The league of extraordinary gentlemen
They command our respect. They demand our attention. In every aspect of cricket their names have been etched. They are the brand ambassadors.
Some perform miracles. Some oversee stadiums. Some become inadvertently famous. Others overcome the hurdle of discrimination. While still others are known for their innovation and creative genius. And one even for his antics. Tread softly, for herein lie the bones of the immortals.
Who are these fellows who can make an exciting dinner guests? Well, if we solely go by the constraint of cricketers whose names have been immortalized and intertwined with the sport, then it will indeed make an interesting list to an invited dinner.
Much is debated about the person and persona associated with the home of cricket. At 5'9" and 12 stone, Lord was well-built and known for both slow and fast underarm bowling. Although he made three fifties and took 17 catches, it is perhaps of great irony that the man who will forever be imprinted in the annals scored only 1 in the first innings on debut. Thomas Lord will be my choice to don the breeches for the first guest.
Monsieur Wisden is the obvious next choice for this list. He is known in the industry for his phenomenal feat of dismissing all ten batsmen bowled. Though the feat was achieved under-armed and at the first-class level, it is yet to be equaled to this date.
Wisden was only 5'6", perhaps debunking the myth that to be great bowler - so be it underarm - one has to be well-built and tall. The man who is eponymous with the almanack had the astounding bowling average of 6.66.
Bernard James Tindal Bosanquet is perhaps not known as well as the other famous 'uns in this list. He invented the googly or, in colloquial parlance, the bosie. The googly is a legbreak that behaves like an offbreak upon landing. He describes how he derived the variation from a completely unrelated sport - table tennis:
"Somewhere about the year 1897 I was playing a game with a tennis ball, known as Twisti-Twosti. The object was to bounce the ball on a table so that your opponent sitting opposite could not catch it. It soon occurred to me that if one could pitch a ball which broke in a certain direction and with more or less the same delivery make the next ball go in the opposite direction, one would mystify one's opponent. After a little experimenting I managed to do this, and it was so successful that I practised the same thing with a soft ball at Stump-cricket. From this I progressed to a cricket ball…"
Bosanquet was about 6 feet tall, served in the Royal Flying Corps and to paraphrase what he said about his style of delivery: "It is not unfair - only immortal".
Ranji is best known for introducing the leg glance. With over 24,000 first-class runs he dominated the scene for England in some style. He was so languid and graceful that he was said to move as if he had no bones. The cup which bears his name - the Ranji Trophy - produces a school of players who go on to represent the biggest cricket-playing country.
Everyone knows about the antic that made his name famous. But few know that Mankad put on a world-record opening partnership of 413 runs with Pankaj Roy in 1956. Mankading is often given a bad rap for being unsportsmanlike. But even the Don backed Mankad up, notwithstanding the fact that when Mankad got Bill Brown out in this fashion he first gave him a warning. He would make an exciting dinner guest to be sure.
Sir Frank Worrell
Frank Mortimer Maglinne Worrell was the first appointed black captain of West Indies. He was cross-dextrous, ambitious, united the islands' diverse and rival crowds, was involved in two 500-run partnerships, made a highest score of 261, and had a Test average a shade under 50. But perhaps, the ultimate respect he got was when half a million Aussies gave him and his team a salutation and farewell at Melbourne on February 20, 1961. His impact is so profound that every Test series between Australia and West Indies is known as the Frank Worrell trophy. This knight surely deserves a favorable spot at the table.
Technically I should invite Shane Warne for his epoch-making 'Ball of the century'. But I'd rather have the victim himself. What exactly went through Gatting's mind as it happened?
Dilshan makes the list thanks to his trademark 'Dilscoop' shot, which he has mastered with style and ease. Though some credit the stroke to Zimbabwe's Douglas Marillier, Dilshan is the one widely believed to be the pioneer of the scoop over the keeper's head. The man has a raft of high scores in ODI cricket, and for trivia lovers, he was the highest run-getter in 2011 World Cup.
Dilshan experimented with the shot first in IPL 2009. While playing the paddle sweep he once took the crew by surprise. Then he would go on to train with the tennis ball and developed that shot under the tutelage of Chandika Hathurusingha, then batting coach of Sri Lanka. He practised with tennis ball and then in the World Twenty20 in England started playing the shot frequently. It got him a lot of runs, and helped him win the Player of the Tournament award. "It's really good for the short format of the game," he would later say. "In the last few months I haven't played the shot in fifty overs cricket. I have responsibilities as an opener to give the team good starts. But I will play it in the future."
So there, that's my list of eight immortal cricketing names whom I'd invite to a very special dinner.
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