Clayton Murzello: Fumble and your pie gets humble

By  Clayton Murzello | Posted  15-Dec-2016

Dropping key batsmen cost England dear in the recent Test at Wankhede, just as it did to other teams that ended up with embarrassing scorelines

Virat Kohli celebrates his double ton against England on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Virat Kohli celebrates his double ton against England on Sunday. Pic/AFP

History will always remind Alastair Cook’s England team that they lost three Tests in a row (a loss in Chennai could make that four) in India after dominating the last two away and home series.

Were these the same English troops who dominated India in 2012-13 and 2014, one wondered.

What will also be indelibly recorded are the chances in the field, which Cook and Co were guilty of in the recent Mumbai Test. Virat Kohli was dropped on 68 by leggie Adil Rashid en route his double century and new boy Jayant Yadav wouldn’t have scored a hundred in only his third Test had he not been dropped by slipper Joe Root, while centurion Murli Vijay profited from a missed stumping before he got to his half century.

Pundits don’t tire from saying that good players make you pay for lapses and that’s what Kohli did to the Englishmen. Their victory chances drifted deeper with every shot from Kohli, who appears to have the broadest bat in the game.

There is no reason why his double century shouldn’t be rated as highly as Clive Lloyd’s 242, scored at the same ground in 1975. Lloyd too enjoyed some luck. Correction: Chunks of it. The most documented of Lloyd’s chances was when Bishan Singh Bedi couldn’t hold on to one off his own bowling when Lloyd was on 8. Cricket writer Sunder Rajan in his book, India vs West Indies 1974-75 noted that Lloyd was dropped on 8, 66, 76, 168, 228 and again on 228 in the six-day Test which West Indies won by 201 runs to take the five-match rubber 3-2.

Lloyd was not the only left-handed West Indian to enjoy the rub of the green in that Wankhede Test. Alvin Kallicharran, who missed his hundred by two runs was let off at 4 and 23 and West Indies ended up scoring 604 for six declared. Not a bad total for a track that was deemed underprepared by the West Indies manager Gerry Alexander.

Later that year, Lloyd bludgeoned his way to 102 in the inaugural World Cup final against Australia. When on 26, he pulled Dennis Lillee and Ross Edwards dropped him at mid-wicket.

Post their playing days, Edwards and his former skipper Ian Chappell met regularly at the Channel 9 car park where Chappell used to invariably yell out, “Is that the man who dropped Clive Lloyd for 26 in the World Cup final?”
Edwards, who has an equally good sense of humour, one day stumped Chappell by revealing that he dropped Lloyd not once but twice, and nobody remembers that!

English fast bowling great Fred Trueman too caused some chuckles when teammate Reverend David Sheppard dropped a few catches on the 1962-63 tour of Australia.

Trueman was believed to have told Sheppard to pretend it is Sunday and keep his hands together. Of course, there is this apocryphal story about a butter-fingered cricketer not allowed by his wife to hold their baby in the fear that he would drop the child.

On a serious note, teams that drop a multitude of catches in series end up enduring embarrassing scorelines. Critics couldn’t help pointing to the dropped catches when Australia lost 0-4 to South Africa in 1969-70. Bill Lawry, Australia’s captain on that tour, put the lapses down to the terrible conditions his team played under in India. “We dropped 16 catches in four Test matches in South Africa. Guys like (Paul) Sheahan and Chappell —great fieldsmen — were dropping straightforward catches and I am sure it was because of mental and physical fatigue and not because of ability,” Lawry said in a documentary.

Chappell wrote in Cricket in my Blood that it got to a stage where the dropped catches did not cause any annoyance anymore and that, “it became a joke that the fieldsmen who were usually so good could become so bad.”
Garry Sobers’ 1968-69 West Indies team to Australia too were guilty of dropping far too many catches. Sobers reckoned they dropped 34 while Lloyd in his book Living for Cricket, wrote: “We dropped so many catches that you needed a calculator to tot them up. I believe in the end, it worked out to something like 36 in the five Tests.”

Collective failings are less hard to swallow than individual ones. Rashid will be haunted by the thought of dropping Kohli last Saturday on 68. Kiran More told me on Tuesday that he felt “utterly miserable” after dropping Graham Gooch when he was on 36 off Sanjeev Sharma who induced an edge from Gooch’s SS Turbo bat on the first morning of the July 1990 Lord’s Test. “I felt worse after we lost the Test because Gooch scored 333 and 123,” recalled More.

Seven years later, he received a letter from Lord’s informing him that the Marylebone Cricket Club had decided to award him an honorary life membership. Not because he played his part in Gooch’s runathon, but for his fine Test debut there in 1986 when he claimed five dismissals and scored a useful 25.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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