a first eleven: cricket

This intermittent 'first eleven' series is, of course, a tribute to the greatest show on earth (in what will be the greatest sport in heaven) ... the World Cup Cricket tournament in the Caribbean.

I could never ever try to rank my 11 most favourite cricket memories but...

What about cycling across Delhi to the Feroshah Kotla cricket ground one foggy morning in 1975 to watch Viv Richards hit his first test century (192*), spiced with five sixes before lunch off Bishen Singh Bedi?

What about, as a relatively fresh lecturer at the Bible College of New Zealand, returning very late to a staff meeting because I just had to watch Martin Crowe - that batting textbook incarnate - get a triple century ... only to have him tickle it to the wicketkeeper on 299? Surely God could not be that petty in singling me out for judgement :)!

What about a statistic to cherish? I love cricket statistics. Of all the bowlers from every country who have ever played test cricket since WW2 and of all the bowlers who have ever played One Day Internationals (and bowled at least 2800 balls in tests and ODIs), Shane Bond has the best strike rate of any of them - in both forms of the game. In other words he gets people out more often than any other bowler in history.

What about popping down to Eden Park for the post-tea session (paying just $5.oo for me + three kids to enter) and being entertained by watching Jacob Oram and Chris Cairns pelt ten? sixes in 90min off those poor South Africans?

What about listening, as a lad in the Himalayas, to the dulcet tones of John Arlott commentating on that first World Cup final in 1975, in the company of my cricket buddie on the staff (who doubled as my piano teacher - his name was F Sharp!) as Clive Lloyd thrashed 102 and Viv Richards ran out multiple Aussies with direct hits? Funny how my piano career never really took off... but then I never shared his admiration for Geoffrey Boycott either.

What about sitting in the 'V" in the stadium behind the bowler's arm at Eden Park with my father-in-law and my 6yr old son for the opening game of the World Cup in 1992 and watching the Aussie 'required run rate' on the scoreboard gradually rise out-of-control , handing a shock victory to a NZ team dressed in beige?

What about driving up from Invercargill to Carisbrook in Dunedin to watch the aforementioned (twice!) Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards be the only person in history to hit a hundred and take five wickets in a one day international game - and watch it in the company of 82 year old Henry Gardiner and my 3 year old son? We were quite a threesome that day...

What about those Air Points gained from a family reunion trip to the USA in 1994 ... 'Now let me see, where shall we go?' ... 'ah yes, the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground' ... with the pilgrimage now completed, need I say more? Oh yes, there will be more! I have yet to watch a game at Lord's.

What about being stuck in a motel room in Queenstown with guests from the USA who have no (cricketing) soul and trying so hard to be sociable while Richard Hadlee was taking 9/52 against the Aussies on the TV in the next room?

What about watching the NZ team chase down 330+ against Australia at Eden Park just the other day - in the most electric sporting atmosphere I have ever encountered? An Aussie steps on the boundary while taking a catch. Was it a six? It went upstairs to the third umpire. Lots of deliberations and replays unseen by the crowd. Every eye fixed on the umpire waiting for his signal. Up went the arms signaling six and the crowd turned Vesuvian and StHelensian and Ruapehian ... and my daughter and I were part of the lahar that covered the ground that day.

What about (ah yes, I have managed to leave the best until last!) taking all my children back to India (25 years later), standing on a verandah in the quad of my old school, chatting with my coach Brij Lal and having him say - in the hearing of each one of my children - that my bowling was 'unplayable'? Ahh - the joy that flooded my soul. Clearly that 6-14 on a green mat laid down on the gravel at St Georges' was fixed in his memory!

if for some strange reason you got this far in the post ... let me tell you it's been real nice chatting



Paul Windsor said…
I have left one error (maybe more than one - unintentionally!) in these memories ... just as a means of challenging other cricket fans to enter into the joy of correction.
Nigel said…
What do you mean "if by some strange reason you got this far in the post"? This has been your piece de resistance.
Shane Bond truly is he on whom our hopes rest at the cup.
I too was at Eden park the day Cairns, Styris and Fleming went nuts against the Saffa's, beautiful day.
The boxing day test is something that I am unsure I will ever convince Cathie to embrace.
I think watching cricket in India with the passion that is there would be an amazing experience. If I ever go there on a short term mission trip, I think I would have to do some cultural reconnaissance at Eden Gardens.
Andrew said…
Ah this warms the cockles of my heart! It will return to it often to warm my hands by its fire. I too was at Eden Park in 1992 when we beat the Aussies (instead of being there withmy childrenm I was there with my parents). I remember cheering every time the run rate went up. I also remember Dean Jones spilling that catch right in front of us. As for when Styris, Oram and Cairns went nuts against SA, I was on a Carey College marriage retreat! What sort of College makes this sort of organisational blunder? Needless to say, after begging to watch it, Margaret and I came away with our marriage truly refreshed.
ana said…
Man, those are pretty epic. Does that mean you will be staying up past your bedtime to see Sri Lanka play India next Friday??
Paul Windsor said…
Maybe I can add a 12th Man ... another statistic! Did you know that of all the people who have taken over 100 catches in test cricket (excluding wicketkeepers), no one has taken them at a greater rate (catches/test) than Stephen Fleming? And that is without bouncy tracks and endless fast bowlers getting little snicks...

Actually - I lie and that is why this remarkable statistic did not make the starting eleven. That Bobby Simpson of Australia is way ahead of everyone...

As for the other little error in my first eleven? The NZ team did not wear beige at the 1992 World Cup.
Tim & Lizzy said…
Great post Paul. We don't have Sky (or a TV at all come to that), and that decision will be severely tested with the world cup on. Ireland for the cup maybe?!?! I thought 92 was too late (or early for present day 20/20!) for beige. Shame!
I too would love to go to the Boxing Day test - preferably Aus vs India. Would be just superb. One day, one day. It'd be just too hard to choose 11 finest cricket moments - i admire you even trying.
I recently bought an old SU book from the 80s - 'Cricket and Christianity'; it's a hoot all about what cricket can teach us on how to live Christianly.
So - one thing you omitted; who win will the 2007 World Cup?
Jyoti said…
Your first eleven and mine have at least one common element: I was there that day at the Kotla at the invitation of your dad. My very first test match.

I was told to watch out for a certain Clive Lloyd who was going to take our attack apart. He was expected one drop. Roy Fredericks smashed Abid Ali (Cricinfo would probably have labelled him sms - for slow medium slow) for six and then promptly gave up his wicket. Cue Lloyd's entry.

Except that it was not Lloyd. It was this young kid who had got 0 and 1 in the previous test in Bangalore. No one expected him to delay proceedings much. Well, things were not delayed. Much. Not at the pace young Viv batted at. The rest was pretty much as you described it.

Of course Lloyd showed up when Kalli got out, and promptly demonstrated that catlike magic in shifting through the gears to a well-struck 71. Viv and Clive - a dream start to my test career, but presumably an enduring nightmare for bowlers the world over from that day.

My best cricket memory that never was happened in 1983. I was up in Uttar Kashi headed up towards Dodital. It was our last night with access to a radio for about ten days. Amazingly, India was in the semi-final of the World Cup. That seemed a good enough result to me - after all, we were 17/5 against Zim and about to depart the tournament but for a captain's knock of 175 by Kapil. Except that we seemed to be smashing the English bowling all over their own park. Late, late at night, the enthralling result was that India was in the final against the might of a power-packed Windies.

Walking up to Dodital the next day was so cool - I knew we would be smashed but in a sense we had already won just by being there. The I forgot all about the cricket! I had no choice because fo the lovely hikes at 10,000 feet, the fabulous light shows, the fantastic trout fishing, etc etc.

As a result, my greatest cricket memory that never was happened while I was up a Himalayan mountain top: India won.

Joel, Shammah and I are going to see the Windies/Eng Twenty20 game and the India test at the Oval this summer. More memories? I certainly hope so.
Paul Windsor said…
ah Jyoti - my ol' cricketing buddy from Delhi days. I wondered if this post would see you emerge into cyberspace with memories!! But where are those great clashes between you and I on the maidans of Nizamuddin and Jangpura? I wanted to include them alongside Viv Richards and Martin Crowe - but I didn't think anyone would appreciate their epic qualities?!

Speaking of 'epic' - and acknowedging Ana's well chosen words, I am in Melbourne flying home tonight (as I am in Australia I have seen none of the NZ games on TV - UGH! - but I'll catch up, don't you worry!) just in time to watch Sri Lanka play India. How are we feeling, Jyoti? A little tense? A little nervous? Some sweaty palms?

We never did make it to the World Cup together this time, did we?! Surely we can manage it in 2011?! Let's not wait until we have to care for grandchildren...

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