x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

IPL teams would break the bank for legendary all-rounders such as Sobers or Botham

If Ravindra Jadeja can fetch $US4 million at auction, what price would Chennai Super Kings have paid for the West Indies or England greats, aks Dileep Premachandran.

Our columnist wonders how much IPL teams would pay for the services of legendary all-rounders such as former West Indies captain Sir Garfield Sobers (above, left) during his pomp, when considering modern day players such as Ravindra Jadeja fetched a reported US$4 million at auction. Sebastian D'Souza / AFP
Our columnist wonders how much IPL teams would pay for the services of legendary all-rounders such as former West Indies captain Sir Garfield Sobers (above, left) during his pomp, when considering modern day players such as Ravindra Jadeja fetched a reported US$4 million at auction. Sebastian D'Souza / AFP

After Chennai Super Kings had pulled off a dramatic win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday, MS Dhoni, the India and Chennai captain, tweeted: "When you give Sir Ravindra Jadeja one ball to get 2 runs he will win it with one ball to spare!!"

Jadeja's contribution on the day was two overs that cost 20 and a 20-ball 38 that clinched the win. They jokingly call him Sir to overstate his all-round prowess. After all, the greatest all-rounder of them all, Sir Garfield Sobers, was knighted.

Jadeja's every move in the Indian Premier League receives enhanced scrutiny because of the US$2 million (Dh7.3m) Chennai paid for him at the 2011 auction. Rumour has it that the sum paid to clinch the tiebreaker was $4m.

In the Twenty20 format, he is a clever, restrictive bowler and a fine fielder. And on a good day, like Saturday, worth a few runs as well.

Sobers, he is not. And the sums invested on some bits-and-pieces all-rounders make you wonder just how the greats of the past would have coped with the IPL, both on and off the field. Sobers, as famous for his carousing as he was for his feats on the field, would have loved the after parties, but the mind boggles at what he might have fetched in an auction.

He averaged more with the bat in Tests (57.78) than most all-time-great specialist batsmen. He could take the new ball, and bowl two types of left-arm spin. He was also a magnificent fielder.

Those who watched his 254 for Rest of the World against Australia in 1971/72 reckoned it the finest innings ever played on Australian soil.

A son of that soil would have been as much at home as Sobers in the glamorous environs of the IPL.

"He was looking forward to swinging his bat, banging down a bouncer, or plucking a catch out of nowhere," wrote David Frith in a tribute soon after Keith Miller died, in 2004.

"From being bewitched by Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn some nights on the big silver screen, we watched Keith Miller, their cricketing personification, on sunlit days at the Sydney Cricket Ground. And just as it was futile to aspire to be a Cooper (whose voice was so like Miller's) or a Flynn (whose grin was like his, and whose swordplay seemed the Hollywood equivalent of Miller's stroke play), so it was only a foolish boy who aspired to emulate the dashing Miller."

A quarter-century ago, John Arlott, prince of cricket broadcasters, assessed Miller's cricketing strengths in the Wisden Cricket Monthly.

"He had a poised and not unnecessarily long run, yet from time to time he would bowl at his fastest off a half-length approach," he wrote.

"He moved the ball sharply off the seam and could make it lift quite alarmingly from only fractionally short of a length. All this is the more amazing for the fact that he first established himself in Australian State cricket as a batsman.

"Then, simply enough, in a Services match, he was thrown the ball to come on as fifth change and emerged forthwith as a natural pace bowler. In the field he was utterly brilliant; amazingly fast and nimble at cover point for one over six feet tall, and probably the finest slip fielder of his time, again an amazingly swift and lithe mover for his size."

Sobers and Miller were so revered not just because of their star qualities, but for how sound their fundamentals were.

Ashley Mallett, the off-spinner who took 28 wickets in India in 1969/70, wrote in a column for ESPNcricinfo last year: "In 1969, Miller turned up to take part in a coaching film. All he had to do was to bowl three balls at an unprotected set of stumps.

"He walked past me where I stood some seven paces back from my mark and said: 'Ahem, son, I'll pitch leg and hit off.'

"His first and third balls did precisely that: the ball was propelled at a speed at least as fast as Graham McKenzie, who was a fast bowler for Australia then. The seam was perfectly upright and it pitched on both occasions on the line of leg stump and broke like a Shane Warne legbreak to hit the top of off stump."

My generation was also blessed.

We may not have got to watch Sobers and Miller, but we got Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee.

All of them were masters with the ball. Imran was technically sound enough to bat in the top order, while Kapil and Botham could eviscerate the bowling on their good days. Even Hadlee, the least gifted batsman of the quartet, finished with two Test hundreds. Those four played more than 400 Tests between them. Clive Rice, whose golden years coincided with the isolation of apartheid South Africa, played none. Yet, he ceded ground to none in Best All-Rounder exhibitions held in the early 1980s.

Chris Morris, also of Gauteng (formerly Transvaal), went for $650,000 at the last IPL auction.

Rice, Miller, Sobers and other greats would probably have ended up breaking the bank.

 

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