No. 9 February 15, 2009

Queen's Park stands up for Simmo

An old-timer steps into the ring again, and is greeted with due respect


Not pictured: 24,000 cheering fans applauding Simpson to the wicket © PA Photos
 

Port-of-Spain, 3 March 1978

Bob Simpson just had to be a glutton for punishment. Why else would a 42-year-old choose to come out of retirement to lead a weakened, makeshift Australian side to the Caribbean to face arguably the most formidable cricketing force the game has ever known?

Unlike its Australian counterpart, the West Indies Cricket Board of Control had not alienated the defectors to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, so the likes of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner were waiting impatiently for the chance to unleash fire and brimstone on the hopelessly outgunned visitors on the opening day of the series, at the Queen's Park Oval.

Even though rain had been pouring down from early in the morning, the ground was already up to capacity by the time Clive Lloyd and Simpson went out belatedly for the toss.

When the coin came up in the home team's favour, the collective roar that went up in the stands was like that in a Coliseum anticipating a slaughter.

Yet in the midst of the carnage that followed (Peter Toohey was struck between the eyes by a Roberts bouncer), there was a moving tribute to Simpson's courage when 24,000 fans stood as one to applaud the Australian captain all the way to the wicket, and then again on the return journey after Garner trapped him leg-before for a duck.

There was to be no heroic rearguard, and the tourists were routed for 90 on the way to being demolished by an innings inside three days. But as much as they revelled in the home team's overwhelming dominance, the celebrating masses were still knowledgeable and sporting enough to honour an ageing defender of the baggy green.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine