Well, one of the biggest buzzwords in Web 2.0 is the 'Tag Cloud' which shows the various tags under which the information under consideration can be classified. Well thinking on those terms I just wanted to create a similar tag of batsmen, who have been stellar performers for their respective nations during the period when I have been watched(ing) this game. I wanted to put forth my kind of tagged cloud which would be as follows -
Elegance: Classy not just in the strokeplay but also while dead defending a delivery. A gentle whip of the legs or an effortless cover drive. The folks for me under this for me fall in the following order -
Mark E. Waugh - The E which stands for Edwards can very well be replaced with Elegant. He had this word written all over his batting. Playing with a feather weight bat.. yeah feather weight, coz when one of my friend's dude had gone to UK, he did visit the Slazenger store where the folks proudly displayed the V-500 bat saying that Mark Waugh indeed uses that one. This dude just swished the bat through the air and he could indeed feel it. Anyways, be it the gentle but super effective flick to a ball pitched on the off.. or cutting the ball on the off side to a slightly short ball pitched on the middle stump - he was the God of Elegance. Probably this elegance of his made him really effective against both spin and pace. I say this, coz one can be Elegant only when one has time to play or in other words when one plays late. This is well evident from his records - he's performed well on both the low turners of the subcontinent (his 153* against India in Calcutta was a masterpiece) as well as the bouncy turfs of Australia and South Africa. For me, its simple - I have not seen anyone having so much time to play against Allan Donald on assisting pitches. Remember his match saving innings against the Proteas.. alright, yeah.. I indeed don't want to remember the hit wicket incident in that match. Incidentally, he replaced bro Steve in the Ashes and on top of it.. hit a magnificent 138 in his very first outing.. thats indeed big, ain't it?
P.S: My personal fav, notice the pic the offside cut was somethin' special.
Carl Hooper - He ranks just next to Mark for me. A terrific talent and had the potential of toying with any attack in the world. But as he would himself admit, he never really stamped himself for a long time. A test average of 36..Was it the pressure - Probably the captaincy did it for him, or may be that he was among the unlucky ones who arrived at the scene when the Windies were at their decline. Whatever, but then how many contemporary batsmen could charge down the wicket and thwat the bowler over the sightscreen 'effortlessly'. Nah, haven't seen anyone do better than Hooper. As with Mark Waugh, he too was at ease against the spinners as well as against the faster breed.
Kumar Sangakkara - Its a well known fact that left handers are born elegant. But this bloke's special. Rising to the ranks, he's literally Sri Lanka's most dependable batsman. For a subcontinent bloke, he's just too good off his backfoot. Signature shot - Standing tall and a slight punch to a ball of the backfoot and off it races away to the cover boundary. All you can do is applaud. Yeah, one might say that almost everyone does this well on subcontinent pitches where the balls don't seam and they hardly swing. But doing the same in New Zealand is no joke. Traditionally the best batsmen from all over the world have struggled on Kiwi wickets. The ball seams prodigiously and the tennis ball bounce doesn't make things easier for the batters. To name a few who have struggled - Tendulkar, Lara, Kallis all have a pretty average record there. To the cricketing fraternity, who are well aware of the cricket happenings, I need not tell what Sangakkara did there. He was just brilliant and probably the difference between the two teams. An avg of 134 can't be a fluke. Add to this fact that he keeps the wickets(well, almost), well thats definitely brownie points for him.
Dogged: When the goin' gets tough, the tough gets goin', huh? These folks take on almost every role - be it trying to save the match under ill batting conditions, or be it tryin' to the face the music when the bowlers are spitting venom.. no one knows better than them and on top of that, they hardly get the credit when the team wins, coz generally its a cameo that someone plays which helps the teams win that takes all the credit. These guys are the playmakers for their teams. Period.
Stephen R Waugh - The R here can probably be replaced by Relentless. Picture this - Aussies 3/10.. Curtly Ambrose to Waugh - well bowled, the ball here kicked off the wicket and hits Waugh on the elbow really hard. Waugh doesn't flinch an eye muscle. Ambrose walks to Waugh.. eye to eye.. Waugh again doesn't flinch... This was pretty much the norm of the time when he played. Often out on the pitch when the Aussies were really strugglin', he delivered.. time after time, he did deliver. His 200 in Jamaica in 1994-95 against the likes of Walsh, Ambrose, Benjamin was one helluva innings which turned the table around for the Aussies. Waugh averaged 107 for the series and Aussies beat the Windies for the first time in Carribean in 30 years. For the time he played, although the Aussies had build up their batting line up with the likes of Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden, Martyn et al, but Waugh was the undoubted thorn for the bowlers, coz when e'one else failed, Waugh would put his hands up and bail them out of trouble. Its probably coz of him, that the others could afford to be flamboyant. His doggedness earned them the World Cup 99. Even in the ODIs, he wasn't one of those who'd come in and smash them around. He'd rather take time and eventually slog sweep almost e'one out of the attack. Even when the Aussies had come to India trying to conquer the final frontier, one of the turning points was the hit wicket for Waugh, and eventually e'one else succumbed to Harbhajan. India was back. He was the Rocky Balboa for them.
Gary Kirsten - Simple analogy.. Steve Waugh:Aussies::Kirsten:Proteas. Sounds correct, right? He did one of the toughest jobs in world cricket, to pad up and go first up there and face the new cherry. When no one knew how the ball would behave, he'd go and show them the way. A little shuffle across the stumps and it would be either of the 2 options -
1. Leave the ball
2. Flay it through the off side
He'd be almost flawless in either..He was a brilliant example, of what one might do with the toughness of the mind, albeit limited talent. He would never be the prettiest sights on the cricket field.. moreover the game probably won't be at its entertaing best when he's down there.. but he'd do the job.. a man who could have walked into any team. South Africa hasn't had the best of specialist batting talent in their ranks since their re-entry, folks who could hold one fort while others rally around them. Kirsten, Kallis, Hudson.. thats it probably, which is what makes him that much special, that even though they didn't have a plethora of batting talent, insspite of that they still were the toughest teams to beat, and a large proportion of the credit goes to this chap for this.
Rahul Dravid - Many refer to him as 'The Wall', for me he's probably more than that. He's the saving grace of Indian cricket. Records and statistics say that whenever he hasn't delivered India has failed to win a test.. especially abroad. Be it Port of Spain, Headingley or Adelaide - he's done it all. When he sprung onto the international scene, for once I had a feeling that his over-concern of correctness of technique might result him in fading away like his predecessor Sanjay Manjarekar. He suffered from 'unable-to-find-gaps' 'o phobia, but things started changing with his hundred at Taupo(NZ) against the Kiwis. His 123 there started his transition to an extremely efficient one-day player as well. Then came the world cup, where he emerged as the highest run aggregator and the rest is history. The tour down under in the 1999-00 season was a bit of a disaster for him, and people started claiming that he can't play Shane Warne. Well things did change big time in the historic series when the Aussies visited India in the next season. His masterful 180 at the Eden Gardens was overshowed by the 'Very Very Special' 281, but from there on, he's taken on the mantle of Indian Batting.
Mike Atherton, Jimmy Adams and Andy Flower - All three of them didn't possess any special talent like Rahul Dravid, but they do fall under this category because their careers flourished while their teams didn't. Atherton while being the skipper, opened the batting for the Poms and his match saving unbeaten 185 against the White Lightning and Co. at Jo'burg has to be one of the most dogged innings in the past few years. Jimmy Adams was yet another example and so was Andy Flower. In a team struggling all the while, Andy Flower was one batsman who could fit into any team. Adams was a very defensive player, and his ability to make huge scores can be judged by this fact - after 12 matches, only Sir Don had an avg better than him. Scoring 520 runs at a staggering average of 173 against Indians on low turners helped the Windies draw level the test series. Few have handled Muralitharan with such ineptness as Flower. His ability to stay at the crease for eternity while the lesser mortal would fall at the other end was exemplary and most of all it started to instill self belief in the rest of them seeing Flower fight at the other end. His dogged batting also reflected in his general perception towards life, when he along with Henry Olonga launched a public protest against Robert Mugabe during the WC 2003. Consequently his international career also sadly came to an end.
Part II of this article would feature the Flamboyant folks and the guys who the spectators fear - yeah.. the Cherry Hitters.. :)
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