Play Up And Play The Game

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Never mind the stats – it’s how you play the game that counts.

I can say without hesitation that bowlers, whether they be fast, medium-pace or spinners like me, always strive flat out to rid ourselves of the bloke at the batting crease as quickly as we can.

The quicks in particular, after a long day in the sun, spend the night nursing pain in their back, legs and feet, trying the psych themselves into fronting up the next day for a dose of the same.

We of the spinning fraternity, having completely destroyed the spinning finger epidermis years before, penetrated the dermis, and intruded into the sub-cutaneous tissue, seek inexhaustible supplies of antiseptics and bandages to help us believe that the damage to our digits don’t even exist.

Wicket-keepers are their own special breed.

Not unlike master chefs, they purchase the finest cuts of fillet steak to slot into their gloves to protect their precious mits. (I’ve witnessed a ’keeper actually barbecuing his glove padding one night at the end of a Test match).

Maybe, at career’s end, a bowler’s stats might be relevant to his achievements, but they play no part in the thought process before and during a game, whatever the level.

In preparation for any international match, Tests in particular, all a bowler’s attention is focused on the pros and cons of each opposition batsman. They will be discussed and analysed in meticulous detail, and that includes his character and resolve to play for the team.

Over my career, I always identified batsmen I played against (and with) who were more interested in their batting average than the success of their side.

This attitude is even more critical in the shorter versions of the game, where personal sacrifice of a batsman’s batting average in the interest of the team is paramount.

My admiration for a batsman is not based so much how he makes his runs, but how he plays the game.

I never had the opportunity to play with guys like Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Doug Walters, Barry Richards, or the Chappells, Ian and Greg, but I always admired the way they went about their job.

In my day I had the great privilege of admiring, first hand, the wonderful efforts of guys like Allan Border, Merv Hughes, the Waugh brothers, Adam Gilchrist, Mike Hussey, Justin Langer, Matt Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

All great players, and wonderful team men.

And, along the way, I’ve run into players like Sachin Tendulkar, Kevin Pietersen, Sanath Jayasuriya, Shahid Afridi, Chris Cairns, and many others who achieved great personal success but always put it second to the team’s needs.

They are all the sort of cricketers who will be remembered, not so much for their stats, but how they played the game.