have. It is also not to be forgotten that he played a double role with the ICC, almost during his entire tenure as an ICC official.