It's just nought cricket!

Updated: Apr 16, 2020, 09:24 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

While we cope with being bowled for a duck by the deadly Coronavirus, a recall on cricket's most famous duck-scorers across eras from Bradman to Raina with Agarkar in between

Australian pace bowler Brett Lee celebrates trapping India's Ajit Agarkar leg before wicket for a duck on Day Three of the Melbourne Test in December 1999. Pic/Getty Images
Australian pace bowler Brett Lee celebrates trapping India's Ajit Agarkar leg before wicket for a duck on Day Three of the Melbourne Test in December 1999. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton Murzello

The Coronavirus has well and truly clean bowled the citizens of the world. Let it be stressed… for a duck. The ignominy may not be quite the same as a batsman making his way back to the pavilion without a run to show. After all, it’s no shame to contract the illness, but the despondency aspect could be quite similar.

Ducks have arrived at the feet of the best players in history. For Don Bradman, a duck defined his farewell to cricket. The great Australian strode in for his final Test innings - against England at The Oval in 1948 - and looked forward to yet another marathon innings. But he failed to read a well-disguised googly from Eric Hollies, who had Bradman’s furniture disturbed for a two-ball duck. Cynics reckoned Bradman’s eyes were moist, caused by the reception he got before taking guard and that had blurred his vision. The great Australian may have dismissed that theory vehemently but he did end up with 99.94 instead of a 100-plus Test average.

Other duck stories have been less sad and fabled. Less than a year before Bradman’s farewell at The Oval, the touring Indian team played Victoria on their 1947-48 tour of Australia in the build-up to the Test series. Lala Amarnath chose to bat, but his side were reeling at 0 for three before he led the way with a scintillating double century. Top-order batsmen Vinoo Mankad, Khandu Rangnekar and Vijay Hazare were dismissed for ducks, and at the end of the drawn game, during a reception, it was announced (according to Hazare in his book, My Story) that there were some souvenirs to be presented. The Indians expected Amarnath to get one for his 228, but instead Victoria captain Lindsay Hassett presented toy ducks to the trio of duck-scoring India batsmen.

At Leeds in 1952, India - under Hazare - provided Test cricket with a unique second innings scoreboard display of 0 for four. Pankaj Roy, DK Gaekwad, Madhav Mantri and Vijay Manjrekar perished without a run.

All the above batsmen may have sported a we-were-better-off look when they read about Australian captain Greg Chappell’s horrific home summer of 1981-82. Chappell’s wretched run of scores which included seven ducks, started when Pakistani pacer Sarfraz Nawaz had him caught by Javed Miandad for nought in the second innings of the Melbourne Test. When it came to tackling the West Indies in the second Melbourne Test of the summer, Chappell was caught behind by David Murray off Michael Holding for his fourth consecutive duck of the season (including two in one-dayers against Pakistan and West Indies). There were three more ducks for Chappell before the international summer closed out Down Under. His seven ducks included three first-ball dismissals.

Sydney-based Indian historian, Kersi Meher-Homji revealed in his book, Out For A Duck, that Chappell’s plight was depicted in a poster during the January 1982 Sydney Test which read, “Everyone got turkey for Christmas, our Greg got four ducks.” Meher-Homji also reproduced a cartoon in which Chappell exclaimed, “What? Not duck again!!” when served duck at home.

Allan Border may have had special memories of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was here that he made his debut in 1978-79 and scored the first of his 27 Test hundreds four months later. But when it came to his 100th Test in 1988, Border was yorked for a duck by WI pace ace Curtly Ambrose at cricket’s coliseum.

And how gutted Mark Waugh must have been when he got pairs in consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka during the 1992-93 series after which he acquired the nickname Audi, the car manufacturer, whose logo has four rings.

Waugh may have had some sympathy for Ajit Agarkar when the India all-rounder copped five zeroes in the three-Test series against his team in 1999-2000. Bombay Duck, the critics called Agarkar! After his 19 in the first innings of the opening Test at Adelaide, he didn’t score a run in the rest of the Test series. The pair syndrome continued for Agarkar in the Mumbai Test of the 2001 series.

Mohinder Amarnath is the other Indian who ‘ducked’ five times in a series. Amarnath’s disaster had a thick ring of disbelief around it. In six innings against the West Indies in 1983-84, his best effort was one run in New Delhi. He endured pairs in the Kanpur and Kolkata Tests against an opponent whom he had taken 598 runs off across five Tests in the Caribbean only a few months before the rot set in.

Talking about the West Indies, one of their batsmen – Keith Arthurton - could score only two runs in five short visits to the crease during the 1996 World Cup; dismissed for a duck thrice.

Suresh Raina, a left-handed batsman like Arthurton, experienced duck horrors on the 2011 tour of England after kicking off his Test career with a hundred on debut the previous year in Sri Lanka. After a duck and 78 in the opening Test at Lord’s, he ended the series with a pair at The Oval.

That Raina didn’t handle the red ball well is manifest in the fact that he scored eight ducks in an 18-Test career. It’s no surprise that he hasn’t been seen in Test whites after his pair at Sydney in 2015.

Opening batsmen have often been victims of duck luck. India’s batting icon Sunil Gavaskar was dismissed for a duck off the first ball of a Test on three occasions – v England in Birmingham 1974, v West Indies in Kolkata in 1983-84 and at Jaipur against Pakistan in 1986-87. At Melbourne in the 1977-78 series, he and his opening partner Chetan Chauhan departed for ducks on the first morning of the Test. Gavaskar carved 118 in the second dig to be India’s batting hero in the 222-run win. This was the game where Bhagwat Chandrasekhar claimed 12 wickets. The master spinner was also known as the worst No 11 batsman of his time. In 58 Tests, he recorded 23 ducks and in the above series, he got his first Test run of the tour in the fifth and final Test at Adelaide. Raina fared far better in one-day cricket.

Ducks and pairs have caused a good degree of mirth in cricket discussions. But, as of now, there is little humour to be extracted from being bowled neck and crop for zero by the Coronavirus. We’ll wait and do what it takes to return to the crease when the virus is less cock-a-hoop.

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

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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