Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How good were the South African star batsmen Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards? Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

Graeme Pollock
Barry Richards
The South African Graeme Pollock was also a top-class left-handed strokeplayer like Sobers, but that is where the comparison ended. In almost every other way Pollock was different. Tall, strongly built and seemingly laboured, he was not athletic, unlike Sobers, and it showed in his running between wickets, and fielding, where he was at best a safe catcher. Stooping low into his stance, with legs spread apart, the power in his shots came from timing, quite the anti-thesis of Sobers who had a big backlift and played his shots with a flourish.

Pollock was also considered primarily an off-side player, like another big man Wally Hammond, but could get the ball away on the on-side, particularly with his short-arm pull shots. His 3 lb bat, very heavy for those times, was like a club as he drove and cut in awesome fashion. Inzamam-ul-Haq was perhaps, in some ways, a mirror image of Graeme Pollock for their laidback style, but that was an illusion because they spotted the ball early and had plenty of time to play their strokes. That explained their unhurried movements. The Pakistani batsman though was more aesthetic, with footwork quite nimble for a burly physique, and apt to hit straighter.    

Prodigiously talented, one of Pollock’s finest innings was at Nottingham in 1965. With the ball seaming around, South Africa were reduced to 80 for five. He put on 98 with skipper Peter van der Merwe, whose contribution was 10. Pollock slammed the English bowlers for 21 boundaries all over Trent Bridge, clocking up 125 runs off 145 balls.

His finest hour came at Durban in 1970. In the company of Barry Richards, he flayed the Australian attack. Pollock went on record the highest Test score for South Africa, a tremendous 274 that demoralised the opposition. At 26 years he was at the height of his powers when, soon after, South Africa were banished from Test cricket for their policy of apartheid. It was a cruel blow, for Pollock had aggregated 2256 runs in only 23 Tests for an average of 60.97, the best-ever barring Bradman, among those who have played at least 20 innings.

Barry Richards suffered an even worse fate. That was the only Test series he got to play. In those four games he scored 508 runs, averaging 72.57, with two hundreds. His highest of 140 was in that scintillating stand with Graeme Pollock at Durban when they blasted 103 runs in an hour after lunch on the first day. Richards reached his century in the first over after lunch off just 116 deliveries. Several observers have rated him among the best batsmen ever. Brian Johnston watched him at close quarters, not only in that 1969-70 home series against Australia, but for long years in county cricket for Hampshire, where his opening partner was a West Indian named Gordon Greenidge.

Johnston wrote in It’s Been a Piece of Cake: “He had, and played, every stroke off the front foot and the back. With a high backlift he played beautifully straight, and used his feet far more than the others I have mentioned (Sobers, Hutton, May, Cowdrey, Greg Chappell and Viv Richards), with the exception of Bradman, Hammond and Compton. He would even dance down the wicket to the fast bowlers. Barry’s technique was backed by his supreme confidence in his own ability, and an insolent contempt for all bowlers.” The little master himself, Sunil Gavaskar, made a telling observation in The Times of India in 1995: “Barry Richards was the first batsman I saw playing the lofted shot over extra-cover. This was in the Sunday League in England in 1971. Till he demonstrated how to do it, batsmen tended to hit the ball over the infield on the legside if they wanted quick runs. The inside-out shot over extra-cover is more difficult, for one has to really get to the pitch of the ball to be able to hit it away from the fielders. Since there used to be no fielders posted on the extra-cover boundary, it was easy to pick up boundaries there and soon this shot was being copied by other batsmen effectively and is now a normal shot in all kinds of cricket.” That is a stamp of genius.  

In his very first season for Hampshire in 1968, Richards topped their run chart with 2395 runs. The next highest for the county was by Barry Reed with a tally of 990. He scored heavily each year in county cricket, though he had moderate success for the Rest of the World, who replaced the banned South African team, for the 1970 tour of England. Richards went Down Under to play in the Sheffield Shield, and he was sensational. In 1970-71, he hit up 356 for South Australia against Western Australia, 325 of which were scored on the first day of the match. In 1977 he signed up for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Even though he was past his prime, Richards performed exceedingly well, confronted as he was with quality opposition once again.

It is, therefore, not altogether a surprise that Bradman chose him to partner Arthur Morris in his All Time XI. For a man of Richards’ calibre it became increasingly difficult to motivate himself to continue playing the inferior trundlers at the first-class level. He walked away from it all, frustrated at being kept out of Test cricket.

Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards were part of a brilliant South African team that continued the process begun by the supremely talented West Indies teams led by Frank Worrell and Gary Sobers, and finally and emphatically did away with the supremacy of England and Australia for the first time in the 90-year history of Test cricket. Under Peter van der Merwe and Ali Bacher, South Africa defeated England 1-0 in 1965 in an away series, and then trounced Australia twice at home, 3-1 in a five-Test series in 1966-67, and a 4-0 whitewash in 1969-70. Coming off a comfortable 3-1 triumph in India, Bill Lawry’s Australian side was handed a mauling of frightening proportions by the South Africans. The margins of defeat were 170 runs, innings and 127 runs, 307 runs, and 323 runs. It was humiliating, to put in kindly, and a far cry from the heady days of Bradman. South Africa could now justifiably claim to being the no. 1 Test team in the world, even as their apartheid regime resulted in prevention of face-offs with the ‘coloured’ nations.

The nucleus of the 1965-70 South African teams comprised the allrounders, former skipper Trevor Goddard and Eddie Barlow, arguably the greatest-ever cover fielder Colin Bland, wicketkeeper-batsman Dennis Lindsay, pace duo of Graeme’s elder brother Peter Pollock and the wrong-footed in-swinger Mike Procter, who was also a tremendous batsman, and two star rungetters Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards. It is such a pity that their Test careers had to be halted abruptly in their prime.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com
Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).

Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:   
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6   
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3   
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0   
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3, Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110 001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Books by Indra Vikram Singh published between 1992 and 2015

Indian Spring
This definitive collector’s edition celebrates India’s win in the cricket World Cup 2011, a tournament that was a colourful commercial extravaganza.

ISBN 978-81-901668-7-4
Published by Sporting Links, 2015
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  216
Dimensions:  11 inches x 8. 5 inches x 0.4 inch

Fully illustrated with 60 colour photographs.
Write-ups on 10 Classic Matches and 12 Memorable Performances in different matches.
Hall of Fame section featuring 29 stars.
Scorecards of all the 49 matches.
Batting and Bowling Averages of all the players who appeared in the event,
Sidelights and trivia.
Detailed Records and Statistics of all World Cup tournaments from 1975 to 2011.
Curtain raiser to the ICC World Cup 2015.

Crowning Glory
A 44-page fully illustrated supplement on India’s win in the cricket World Cup 2011.

ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
Published by Sporting Links, 2011
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  44
Dimensions:  11.25 inches x 8. 5 inches x 0.25 inch

Crowning Glory brings forth the highlights and the stars, statistics and records, and colour photographs. The tenth edition of One-day cricket’s biggest show returned to the sub-continent for the third time. Never had the hosts won on home soil, but in 2011 the favourites India, despite a few stutters, jubilantly lifted the glittering ICC World Cup at Mumbai on 2nd April. This was not only the crowning glory for an Indian team that had striven hard to reach the no. 1 spot in Test cricket the previous year, but also the missing jewel in the amazing career of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. It was a fairy-tale come true, the real significance of which will be understood in the years and decades to follow. Crowning Glory replays the highlights of the ICC World Cup 2011 and its stars, complete with colour photographs and records. This special supplement is also available complimentary with The Big Book of World Cup Cricket (ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3).

Don’s Century
Biography of Sir Donald Bradman and a panorama of batting from the 1860s to present times.

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Published by Sporting Links, 2011
Format:  Paperback French Fold
Pages:  188
Dimensions:  11 inches x 8. 5 inches x 0.4 inch
Weight:  0.5 kilograms

Written in 2008, the year of the birth centenary of the peerless Don Bradman, the book takes a relook at his cricket career, relives the trial and tribulations of his personal life, and assesses the merits of other great batsmen from the 1860s to the present times. The questions still asked are: how great was Bradman actually, was he just a run-getting machine or was he truly the best there has ever been, have there been other batsmen as good or better than Bradman. Don’s Century analyses Bradman’s batting technique, brings forth his amazing achievements with the willow, aided by comments from the finest writers and players down the ages, supported by comprehensive statistics, and illustrated by classic photographs in sepia brown from the top photographers and agencies of the world. The panorama of batting presents many other legends from Grace, Ranji, Trumper and Hobbs to Richards, Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting, and so many more, focussing on their contribution, and in fact tracking the evolution of the game over the last century-and-a-half. The vicissitudes of Bradman’s own life, his persona and quest for excellence, the detractors, friends and family are all featured in this tribute to the unquestioned king of kings of the crease.

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011
A 544-page definitive, fully illustrated hardbound collector's edition on the cricket World Cup from its inception in 1975 till 2007, with a preview of the ICC World Cup 2011.

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Published by Sporting Links, 2011
Format:  Hardback
Pages:  544
Dimensions:  11.5 inches x 8.75 inches x 1 inch
Weight:  2 kilograms

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket is a definitive, fully-illustrated all-colour collector’s edition that contains virtually everything about all the cricket World Cups from 1975 to 2011.

Beginning with a story of every tournament from 1975 to 2007, including the commercial facet, sponsorship and prize money, logos and mascots, it carries a preview of the 2011 event as well. There are highlights and sidelights, drama and controversy, and the stars of the biggest event in One-day cricket.

Featured are 49 classic matches, those nail-biting encounters and stunning upsets, and 51 memorable individual performances by players in different matches. The Hall of Fame section showcases 93 top players in the World Cup and also comprises interviews with Cup-winning captains Kapil Dev, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

The statistics sections comprise a wide range of records, and performances of all the 19 teams that have appeared in the first nine editions of the World Cup, detailed scorecards of all the 303 matches played from 1975 to 2007, and batting averages, bowling averages and fielding data of all the 823 players who turned out in the premier event.

The tailenders bring forth the lighter moments and trivia. As many as 250 photographs, mostly in colour, from the world's leading agencies and photographers Patrick Eagar, Getty Images and Pradeep Mandhani embellish this mammoth effort.

The piece-de-resistance is a handwritten letter of Sir Donald Bradman received by the author in 1999, which led him to dedicate the book to The Don.

A special 44-page fully-illustrated colour supplement Crowning Glory (ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7, Sporting Links, 2011) published at the conclusion of the ICC World Cup 2011, capturing the highlights and focusing on the stars of the tournament, and updated records, is available complimentary with The Big Book of World Cup Cricket.

A Maharaja's Turf
A fully illustrated hardbound collector's edition on the triumph of the author’s grandfather Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla in the Epsom Derby of England in 1934, his horse Windsor Lad finishing first.

ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
Published by Sporting Links, 2011
Format:  Hardback
Pages:  148
Dimensions:  8.75 inches x 11.5 inches x 0.6 inches
Weight:  1 kilogram

This collector’s edition brings alive the exhilarating triumph of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla in the Epsom Derby of England in 1934, the only Indian owner ever to win the blue riband of the turf in its history dating back to 1780. The dapper Indian prince’s horse Windsor Lad left the hitherto undefeated favourite Colombo trailing in third place in the presence of royalty led by King George V and Queen Mary, and a multitude of an estimated quarter to half a million people on that damp afternoon of 6th June. This extensively researched story written by the Maharaja’s grandson, embellished with rare photographs, captures the era between the two World Wars, of imperial times and a royal lifestyle, also going back centuries into history, connecting the past and the present and depicting the march of time, even as the thrilling race remains the central theme.

The Little Big Book of World Cup Cricket, edition II
A handy guide to all the cricket World Cup tournaments played from 1975 to 2007, with a preview of the ICC World Cup 2011.

ISBN 978-81-731422-0-8
Published by Media Eight, 2011
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  288
Dimensions:  7.6 inches x 5 inches x 0.75 inches
Weight:  500 grams

The Little Big Book of World Cup Cricket, edition II 2011, is the updated version of the 2007 edition of the book with the same title.

Attractively designed in a manner that reflects the modern game, the book narrates the story of all the nine cricket World Cups from 1975 to 2007, and carries a preview of the 2011 ICC World Cup which was staged in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Like the shorter version of the game, the book gives a snapshot of the tournament, thereby affording brisk, easy reading.

There are 49 classic matches from the exhilarating one-wicket victory of the West Indies over Pakistan at Edgbaston in 1975 to another nail-biting one-wicket triumph by England at the expense of the West Indies in Brian Lara's swansong at Bridgetown in 2007.

The 51 amazing individual performances include the blitzkrieg by Vivian Richards and Collis King in the 1979 final and the onslaught by Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn in the 2003 final.

The exploits of 50 legends of the World Cup comprising the likes of Kapil Dev and Lance Klusener are chronicled in precise words.

To sum up this showpiece event is the 80-page records section that brings to the aficionado all the highlights and the glorious achievements of superstars like Sachin Tendulkar and Glenn McGrath. It is a handy book that provides a panoramic view of cricket's ultimate test in One-day cricket.

The Little Big Book of World Cup Cricket
A chunky and comprehensive guide to all the cricket World Cups played from 1975 to 2003, and a preview of the ICC World Cup 2007.

ISBN 81-901668-2-4
Published by Sporting Links, 2007
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  656
Dimensions:  4.5 inches x 7 inches
Weight:  500 grams

Story of every tournament from 1975 to 2003, including the commercial facet, sponsorship and prize money, logos and mascots, and a preview of the 207 event.

Write-ups on 41 Classic Matches and 40 Memorable Individual Performances.
Hall of Fame showcasing 74 top players in the World Cup, and exclusive interviews with World Cup-winning captains Kapil Dev, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.
Sidelights (lighter moments and trivia).
Full scorecards of all 252 matches.
Performances of all the 17 teams that appeared in the first eight World Cups.
Detailed records and statistics.
Batting and bowling averages, and fielding records of all 684 players.

World Cup Cricket
Illustrated preview in the run-up to the cricket World Cup 2003

ISBN 81-7167-947-1
Published by Rupa & Co., 2002
Format:  Hardback
Pages:  184
Dimensions:  8.5 inches x 11 inches

Writer Indra Vikram Singh, book designer Peter Murray and statistician Rajesh Kumar got together to produce an illustrated preview embellished with crisp write-ups and comprehensive statistics about cricket World Cups played from 1975 to 1999 and all its stars, assessing the prospects of all the teams participating in the 2003 event.

Test Cricket – End of the Road?
Debating the future of Test cricket in the 1990s and beyond.

ISBN 81-7167-080-6
Published by Rupa & Co., 1992
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  141
Dimensions:  8.5 inches x 5.5 inches x 0.375 inches

In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a raging debate whether the era of Test matches was over and whether One-day Internationals were the future of cricket. Young Indra Vikram Singh explored the subject in detail, and not only came up with his verdict but also offered suggestions to make Test cricket more attractive for spectators and television audiences. The book brought forth the ethos of the game and the lessons youngsters could derive from it. Test cricket has evolved from the Victorian era to the 21st century but it remains largely the same game, and carries on serenely despite the frenetic march of time and the prophesies of the cynics. That is what makes this book relevant even in the age of Twenty20.

Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com.

Indra Vikram Singh's books published by Sporting Links are distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110 001, Phones + 91 11 23417175 and 23412567.