It was on the 25th of March 1889 that someone carried his bat for the first time in a Test match. His name was A. B. Tancred. He was a South African. He did this in Cape Town, against England. Tancred made 26*, and yet he had scored 55% of his team’s total.
127 years later, a West Indian opening batsman also carried his bat. His name: Kraigg Brathwaite. The venue: Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the UAE. The opponents: Pakistan. His share: 42% of his team’s total.
There have been 49 instances of players “carrying the bat” between Tancred and Brathwaite – 31 of which have been unbeaten three-figure scores (5 of them double hundreds). While Tancred started off with what is till date the lowest score by a batsman carrying his bat, New Zealand batsman Glenn Turner’s 223 is the highest of these 51 outstanding innings. The highest of these 51 team-totals is Sri Lanka’s 428 against Zimbabwe, with Atapattu’s double-ton accounting for over 50% of it. Nine of these 51 instances occurred in the first innings of the Test match, while 18, 17 and 7 happened in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings respectively.
Doing this once is great indeed. Doing it twice is greater still. What if someone does it thrice? Well, do you know who did it thrice? It was another West Indian – Desmond Haynes. He started off in Karachi in 1986, repeated the feat at the Oval in 1991 and again at Port of Spain, two years later. He could not get to the three-figure mark in Pakistan and England. On home soil in 1993, he finally managed to get there.
We must not forget the honourable mentions for those who did it twice: Bill Woodfull, Len Hutton, Bill Lawry and Glenn Turner.
Brathwaite’s feat brings Haynes to memory, but we also recall that great gentleman cricketer – easily the best that has ever been – Sir Frank Worrell, who did it first for the West Indies in 1957, scoring 51% of his team’s runs and remaining stranded 9 runs short of a double-hundred in the end. Christopher Gayle was the most recent, scoring 165 against the Aussies, Down Under in 2009.
All the 10 Test-playing nations have had the distinction of having at least one opening batsman in the special Hall of Fame of ‘bat-carriers’. Even Bangladesh has one: Javed Omar; while Zimbabwe has had Grant Flower, MH Dekker and TMK Mawoyo – all three achieving this feat on home soil.
Just last year, we had two openers carrying their bats. One was the South Africa’s Dean Elgar against the English; and the other was Cheteshwar Pujara against the Sri Lankans. Speaking of Pujara, there have been three Indians before him who started off the innings and saw 10 wickets fall at the other end – Sunil Gavaskar kicked things off for India in Pakistan in 1983. Sehwag followed it up in Sri Lanka. Rahul Dravid, opening for India when the team was in a shambles in England, did this at the Oval. His 147 not out was one of three centuries he scored in that, his penultimate series.
The percentage of the team’s score of the opener who carried his bat is also possibly a statistic of interest – this has ranged from 32.8% to 61.1%, with 20 instances in which the opener has accounted for more than half of the team’s score. The average stands at 48%.
Well, I now come back to what sent me down memory lane in the first place – the feat of Kraigg ‘Breadth-Width’ who spanned the entire ‘Length’ of his team’s innings and took his team to a respectable ‘Height’ at Sharjah recently.
A feather in Kraigg’s cap for sure, but more so for Jason Holder. The strife of the West Indian captain has been rewarded at last. And as Dev Tyagi writes, one can continue to hope that this good performance will herald a new era in West Indian Test cricket. When I wrote something similar in an earlier piece, perhaps I was jumping the gun. One hopes that is not the case now.
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