An Ode to the Cricket Blogger

Yesterday, Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) over at The Corridor of Certainty posted a piece he wrote about Sachin Tendulkar. It’s beautiful and short and perfect and you should read it. Everyone should read it.

A few hours after posting it, my friend Devanshu of DeepBackwardPoint and TheTeesra retweeted his story, as did several other people. And it simply made me happy to know that I blogged within a community that promoted its own members. If you write a decent story, your fellow bloggers will promote it, guaranteed.

The non-competitive and helpful nature of cricket bloggers is probably due to the fact that none of us make any money doing this, nor do we really expect to. At least I don’t. Ever. At all. And honestly the above is probably true for other blogging communities – be it fashion or music or technology, but I like to think that our community is a bit different somehow, I don’t know exactly how, but I still believe it.

There are so many cricket bloggers out there doing amazing work: for no money. And it’s not kid stuff either – writing every day for free on the Internet is fucking HARD. But people keep at it – day in, day out – and I like to think that is because of our chosen topic, our unique little community, and because we all promote each other’s content. Then again, there are millions of non-cricket bloggers doing the same thing – and sharing content is what makes the Internet go ‘round, so maybe I am putting too much emphasis on our chosen blog subject, maybe we are no different than any other group. But, again, I like to think we are – and here’s why:

I have been writing in this space for well over 18 months now. This is the longest I have kept up with any such endeavor. The closest I came was a blog I started in response the Minnesota Twins trading for outfielder Craig Monroe back in 2008. I was, and still am, rather proud of it – especially this post – but it petered out after six months. But for whatever reason, I have kept at this. And I honestly think it is because people like Devanshu came, read, commented, and promoted. It’s amazing what a little feedback can do for one’s motivation.

Would that have happened if I had continued writing about Craig Monroe…or started writing about politics, or Arsenal, or history? Maybe, but probably not, I don’t think.

Something about cricket writing touches nerves with people, and for some reason it attracts phenomenally talented writers, and for some reason those writers want to promote other, less talented, writers, instead of simply ignoring them or even worse actively dissuading people from reading them.

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I don’t know, maybe I am making too much out of all of this. Maybe we are a just a bunch of people with enough free time to commit to a rather time-consuming hobby. Maybe we all do still fantasize about actually somehow eeking out a living through writing about something we love. Maybe we all look at Jarrod Kimber and Arseblog and BikeSnobNYC and the Oatmeal and think: that could be me!

Arseblog’s first post ever was just like all of our first posts:

“Feb 27th 2002 – The A R S E B L O G is born amidst a fanfare of pure silence and a rippling of no applause. Not sure what way this thing is going to go, it has no plan, no direction, no aim, no purpose – simply a tool for me to ramble on about all things Arsenal and maybe some other stuff instead. Anyway, I shall crack on.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. And now Arseblogger has over 8,000 followers…on Instagram…Instagram!

So why not us, we surely must think?

I mean, Jesse Thorne laid it all out for us plain as day. As did Conan O’Brien. The Internet is chock full of success stories. So maybe we are all blogging and promoting and tweeting intellectually understanding that this is going nowhere but still believing like fools that if we just keep at it long enough, good things will happen. Like, maybe Cricinfo will pay you freelance scale for 500 words on how Andrew Strauss is in discussions with CSA about possibly joining their selection committee.

And maybe that’s why we cricket bloggers help each other out, because we are selfish and know that if we promote someone, they will promote us possibly down the road and maybe Andrew Miller will see it and then PAYDIRT.

Or not. Actually, I don’t think that it is true at all. I think maybe cricket just attracts funny and interesting and smart and kind people who like to read about and write about and follow a silly old anachronism of a bat and ball sport. That’s all. And when someone like Freddie Wilde posts something we like about Sachin Tendulkar, we simply want others to see it so they can like it too.

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I am sure I am over-thinking this. But in the back of my head, the nagging thought remains: something made me stay, and keep writing, through one of the most difficult periods of my life. And I like to think it is not at all because of my writing – which is subpar and sporadic – but because I enjoy being part of this community of cricket bloggers. And, so, in that spirit: thanks for having me.

Now: back to work.

Stamina

Over five days, in Adelaide, Peter Siddle steamed in at South African batsmen a remarkable 381 times. While no where near the record for a pace bowler, much less one of the slower variety, it really is an amazing feat.

I know it is apples to oranges, but considering my strong familiarity with baseball, it is impossible for me to not compare the two in this situation.

For all intents and purposes, Siddle threw 381 pitches in five days. That’s over 76 a day – just 24 shy of the pitch count maximum for whole heaps of major league pitchers out there today – and they get four days off between starts!

And I know the comparison is really unfair in so many ways, but like the human eye finding patterns in the wallpaper, my mind instantly goes to baseball as a benchmark for comparison, and in doing so makes the feat even more amazing.

Meanwhile, speaking of stamina, Faf du Plessis faced an equally remarkable number of deliveries from Siddle and his bowling partners. 671 to be exact. And in doing so, he won the stand off, as South Africa’s rear guard held on for a draw in what was easily one of the most thrilling and fascinating and awe inspiring Test matches I have ever experienced.

It was a treat and an honor to take it all in, fellas. Thank you.

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For those curious, the highest number of deliveries from a pace bowler in a Test match belongs  to Norman Gordon for South Africa against England at Kingsmead in 1939.

Gordon threw 92.2 eight ball overs for a total delivery count of 737.

That match is worth a look if you are not familiar with it.

It was a timeless Test that lasted from third of March until the fourteenth of march – ten total days of play with rest days.

The match ended in a draw, by agreement, thanks in large part to bad light and rain, and saw greats like Hedley Verity and Wally Hammond in action.

Verity himself, who I have written about several times before, while not a pace bowler, completed 766 deliveries. And the entire match saw a jawdropping 5,463 total balls bowled. Great stuff. The Wisden report is worth a read, and there is a brilliant photo gallery on Cricinfo

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At the other end, the most balls faced by a batsman in a Test match is harder to get to, because it was not a stat recorded for every Test.

Statsguru however spits up none other than the aforementioned Wally Hammond who faced 977 balls against Australia at Adelaide (hey!) in February of 1929 – a full decade earlier than the match above – on his way to scores of 119 in the first innings and 177 in the second. Strike rates of 31.81 and 29.35 – that is some patient and productive batting right there; though it must be said that patience produced more rewards in the days of the Timeless test, which this match was, as well. It lasted from the 1st of February through the 8th, and England won by 12 runs – and so Hammond’s knock was in a lot of ways a match-winner.

Also, in discussing this match, one cannot overlook English slow bowler Jack “Farmer” White’s contribution: A five-fer in the first innings and an eight-fer in the second – 13 total wickets. Great stuff. And easily the highlight of Mr. White’s Test career.

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Nothing impresses me in cricket like the stamina of its superstars. Nothing. South Africa’s rearguard had stamina in spades: along with patience, heart, and courage – more virtues that I admire.

But at the end of the day, I have to give Peter Siddle the deepest bow: steaming in again, and again, and again, on that absolute road of a pitch. Desperate for a wicket, desperate for a win, desperate to the point where he could barely walk after his last over. Whether it was in vain or not is meaningless, that kind of effort deserves the deepest admiration. Congrats, Peter. Now rest up, you have four days before you have to do it all over again.

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Cricinfo borrowed a note from my post about pure moments in their recap of Faf due Plessis’s innings:

“Most notable was the fact that du Plessis did not become overawed by the situation. He spent an eternity in the nineties but was not flustered, the team goal of survival overshadowing his own ambitions. When he eventually pushed two runs through cover off Ben Hilfenhaus and became the fourth South African to score a century on Test debut, after Andrew Hudson, Jacques Rudolph and Alviro Petersen, he acknowledged the applause and then settled straight back down to continue his job.”

Exactly. Great accomplishment. Now back to work.

That’s life.

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Also, with regard to my post linked to above, I in no way whatsoever meant it to sound like sports were more important than life. In no way to I want to give the impression that Arshavin’s goal against Barcelona was more inspiring than having children. It just provided a certain type of moment that cannot be replicated in the real world. That’s all. Don’t worry, my priorities while out of whack, are not THAT out of whack.

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#worldtestday

As most are surely aware, yesterday was, unofficially, World Test Day. For the first time in the 134 year history of the format, there were four Test matches happening simultaneously.

Four matches, eight nations, two continents, 88 athletes. Brilliant stuff.

Of course, it did not last long. The West Indies ended their clobbering of Bangladesh just 45 minutes or so after the start of Sri Lanka and New Zealand, but still, it was fun while it last.

I was able to watch three of the matches live: India v England, Australia v South Africa, and the aforementioned Bangladesh v West Indies. And all three streams were legal, too, that’s the best part. It really is a golden age for cricket viewing here in the states, and last night drove that point home for good.

On the pitch we saw brilliant centuries from Ross Taylor, Alastair Cook, and Kevin Pieteresen. We saw a five-fer from Monty Panesar of all people, and a six-fer from Tino Best. We saw batting collapses galore: South Africa, Bangladesh, and India.

We saw a West Indian renaissance, a newly confident England, a crumbling South Africa, a resurgent Australia.

We saw an old batsman, the hero to a billion people, continue his slow, sad descent into the night.

We saw Alastair Cook cement his place as England captain.

We saw Kevin Pietersen show us all why he is still the most exciting batsman in world cricket.

And for the first time in a long time, we saw a New Zealand Test side that looked to be at least mildly interested in winning something.

Finally, and most importantly, we saw evidence that this format is long from dead – and it honestly is not even sick, in my opinion.

Mumbai, Adelaide, Khulna, Colombo. The Wankhede Stadium and the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium. The P Sara Oval and the Adelaide Oval. A brilliant evening in white for dorks like me the world over to enjoy. Looking forward to doing it all again tonight, albeit with only three Tests happening simultaneously.

But not today…not today.

I have been thinking a lot lately about pure moments.

Moments that are not hampered or tainted or otherwise ruined.

Moments that meet expectations, that inspire the cliche of pure, unadulterated joy.

And I have been thinking about such moments a lot lately because it has been a terrible 18 months for me, personally. Basically since April of 2011 when I started this blog, life has been a long series of bad news and disappointments and failures and hard lessons and bad decisions. I mention that last one because I freely admit that a lot of the bad luck lately has been self induced, but that is neither here nor there at this point.

I have been thinking about pure moments because that is the kind of joy I want to have right now. I want a couple things to break our way and I want to run through the streets with my arms in the air and experience the true pinnacle of ecstasy.

The events and accomplishments in the last 18 months that I thought would bring me such a moment have failed to really deliver in the end: new jobs, graduations: the moments have been happy but there was more a quiet sense of accomplishment instead of true happiness, or there was something else in the background, some other stress, that took away from it.

And that is because pure moments do not exist in real life.

Well, they do, but not in the way I want: I could burn my house down, for instance, that would be a pure moment of destruction, but I am not going to do that.

Pure moments of joy just do not exist in the real world.

With one exception:

Sport.

They exist in sport, and therefore, vicariously, exist for us, the fans, as well.

If asked to give an example of pure moments, I would invariably point to Michael Bradley’s goal in the 2010 World Cup for the USA against Slovenia.

I didn’t even get to watch it live.

I was at my desk in the office watching the minute by minute on ESPN.com. And then in the 82nd minute: Bradley scored, and I felt this wave of relief and joy wash over me. For 30 seconds, I felt no pain.

And there was Donovan’s goal against Algeria a few days later, that brought not relief but headshakingly poweful JOY. Which for a lot of reasons reminds me of this song, because that is exactly how I felt: “I got troubles, Lord, but not today.”

And more: Arshavin’s goal against Barcelona, for one, and for another, even though I despise Manchester City, Aguero’s goal against QPR last season:

“I’ve never seen so many grown men cry…

…so many grown men cry.”

“You will never see anything like this again: so watch it, drink it in.”

That video sums it all up for me. People living lives of quiet desperation. People living in fucking Manchester. Disappointments and failures and heartbreaks, but for a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon in May: that all went away, and was replaced with joy.

Pure, unadulterated: JOY.

You don’t get that in the real world.

Births of children, falling in love, accomplishing lifelong goals: they all fail to meet expectations.

But a goal in the 90th minute to send your country into the knockout stages of a World Cup: that meets all ones expectations.

Another favorite video to sum it all up for me:

All of the above examples are football related, because no sport delivers pure moments quite like football, but they all do in one way or another: with one notable exception:

Cricket.

Specifically: Test cricket.

In cricket there are big moments: big wickets, triple hundreds, and in one day matches there are super overs and last ball wins.

But in Test cricket, the games march on like life, and when breakthroughs do come, they come more in the form of relief rather than joy. Matches are rarely decided in the final over, and most of the time, the result is known hours and sometimes days before the final ball is bowled.

And when it comes to batsmen hitting landmarks like 100, 200, 300…usually they are so knackered they cannot really react like, Aguero, or Bradley, or Donovan.

And the matches are so long, so complicated, and the tales they weave so full of tunnels and mystery and intricacy, that big wickets and big knocks usually are not guaranteed match winners, or even match savers. You stretch your body and mind to their limits to get through the nervous 90s and achieve that magical plateau of 100: but you only get a minute to think it over and then you have to keep going, because your team needs runs, because it is only day three, and there is still a lot of work to do.

Just ask Eddie Cowan.

His boyhood dream was to hit a century in a test match, and he did it, and he had a few moments to cry and thank the heavens, and then had to go back out and bat again.

And that, right there, is life. Congratulations, you did it, now you should get to bed, because you have work in the morning.

And so while maybe we all watch sport to experience those pure moments that we would not otherwise experience, maybe we all watch Test cricket because it teaches us that life is not like sport, that there are no pure moments, that there is always more work to do, that there is no such thing as unadulterated joy.

That life is just not like that.

But like I said at the beginning, it has been a terrible 18 months. I am sick of attrition and struggle, and while I know it is not possible, I want nothing more than to have one moment in my life where a metaphorical Michael Bradley puts a metaphorical ball in the back of the metaphorical net – a non-sports-related moment that I can react to in the same manner in which I reacted to Arshavin’s winner against Barcelona: buzzing, hugging strangers, forgetting…

A moment where, to borrow from the title of the Man City video above: I win the championship, and everyone goes nuts.

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My wife has a new song that really I don’t think is about any of this, but music is open to interpretation, and I like to think the song is not about a person, but instead about a moment, a happening:

“I can only hope that one day, I will be a story you can tell.

A memory back to happiness for when you’re not feelin’ well.”

Because that’s the thing about pure moments: they last forever. And they become like friends. And we can call them up when we need them, and chat, and remember what it was like when for a few brief shining moments everything was going to be okay.

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Shooting Stars

Earlier this week, Abul Hasan of Bangladesh became the 92nd cricketer to score a century in his Test match debut.

Most pundits agree that Hasan’s performance was just the beginning of a long and successful Test career, but for 28 other cricketers, a debut Test century was not  a harbinger of great things to come.

For 28 cricketers, their debut centuries were the highest scores of their Test careers.

Statistical gurus will jump in here and say that there are actually 35 cricketers whose debut 100 is their highest Test score, but I eliminated those that surely still have centuries left in them: Abul Hasan, for one, of course, plus Adrian Barah, Dwayne Smith, Fawad Alam, Shaun Marsh (maybe), Suresh Raina, and Umar Akmal.

The Test cricketing days of the other 28 are long behind them, or at the very least long enough behind them. Some were victims of bad timing, some were victims of short sighted selection committees, some were the victims of fate, and some were mediocre players who got lucky…but all rose to the mountaintop in their debut, only to never reach that peak again.

Charlies Bannerman, of course, scored the first ever Test century in the first ever Test, but never got there again, a victim of time and age, he only played in three more tests for Australia.

There was Yasir Hameed who debuted brilliantly for Pakistan with TWO centuries in his debut Test against Bangladesh in 2003, only to fade away from the spotlight after a series of poor performances. He is only 34, but it is a safe bet that he won’t play another Test for his country.

Nawab of Pataudi the senior, whose son would become one of India’s most famous captains, scored 102 for England against Australia in 1932. He would play in five more tests for both England as well as India, becomingly the only Test cricketer to have played for both nations.

Pravin Amre scored 103 against a venerable South Africa side to mark his debut for India in 1992. He was however unceremoniously dropped in 1994 and despite a brilliant First Class career, was never selected for India again, he played in just 11 tests over two years.

Arthur Milton of England scored 104 against New Zealand at Leeds in 1958; and ended up delivering mail in the Cotswolds after retiring from a brilliant first class career that lasted more than a quarter century. Only one century for England, but 56 for Gloucestershire.

Len Baichan made his Test debut for the West Indies in 1975, scoring 105 versus Pakistan. He lost in place in the team after a car accident, and never regained it.

Deepak Shodhan scored 110 for India in his debut, but was dropped after his third Test and never picked again. To this day, no one is quite sure why.

His debut 118 for India notwithstanding, Lala Amarnath’s career Test statistics are nothing special: 24 matches with an average of 24.38, he also took 45 wickets in 35 innings bowled; but he is considered an icon of Indian cricket: selector, coach, commentator, and story teller – and his lineage continues, as two of this sons also won Test caps for India.

Sir Pelham Warner, the Grand Old Man of English Cricket, scored 115 in his Test debut for England, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Aminul Islam scored a century for Bangladesh in their inaugural Test against India in 2000 – the highlight of a brilliant international career for Bangladesh, most of which took place before they were granted Test status. His 145 took almost nine hours and gave his team a fighting chance.

Archie Jackson made his debut for Australia in 1929, scoring a brilliant 164 in the 4th Ashes Test in Adelaide. He went on to play in seven more Tests, averaging 47.4. On February 16th, 1933, he died of Tuberculosis at the age of only 23.

In 1987, Sri Lankan wicketkeeper, Brendon Kuruppu became only the third cricketer to score a double century on his debut. His 201 against New Zealand took him 777 minutes, the slowest double hundred in first class history. He only played in three more tests and, interestingly, went on to become a one day slogger.

Finally, Tip Foster, scored 287 (!) in his debut for England against Australia in 1903. He also won six football caps – but sadly died in 1914 at the age of only 36.

There was also Abbas Ali Baig, AG Kripal Singh, and Ali Naqvi. Andy Ganteaume, Billy Griffith, and Billy Idadulla. Bruce Pairadeau, Dirk Welham, and Frank Hayes. Hanumant Singh, Jackie Mills, and John Hampshire. Rodney Redmond, Roger Hartigan. and Surinder Amarnath.

All of them have great stories: backroom backstabbings and petty politics. And like I said some just had one shining and brilliant moment in an otherwise dull and short career. While some of their stories are sad, it must be said that at the very least, at the absolute minimum, for one moment in time, they were at the absolute individual pinnacle of their sport.

Like John Hampshire in 1969: England v West Indies, Lord’s, 26th of June, a maiden Test century. Sure the match would end up drawn, and sure he would only play in seven more Tests, and sure his county career was troubled and his quality sporadic, but underneath summer skies in London, he put up a nifty 107 and was able to raise his bat to the grandstand. Despite everything, that’s something to hang your hat on, surely.

Team 1, Team 2

Note: I am about to do something I rarely, rarely do here at Limited Overs: blog about strategy, team selections, field positionings, and other on the pitch nuts and bolts. I freely admit that I am going to get most of this wrong, because I am just simply so new to the game (only five-plus years now). So, in that spirit, a disclaimer: if I get something terribly backwards and wrong, I encourage you to let me know in the comments; just please be nice about it.

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Watching India bat on and on and on against England this week, while simultaneously watching England do the exact opposite against the Indian attack has been incredibly eye opening.

The fact that England took the field on day one with nearly the exact same lineup that we saw against South Africa was one thing, but then they went about their business in the same exact manner: fast bowler after fast bowler, steaming in, again and and again. Their fielders were positioned like it was the Oval, their bowlers were attacking like it was the Oval, and with the exception of Swann, the results were as expected, because they were not playing at the Oval, there were playing on the Sub-continent.

I am of course not the first person to say this: but why exactly they didn’t come out with two spinners is absolutely and positively beyond me.

But beyond just adding a second spinner, I think it is high time that England look into having two separate squads: one for the Sub-continent, and one for everywhere else. Their batsmen, for the most part, simply cannot play spin, which was, again, painfully evident once Dhoni decided to declare and let Ojha and Ashwin and Company wreak havoc on England’s batsmen.

Five English batters ended the first innings with scores in the single digits. FIVE. And only one of those was a bowler. And with the exception of Cook (more on him in a minute) and Prior, they have not fared better in the second innings. Trott: 17 off of 43; Pietersen two off of six; and Patel out for a duck.

It has been said a million times before: England cannot play spin, so why not find players who can, and make them your Sub-continental specialists? Play them in the first class domestic leagues in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and/or Pakistan (if they will have them), or failing that, start a league down there, similar to the instructional leagues in Major League Baseball. Continue doing what you are doing with County Cricket, as it is doing a fine job churning out fast bowlers and superior batsmen, but it is failing otherwise.

I am not sure if this is the right solution, and I am not sure it is even possible much less feasible, but something has to change because I am simply sick of watching teams struggle on the Sub-continent. Not because I am a fan of England, but because I am sick of watching boring cricket.

At the very least, England, employ two spinners. I mean really, India brought mostly seamers to England 18 months ago, why can’t you use a similar tactic when you visit India?

And I know they were playing Bangladesh, but the West Indies had two slow bowlers in their test earlier this week, while they at most used one against England this past summer.

Furthermore, leave guys with loooonnng histories of failure against spin at home.

There just has to be a better way….

Of course, if it was that easy, then that’s would they would probably be doing.

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All of that said: Alastair Cook has been phenomenal.

His actual statistical accomplishment requires too many qualifiers (third best score by a captain when having to follow on in India…or something), but England are in this match with a shout for one reason and one reason: Cook stood up and carried the team when they needed him to. This is not meant to downplay Prior’s contribution, but Cook carries the added responsibility of the captain’s armband – which can be a heavy and burdensome yoke.

England fans, no matter what the outcome of the match turns out to be, should be immensely proud of their captain. He has cemented himself in the role for years to come. And it is a real shame that current vice-captain, Stuart Broad, is leagues behind Cook in on the field leadership. They currently do not have anyone else in the squad ready to step in as captain should Cook get hurt. Prior of course is the one exception but he does not play one-dayers and is three years older than Cook anyway.

Summation: The two top priorities for England right now should be: team selection for Sub-continent tours; and the grooming of a proper replacement for Cook.

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Been a fun ten days of Test cricket. And it just keeps on coming…

200

Yesterday (or, errrr, today, depending on where you live), Michael Clarke scored a double century for his country. It was the 59th time a captain had scored 200 or more in a Test match.

The last time it happened was on the 24th of January of this year: Michael Clarke against South Africa.

Before that: Michael Clarke against India in Sydney on the 3rd of January, 2012.

You have to go all the way back to July of 2010 to find another captain who scored at least 200 for his country: Kumar Sangakkara against India in Colombo.

Clarke is not the only captain to have scored a double century multiple times however, not even close:

Allan Border – 3
Sir Donald Bradman – 4
Greg Chappell – 3
Stephen Fleming – 3
Javed Miandad – 2
Mahela Jayawardene – 3
Brian Lara – 5
Bob Simpson – 3

Also, interestingly, the captain opposing Clarke for South Africa, Graeme Smith, has done it three times himself: 277 against England in 2003; 259 against England in 259; and 232 against Bangladesh in 2008.

The 200+ score by a captain has happened in the first innings all but six times: Bradman’s 270 against England in 1937; Bradman’s 212 against England in 1937; Martin Crowe’s 299 against Sri Lanka in 1991; Peter May’s 285 against the West Indies in 1957; Nawab of Pataudi’s 203 against England in 1964; and Saleem Malik’s 237 against Australia in 1994.

While a captain has scored 200+ 59 times, the captain’s country went on to win only 26 of those matches…less than half.

However, 57 of the 59 ended in at least a draw. And I am sure those double centuries had a great deal to do with most of those.

A great deal of extra responsibility comes with the Captain’s armband. One of which is to score runs when your teams need them the most. Whether it be 25, 50, or 350. And in the matches above, dollars to doughnuts says the teams needed at least 200 from their captains. And their captains delivered. The list above is a real who’s who of Test cricket captains. Some of the best to ever play, and some of the best to ever lead their countries.

Australia needed that double century from Clarke to save the match. And he delivered. And the fact that he did so put him in rare company.

Note: Only once has a captain scored 200+ in a losing effort: Brian Lara against South Africa in 2003. The West Indies were chasing 360ish and had a day and a half to do it, but Lara, despite his 202 in the first innings, was bowled by Pollock in the second innings for five and his team lost by 189. Of course, the West Indies are not even in the argument without Lara’s first innings knock.

But the match that stuck out to me the most among all 59 innings, was the first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Karachi in February of 2009: because it featured a double century (plus some) from each team’s captain: Jayawardene’s 240 in the first innings for the guests, and Younis Khan’s 313 for the hosts, also in the first innings.

Sri Lanka had put up a massive score of 644 in their first innings, and so Pakistan desperately needed someone to put a boatload of runs on the board, and Khan obliged, leading his country to a tremendous score of 765, the fifth highest Test match score of all time. The match ended in a draw.

I have written about this match before: two weeks later, in Lahore, the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by gunmen, and Pakistan has not hosted an international match since.

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This post took an odd turn. Anyway. Congrats to Michael Clarke. Great innings.