Players vs experts: a fascinating history

West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin’s note-showing gesture to Sir Viv Richards after reaching his century against England at Edgbaston only underlines how sensitive cricketers are to criticism. And reputation or ilk don’t matter when it comes to hitting back. Sure, Ramdin should have allowed Sir Viv to realise himself that what he said about him (“Ramdin has deteriorated in such a big way”) was way off the mark without the note which read, ‘yeh Viv talk nah.’

Richards was glad to have motivated Ramdin and stressed that he had a job to do as a cricket expert, something which players need to realise while dealing with barbs. Not all of them are good at it and understandably so. Cricketers and experts have had a fascinating history. In the 1980s, Kim Hughes, the golden boy of the Australian cricket establishment failed to come to grips with the captaincy and was at the receiving end of sharp critics like Ian Chappell. Hughes’ sympathisers urged Chappell to go slow on Hughes by reminding him that he too was an Australia captain at one point of time. Chappell’s response was as acerbic as his criticism for Hughes: “Mate, I am not the Australian captain now. I am a journalist now and it’s my duty to let my readers know the truth.”

Potshot: Denesh Ramdin reveals the piece of paper after scoring a century in response to Sir Viv Richards’ stinging criticism of his performances

Ian’s brother Greg, who scored a hundred on Test debut against England in 1971, was not enjoying a fruitful cricketing honeymoon. A string of disappointing scores against Rest of the World caused Adelaide Advertiser journalist Keith Butler to write: “Chappell emerges with the statistics of having played 14 innings for only 240 runs. And Greg for a player of your quality, it’s not good enough.” Butler’s views angered Greg at first, but on contemplation, behind the door of his Hobart hotel room, he realised that nine out of 10 times, he got himself out. Chappell retired as Australia’s highest run-getter.

“I was blissfully unaware there was a problem. Had it not been for my father sending Keith Butler’s article, and my own ability to reflect, I would have just gone blindly on. Instead, I discovered routines and techniques for developing confidence, a positive attitude and concentration that I continued to use for the rest of my career,” wrote Chappell in The Making of Champions. West Indies’ Clive Lloyd, another all-time great was written off by Guyanese journalist Charles Chichester that he would never be a top-class player, a view expressed by Test player Robert Christiani too. “It was the sort of comment that niggled me and I was determined to prove them wrong,” Lloyd wrote in Living for Cricket, his autobiography.

Navjot Singh Sidhu was called a ‘Strokeless Wonder’ by journalist Rajan Bala when he first played for India in 1983-84. Sidhu stuck that newspaper clipping at a place he could see it everyday. By the 1987 World Cup, he was getting his kicks by slamming bowlers for sixes. On the 1990 tour of England, Ravi Shastri learnt about an Indian writer mentioning his inability to score a big hundred. In the first innings of the last Test at the Oval, Shastri got 187. He made it a point to meet the journo to ask him whether he was satisfied with his effort. Shastri had proved a point, but he never fails to mention that the writer was glad to concede a point. Meanwhile, Ramdin will forever be known as the man who stood up to Sir Viv. Not many have been able to do that.

Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor

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