The most successful non-Asian batsmen in Asia are …

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Nagpur

IF Alistair Cook, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Allan Border were dots, how would they be connected? All of them were and, in Cook’s case, are fine batsmen, and all have captained test teams.

But beyond that?

Three are left-handers, two of them – Chanderpaul and Border – of the stoic rather than the spectacular variety; a rarity among southpaws. The other cackhander, Cook, looks like a matinee idol and bats like a leading man.

The right-handers, too, are peas from different pods. Kallis was a peon to orthodoxy while Ponting was never more Ponting than when he was pulling off the front foot.

But those five players are the non-Asians who have scored the most runs in tests in Asian conditions, including the United Arab Emirates.

That they are so different from each other – even those stoic southpaws offer contrasts, what with Chanderpaul’s French cricket approach at the crease and Border’s coiled snarl of a stance – only adds to the intrigue.

And so it should be, because the sub-continent is where cricket comes to think. Here, muscle won’t get you nearly as far as magic. Strokes are caressed more than they are carved. The ball is bowled with the intention to bamboozle, not to bruise.

Cricket here is a thing of wonder. That it happens at all is worth thought, what with the heat, dust, monsoon and mad crush of a billion bodies and more all competing for a spot of time and space. But that it takes such high levels of skill and discipline to play cricket well in the sub-continent is too often overlooked in the world beyond these boundaries.

That, mind, before we consider the state of pitches or the travails SA have endured on their current tour of India.

“The high backlift and hard grip are good for hard wickets, but not in India and when you play on turning wickets. The problem is that (SA) are allowing the spinners to dominate. (Ravichandran) Ashwin is probably playing on their minds and one can see when he comes on that they are hesitant.”

That’s Mohinder Armanath, better known during the 1970s and 80s as Jimmy. Unusually for that era of Indian cricket, Armanath scored nine of his 11 centuries away from home in places like Perth – Jeff Thomson and all – and Sydney.

He rejoiced in hooking fast bowling off his nose. Think of him as an Indian Kevin McKenzie, although he did wear a helmet.

If a man of Armanath’s mind can’t tell SA how to play in India, no-one can. But there must be more to it than that.

Perhaps the secret is that the famous five above are also among the most patient and disciplined men yet to pick up a bat.

Or not: Everton Weekes, Brian Lara and Clive Lloyd are still the top runscorers in individual test series in Asia, and they were all among the most attacking players of their generations. Go figure.

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