Monday, April 25, 2011

Life in the stratosphere

Life in the stratosphere

Players who were head and shoulders above their team-mates
Steven Lynch
April 25, 2011
Talest Players in cricket
Sulieman Benn: shockingly,
 not a fast bowler © Getty Images
Mohammad Irfan
Irfan, whose height has been cited as being anywhere between 6ft 10ins and 7ft 4 ins, was propelled towards the Pakistan team largely by support from the pakpassion fans' website. Irfan reinforced the side in England late last summer in time for the limited-overs matches, and it has to be said that he didn't quite live up to his advance publicity - he was slower than expected with the ball, and ponderous in the field. Shahid Afridi was rude about his fielding, and Irfan hasn't been seen since. But even though seven feet seemed a slight exaggeration, he was certainly tall - 6ft 10.5ins seemed to be the consensus, which would still make him the tallest international cricketer of them all.
Joel Garner
The "Big Bird" from Barbados was just about the perfect fast bowler - tall (6ft 8.5ins), and pacy, with a wicked yorker that speared in at the batsman's feet from a steepling 10 feet or so. Often his hand would be above the sightscreen too, just to make it even more difficult for the hard-pressed batsman. Garner polished England off in the 1979 World Cup final, and finished with 146 ODI wickets at a tremendous average (18.84) and an even more tremendous economy rate (3.09 runs per over). In Tests his 259 wickets cost less than 21 apiece.
Curtly Ambrose
Just as batsmen were giving a sigh of relief that Joel Garner was fading away, along came Ambrose - about half an inch shorter than Garner, but about twice as feisty. Ambrose, from Antigua, also had a neat line in yorkers, and proved next to impossible to slog: he finished with 630 international wickets, 405 of them in Tests. It wasn't a great idea to upset him, either, as Dean Jones discovered when he cheekily asked Ambrose to remove his trademark wristbands during the first final of the World Series Cup in Australia in Sydney in 1992-93. Wisden summed up: "Ambrose dismissed both Australian openers in a fiery opening seven overs that became even hotter after Jones demanded that he remove his white wristbands. Australia were still in with a slight chance until Ambrose returned to take the last three wickets." Ambrose took 5 for 32 that day, and recalled: "There's an old saying that you should never wake a sleeping lion, and in truth I was annoyed at the request. It was just a one-off situation and it really did fire me up, which was a warning to batsmen all over the world. I blew them away."
Tony Greig
Brash and self-confident, the 6ft 7.5ins allrounder Greig played 58 consecutive Tests for England between 1972 and 1977, when his run was ended after he became one of the prime movers in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Greig was a fine batsman, capable of stylish centuries studded with big hits - if occasionally vulnerable to the toe-crushing yorkers that Jeff Thomson specialised in - and a combative bowler, usually at a brisk, elbow-jutting medium pace... although he occasionally throttled back and bowled offspin, once taking 13 wickets in a Test in the West Indies by this method. Since retirement he's been an equally forthright TV commentator.
Sulieman Benn
If you spotted the 6ft 7ins Barbadian Benn in the opposition ranks for a club game, you'd probably scoot off and dust down the batting helmet, but he's not a fast bowler, although he often exhibits the temperament of one. Rather, Benn is a crafty slow left-armer, who has adapted well to the demands of 50- and 20-over cricket, in which he frequently opens the bowling. He also uses his telescopic reach well when fielding in the gully.
Lisle Nagel
Nagel used his 6ft 6ins height to great effect for Victoria against Douglas Jardine's MCC tourists in 1932-33, taking 8 for 32 and forcing his way into the Australian side for the first Test of the Bodyline series. But although he could swing the ball well he was not particularly fast, and was dropped after taking 2 for 110 in a heavy defeat. He never played for Australia again (although he was picked for the final Bodyline Test but was unable to get time off work), but remained a formidable bowler in grade cricket for the Melbourne club, for whom he often opened the bowling with his equally tall twin brother Vernon.
Maurice Allom
The lofty Surrey fast bowler Allom made a sensational start in Test cricket, taking four wickets in five balls on his debut, against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1929-30. The whimsical Allom, who is also the answer to a regular quiz question about the Test bowler who played the saxophone in a jazz band, co-wrote an entertaining account of that tour, writing as "Big Maurice" alongside "Little Maurice" Turnbull. Allom was around 6ft 6ins tall, while his son Anthony, who played a few games for Surrey, was even taller at 6ft 10ins.
Bruce Reid
The 6ft 8ins left-armer Reid had several good days in Test cricket, none better than in 1990-91 when he finished up with 13 wickets in the match as England were thumped in Melbourne. But Reid, from Western Australia, was almost painfully thin - his name was almost permanently accompanied by the description "beanpole" - and persistent injuries restricted him to 27 Tests (in which he took 113 wickets at 24), and cost him several tours and two planned stints in county cricket.
George Bonnor
Among the tallest of early Test cricketers, Bonnor, from New South Wales, was an imposing sight at the crease: 6ft 6ins tall, with a penchant for smacking the ball over the boundary. Legend has it that he once hit the ball so high that he was completing his third run when he was caught, and his solitary Test century - which set up an Australian victory over England in Sydney in 1884-85 - came in better than even time.Wisden reported: "Bonnor started in very indifferent form, but afterwards hit with the utmost brilliancy. After a short period of slow play he hit Barnes to the pavilion for four, and drove the next ball over the boundary for five. From this time to the close, the bowling was punished with the utmost severity… At length Barnes went on again, and from his first ball Bonnor was easily caught at third man. Bonnor's magnificently hit 128 included four fives and 14 fours." (Note that hits over the boundary then only counted as five runs, and that some scorecards have different statistics.)
Jacob Oram
Oram has had a long and distinguished career for New Zealand, scoring five Test centuries and taking a lot of important wickets with some awkward deliveries at better than medium pace. But the suspicion remains that he might have been even better. In England in 2008 he came in strangely low in the order, and he has missed a lot of cricket over the years with various injuries: in 2009 this forced him to give up Test cricket. But at its best his unfettered left-hand batting was a joy to watch, and at the recent World Cup he still proved capable of despatching the ball into the far reaches of the stadium (against Pakistan he hammered 25 in nine balls, with three big sixes).
Abey Kuruvilla
Reputedly the tallest Indian Test cricketer at around 6ft 6ins, Kuruvilla, from Mumbai, hinted at a profitable Test career when he took 5 for 68 in only his third match, as West Indies were bowled out for 140 in Bridgetown in March 1997 (however, India, needing only 120 to win, were rolled over for 81 by Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop and Franklyn Rose). But Kuruvilla, who wasn't quite as quick as his height suggested he could be, played only 10 Tests in all, and his international career was over by the end of 1997: "At least I played for a year," he said. "There are so many good cricketers who don't get to play even one game for India. I can't complain on that count."
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2011.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...