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Two Australia-WIndies tests


West_Indies_v_Australia_Test_series_cricketDecember 9-14th, 1960. The Gabba, Brisbane.

A five day period when cricket went a bit bonkers, before settling down to a semblance of calm. A tie, to be precise.

For the uninitiated, a tie and draw connote the same thing, but cricket is weird, and the two are quite different. The former guarantees mind-bending thrills, the latter, apart from the odd occasion of exciting battles against the clock, is as passive as an idle cow dropping dung in a corner of a village field.

But back to Brisbane 1960. It was supposedly a dull period, a lull for test cricket, and Don Bradman urged the two sides to play entertaining cricket. I am sensing that attendance was dwindling and the old game needed some invigoration.

Sobers sparkled with a 132, Norm O'Neill responded with 181, swiftly made, while Alan Davidson claimed 11 scalps to set up a target of 233. Richie Benaud, after four decades, speaks of the casual arrogance with which he approached the chase:

"When I walked through the gate, and along the side of the pavilion to the dressing rooms, I could see white flowers dotting the turf; clover flowers. It was obvious that the ground hadn't been mown this morning. I ask for a mowing but the curator tells me there was a heavy shower just after seven o'clock and he hasn't been able to get the mower on the ground... I don't s'pose it matters a great deal really, we'll only have a bit over 200 to make."

I am strongly of the opinion that such aberrations are not merely the result of glorious sporting excellence, but also a degree of arrogance, bordering on the goofy (a bitter man would have called it idiotic). So while Benaud goofed up, Wes Hall hustled, reducing Australia to 6 for 92.

What followed was surreal, absurd and pure barking mad. None of which I have seen. It ended with a sparkling run out of Ian Meckiff by Joe Solomon.

At the end of the series – which went 2-1 to the hosts – the Melbourne crowd, like the rest of Australia, had become so affectionate of their Caribbean brothers, they proceeded to parade Frank Worrell and Co. through the streets of Melbourne in a rapturous cavalcade. Ravi Shastri suffers from an acute form of verbal diarrhoea, but his often repeated assertion that 'Cricket was the winner', holds true for that Brisbane test and the series as a whole.

December 10-12th, 2015. The Bellerive Oval, Hobart.

A lot of discussion on West Indies cricket in the present is still rooted in the past, even for those who have never seen it. I, too, am clearly no different. Their bevy of smoking gun fast bowlers and Viv Richards' all-out swagger has been seared into our heads by family elders, growing up on the regular fare of West Indian world domination.

Their considerable sway over popular cricket culture has built up an image of the West Indian cricketer– a free-spirited lad, swigging rum and shagging women, while turning up at the cricket, eviscerating opponents with either bat or ball in that manifestly calypso style. The documentary, “Fire in Babylon” does not help at all over the past three days when the well-meaning cricket romantic has suffered gash after painful gash watching West Indies capitulate so meekly.

Such was the relative ease of proceedings that Joe Burns, after cupping a floater at short-leg, had a rather disconcerting bulge in his nether regions. That it was a rather pointed reference to Australia-West Indies tests did not escape my attention. He seemed to be getting off on this shambles, the perverse lad, and dare I say, any bugger wearing white flannels within the perimeter of the fence, will get off on this.

Brendon Julian so much as conceded this a few months back at Sabina Park, when he called out Michael Clarke to get his hands on the, err... Wank Forrell Trophy. It was dismissed as a harmless gaffe, but on second thoughts, it comes across as a loaded statement. Sir Frank won't be pleased, nor should he be, that a series of such prestige has been reduced to one of cricket's great non-events, symbolic of great events past, but of little value now.

So why do we watch? Why wake up early morning and stare through half-shut eyes at a damning score of 60/6? I don't know really. I guess I am geared to watch sport if it’s on the telly, however pitiful it is.

I mean, Darren Bravo bats with a Laraesque flourish; Kraigg Brathwaite's bat is as spotty as Chanderpaul's was; Jermaine Blackwood, I read somewhere, would have made C.L.R. James happy, he bats 'on the go'; Jerome Taylor occasionally spits fire and Clive Lloyd seems to have great faith in Jason Holder.

It can't always be this bad, can it?

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If Cryuff played cricket, he would have been me, or I him....

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