Of Don look-a-likes and Boycotts | Sunday Observer

Of Don look-a-likes and Boycotts

The belated Ashes Test series between England and arch rivals Australia finally ended 2-all with England romping home by 135 runs in the Final Test at the Oval. However Australia retain the Ashes Urn having won the previous series.

When this series is spoken about the name of former Australian captain Stephen Smith will always be spoken in glowing terms, because of the incredible harvest of runs he reeled off his bat playing in four of the five Tests this year.

Here are his scores for posterity in the Ten Ashes series against England: in 2018/’18 237 in Perth, 76 Melbourne, 102 not out Melbourne, 83 Sydney. 2019 – 144 and 142 Edgbaston 92 Lord’s, 211 and 82 Old Trafford, 80 and 23 Oval.

He is now being bracketed with the great late Sir Donald Bradman for his scoring prowess. Although Bradman was Bradman and never will there be another Bradman, to be spoken of and being classed with Bradman is great.

Earlier in the 1950s there emerged a right hand stylist who scored an avalanche of runs and was classed as the next Bradman. He was Ian Craig. Craig was also appointed captain and on a tour of India where he suffered from hepatitis and that was Craig’s end of his innings.

Then came along another heavy scoring right hand batsman in Douglas Walters. Also known as the ‘Dungog Dasher’ who made tons of runs. But he never maintained the consistency of the Don and did not get anywhere near the Don. So it will be seen that the Don was Don and never another Don.

But Smith may attempt to emulate the Don, but that is how far he could get. The Ashes series that just ended could be tagged the England versus Smith series when its history comes to be written of. The Australian selectors will do well to reinstate Smith as Australia’s captain.

On my tour to cover the Sri Lanka/Australia series in Australia in 1988/89 for the ‘Daily News’ and the ‘Sunday Observer’ was also played the Bicentenary Test between Australia and England in Sydney which Test I had the good fortune of covering.

During the lunch break former living greats of Australia and England cricket were paraded round the ground in old crocks. Names that come to mind are Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Lindsay Hassett and Bill O’Reiley of Australia and Geoff Boycott of England.

When a particular old crock passed the main pavilion, the entire Sydney Cricket Ground on which ground Sir Don made many memorable scores and was packed to capacity and when it was announced that the Don was passing by everyone present stood up and there were thunderclaps as it were. That’s how the great man was revered.

That I was there to savor that once in a lifetime moment is something unforgettable and which I still treasure and will continue to treasure in my cricket reporting career. That I was part of the cheering thousands was a dream come true. I have goose flesh standing up even now when I recall that great moment.

Boycott and Strauss honoured

Good that Geoffrey Boycott and Andrew Strauss have been honoured by being Knighted. Henceforth they will be referred to as Sir Geoffrey and Sir Andrew. Incidentally they were both opening batsmen who put opening bowlers to the sword with their determined and stubborn batting.

Boycott was a right hand batsman who once he took guard, would guard his wicket as though his life depended on it. It was said that when he was dismissed he would not want to walk. He was a stone-waller and would prefer to if allowed to bat all five days of a Test match.

He had unwavering concentration, always offering a straight bat and although his strokes were limited Boycott would stick at the wicket accumulating runs because that was what mattered to him. Bowlers could not penetrate his defence which was rock solid. I don’t need to dwell on his run scoring career because it is all in the record books.

He was so dogged and it angered him no end when he was dropped after scoring a double hundred. Boycott’s batting was so painfully slow, it deprived England of winning and the selectors were forced to drop him which was anathema to him.

Once he quit the game, he took to commentating and while being serious when the occasion demanded his wit and humour knew no bounds and he regaled listeners. His expert comments were well received.

Once doing commentary, he saw the then Sri Lanka captain the rotund Arjuna Ranatunga who was aka ‘badda’ in jest fielding deep at point. Boycott’s wit and humour was at its best when he said: ‘I don’t go that far even for my holidays’. That was a cracker and evoked loud laughter from the listeners.

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