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By Sunil Gavaskar
Last week saw two former New Zealand players in the news for different reasons. Martin Crowe announced that he was getting back to first class cricket because he needed some sort of a challenge to motivate himself. Crowe is 48 years old and if we remember that Sir Jack Hobbs played first class cricket and was reeling off centuries on uncovered pitches till he was about the same age then maybe Crowe would also be able to do so in New Zealand cricket.
From what was seen of the New Zealand bowling when they were in India late last year for a three Test and five one-day match series, it was apparent that they had a big problem getting 10 wickets, leave alone 20, in a Test match. When they came over for the ICC World Cup earlier this year it was again seen that there was hardly any improvement on the bowling front though they batted and fielded with admirable passion to get to the semi-finals.
So Martin Crowe has a great chance of doing well in his comeback even at his current age. He was one of the best of New Zealand’s cricketers with a fine record and along with Glen Turner, could well be New Zealand’s finest ever batsmen. He is also known as a bit of an out of the box thinker like Greg Chappell and some of his theories about the game have had a spirited, though not always positive, response from others. Crowe and Chappell were the ones who promoted the 8-a-side cricket after the early success of the 6-a-side cricket. This they did with some new rules like the ‘V’ in front of the sight screen pretty much like the box in football in front of the goal which was an area marked in black and if the batsman hit the ball in that area he got twice the runs be it a four, six or even a single which would be doubled if the ball went in that black area. This was apparently done to encourage batsmen to play straight. When this version of the game came out it was accepted by the authorities so much so that they even tried to scuttle the extremely popular Hong Kong Sixes event by not giving it the dates that they were used to.
The Hong Kong Sixes event had taken off in the late 80s and by early 90s it was a much looked forward to event by most internationals since the prize money was attractive, the hospitality was wonderful and it was a tournament where top players could mingle without the tensions of an international match. Hong Kong also is a lovely place for a weekend or so and the players loved the tournament. Unfortunately in trying to promote the 8-a-side tournament there was hardly a subtle attempt to browbeat the Hong Kong organisers and once the tournament lost its usual date of the last weekend of September when the English season would be over and the Southern hemisphere season was still to begin the main players could not participate and so the tournament lost its sheen and the sponsors also slowly started abandoning the event.
The Hong Kong Sixes is still there simply because the players still love the tournament and all that it brings with it although in a far more lower profile than its earlier heydays, but the 8-a-side tournament is dead and gone and nobody even talks about it. The old saying that you can keep a good man down but not knock him out applies to the Hong Kong Sixes.
The other former New Zealand player to make waves is Adam Parore who climbed Mount Everest. He said after he came down that he was disoriented when on top and all that he wanted to do was breathe and he almost died but it was his determination that took him to the top of the world. “You can see the end of the world but it’s just a shame that you don’t know it” was his quote when he came down.
One of the things that differentiate the men from the boys in international sport is temperament and Parore has been one of the fiercest competitors that New Zealand has had and in climbing the Mount Everest he has added to his legend for sure. When he was playing he was often in the gossip columns but his conquest of Mount Everest will certainly make the Kiwis look at him differently and in a much more appreciative light than when he was playing for New Zealand. It was a tremendous feat and hopefully it will inspire many other just retired internationals from all sports to try something challenging that will get the adrenalin pumping once again. Well done Adam.
It’s also time to say well done to the Indian Premier League as it nears the end of edition 4. Sure it was not as bubbly as the earlier ones but that could be put down to the ICC World Cup which was played just before the IPL started and that too in India. The cricket lovers were thus a little tired and of course India’s win would have been the ultimate for most of them. The T20 format is purely an entertainment one where the bowlers simply have no chance and so it is loaded in favour of the batsmen and that makes for an uneven contest. The connoisseur thus stays away from the ultra short version while the younger lot wanting the quick action and excitement, love it and frequent it.
It has been a long season indeed and while the Indian season will come to a close with the IPL, the Indian team will continue with tours to West Indies and England which will help the team in keeping its number one status in the rankings. The excitement will now give way to anticipation.