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A tribute to Allan Border - The other 'AB' who delivered on field

A tribute to Australia’s former captain and batting legend Allan Border, who turned 60 yesterday

Brisbane: On this day in 1994, cricket witnessed the end of a great career as it was the last day in Test cricket for Australian batsman Allan Border. Here is a tribute to Australia’s former captain and batting legend.

Last year, Allan Border turned 60 but in our hearts he will always be 30. That’s the mental picture I have of him right now: 30-years-old and 30-not-out on the road to something better against the West Indies, with Australia 4-70.

Also view photos: Most Test matches played as captain

Allan Border
Allan Border bats against Somerset on Australia’s  1985 tour of  England.  Pic/Getty Images

Sweat stained. Defiant. Serious. Unyielding. Unbreakable. Under siege. Is that Malcolm Marshall bowling to him or is it Curtly Ambrose? Or Holding? Or Garner?

He faced them all with distinction. Plus Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Kapil Dev, Bob Willis, Ian Botham Richard Hadlee and Allan Donald.

Border played in an era when every team seemed to have a fire-breathing dragon. Yet for all the kitchen sinks they threw in his direction not one of them ever called Border his bunny.

It’s 21 years since Border faced his last ball in Test cricket but in many ways he is still the benchmark for toughness in cricket. Let’s not kid ourselves that there has been anyone tougher play under the baggy green cap since Border.

The year after he retired Test cricket became a different game and batsmen were allowed to undo their top buttons far more regularly than they had in Border’s day.

Allan Border
Allan Border

The West Indies tumbled from the top of the tree and Australia dominated a less hostile world. For much of his career Border played without a safety net beneath him.

If Michael Clarke fails these days there is always Steve Smith. If Smith fails there is Warner. And if they all do down there is always the tail. Yet for a few years in the 1980s it was Border or bust. The tale of Border’s toughness is told in many ways including the quirky statistic that he averaged 56 overseas and 46 at home.

Road warrior
He was one of cricket’s finest road warriors, even harder to get out in England and Pakistan, where a harsher sort of game is played under the banner of cricket, than he was in Australia.

Even rival players not known for their chivalry deferred to his reputation. West Indian Curtly Ambrose refused to speak to Australian players yet when he saw Border he would always offer “mornin’ skipper.’’

Off the field he had none of the massive media unit that surround today’s stars yet somehow absorbed it all and while grumpy at times, refused to change his home phone number.

The lessons of Border’s Test career linger through the decades. In the nets he batted with Test match intensity, never wasting a session.

English professional Vic Marks was too harsh when he said of Border “10,000 Test runs — not bad for a guy with three shots’’ but the essence of his compliment, that Border played strictly and cleverly within his limitations, was correct. He did not want to. He simply had to.

When Border was a national selector after his retirement he had to help sort out contract offers to Australia’s top cricketers including one year where the bottom name on the list received was what thought to be a paltry $90,000.

Border did not scoff at the figure for a good reason — $90,000 was his last and highest contract figure for Australia for he played in an era when the Australians dreadfully underpaid. Border has not strayed far from the game since his retirement and looked to be in his element last season heading back to the dressing room as a mentor to the Brisbane Heat.

The dressing room was always where he looked happiest and where, for 17 distinguished years, Australia was lucky to have him.

The author is a veteran Australian journalist. This piece first appeared in the Courier Mail

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