‘Undoubtedly one of the finest bowlers of all time’. It would surprise many people to hear that this quote by Sir Plum Warner was about an American bowler. His name was John Barton King, and he was seen by many critics as the greatest bowler of in the world, and the greatest of his generation.
Great left arm bowlers do not come along frequently, and this may be part of the reason why they are so successful. Variety is the spice of life, and likewise, a distinction between the types of bowlers in a team’s attack is vital for success. This is where being left handed can be of great benefit. The natural angle across the right handed batsmen is an obvious advantage, but unless it is combined with swing, it can quickly become predictable and lose its edge. Alan Davidson may have been born left handed, but without an enormous amount of skill to go with it, he would never have developed into one of the finest all-rounders of all time, described by Richie Benaud, as “one of the best cricketers ever to play for Australia”.
Relinquished of his role as England captain, Kevin Pietersen will have felt a number of emotions in the last two weeks. Anxiously he will have awaited the ECB’s decision to his ultimatum regarding his and Peter Moores respective positions, then the hurt of not receiving the full backing (from the board and allegedly some of the players) he may have expected, now the feeling of unfinished business with the captaincy role, but no clear signs of regret. He believed what he was doing was for the right reasons, although on reflection maybe there were other ways around the situation.
Stuart continues his series of historical player reviews moving onto the Australian David Hookes who tragically lost his life in 2004 after being punched by a hotel bouncer outside a pub where he had been drinking with Victorian cricket players.
There are many players who are said to have wasted the natural talent that was bestowed upon them. Usually it is the highly attacking batsmen who wear this tag; their desire to dominate and destroy the bowlers leading to their earlier than desired exit from the crease. Wayne Prior, the former Australian opening bowler, once refuted this argument, commenting that the expectation and sheer sense of excitement that flows through the fellow players, umpires and spectators when such a batsman arrives in the middle is sufficient justification for the use of their talent. The man that Prior was specifically referring to was David Hookes; a man whose test batting record does not reflect the anticipation of the crowd, and the anxiety of the bowlers, whenever he strode out to commence the battle.
Throughout the world of sport there are few individuals who are universally recognized for pioneering the techniques of their chosen sport. The Fosbury Flop in high jump, so named after Dick Fosbury, is one clear example of an athlete’s contribution to their sport’s evolution being easily identified. Within cricket circles, it is obviously impossible to say with certainty the first person to introduce the square cut or the drive to the batsman’s armory of shots, however cricket historians appear unanimous in their recognition of an Indian batsman as the first player to master play off his pads with the leg glance. This man was K.S. Ranjitsinhji, known by all supporters of the game simply as Ranji.