August 12, 2008

Fire v fire

Rajan Bala
Two of the greatest attacking batsmen ever, up against a man who loved to see blood on the pitch and a spinner who thought like a fast bowler

Clockwise from above left: Thomson, Bradman, Richards, Chandra © PA Photos, Getty Images

Two of the most devastating batsmen in the history of the game, Sir Donald Bradman and Vivian Richards, had the identical reputation for dominating bowlers almost from the moment they strode out to the middle. All that has been written about the Don indicates that his domination over bowlers in his time was due to his amazing capacity to judge length early. He also, apparently, somehow read the minds of bowlers. The first quality must have been shared by the amazing Antiguan; one is not sure if the latter attribute was.

If Bradman was ever "found out", it was in the Bodyline series of 1932-33, where under the instructions of the England captain Douglas Jardine, the Australian batsmen were subjected to a torrid onslaught directed at the body. Richards had his moments of acute discomfort against Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee in 1975-76, when those two were at their most fiery. Thomson made no bones about the fact that he liked to see blood on the pitch.

Had Thomson been allowed to bowl no holds barred at both Bradman and Richards it might have been a sight fit for the gods. The two batsmen would have counterattacked, naturally, but it would have been fascinating to watch their methods.

Supporting Thomson from the other end would be India's wonder bowler, BS Chandrasekhar. Bradman did play a similar sort of bowler in Bill O'Reilly, but Chandrasekhar, though not as accurate as "Tiger", had greater variety and surprises, including a bouncer. Richards, of course, described Chandrasekhar's bowling as coming from "the hand of god" and had his share of doubts against the Bangalore man.

Veteran Indian cricket writer Rajan Bala is an associate editor at the Asian Age