Friday, 25 March 2011

The captain's innings

Plaudits go to Yuvrav for his innings to carry India through against Australia yesterday, and he gathers yet another MOM award.  How many until it's his for life?  Does he have enough space on his mantelpiece?  (Fantasy Bob has the same worry at the end of the season when awards are made at club dinners).

But there is lots of sympathy (well not really) and respect (definitely) for Ricky Ponting who played an exemplary captain's innings. A great way to finish his World Cup career even if he promises to carry on in other formats.

Men of the Match - respect

The captain's innings is one of those cricket concepts that requires careful explanation to non-cricketers.  'Surely,' they will say innocently, 'any innings by the captain is a captain's innings.' 'Not so,' you say, full of misplaced and soon to be deflated confidence that these complications can be dealt with simply, 'for the innings of the captain to be the captain's innings it has to be the captain's innings.'  Silence ensues, disturbed only the ticking of a distant clock.  Whether for self amusement or some other reason you then compound your error, mistakenly thinking you can clarify the position. 'And,' you add, 'a spell of bowling could also be described as the captain's innings.'  'Ah yes,' your interlocutor says, swaying slightly under the extreme mental burden, 'of course, now I understand.'  Such challenges may well be why the Americans turned to baseball.

Wikipedia tells FB that a captain's innings is a high-scoring individual innings by the captain of the batting team considered to have changed the course of a match.   Far be it from FB to quibble with such an august source, but high scoring is not absolutely necessary.  Several of FB's own captain's innings have put mere handfuls of runs in the book, but they have shored up an otherwise rapidly sinking ship, grinding the winning runs in low scoring affairs when team mates have succumbed to the extreme pressure of the crowd baying from the boundary, or have been undone by the white hot heat of the sledge rich batting pod,  or bamboozled by the devastating bowling, or overcome the sudden and desperate need to lie down somewhere dark or all four.  So often does FB perform this heroic deed that it could be FB's speciality act - and FB is seriously considering whether a slot on the X-Factor is possible.

As FB's readers know full well, the captain's innings is the demonstration of practical leadership from the front, most often in adversity, providing a rallying point and direction to the team.  Often it is the definitive match-winning performance.  But this is a British concept so winning is not essential - character stiff upper lip and resolve are.  So the captain's innings can be played in any walk of life and by any rank - generals and colonels have played the captain's innings as have bosuns and able seamen. 

Atherton celebrates his hundred -
only another 5 hours to go
FB admires with all his heart and soul the performance produced in extreme adversity.  It is true grit and more to be admired than the easy flash double or triple hundreds that drip off the conveyor belt these days. 

The greatest exemplification of the captain's innings in FB's living memory is that of Mike Atherton in South Africa in 1995.  Atherton scored 185 not out in 643 minutes to salvage a draw, facing Allan Donald at his fastest and shoring up his partners.   This was his highest test score. Such an innings might be unlikely now as Test batsmen blast away and the concept of batting well over a day to save a game may be a thing of the past.  This innings gave Atherton a reputation as a defensive bat, occasionally likened to Boycott - which FB would take as flattery. 

But here is a trivia fact about Atherton, he holds the joint record with Steve Harmison for the most English test ducks - 20.  Respect.


  1. Men like Collingwood and Laxman still have it them to produce the kind of innings Atherton produced against Australia. Just 2 years back Gambhir and Laxman batted out 2 whole days to save a test in NZ

  2. It is of course open to FB to amend the offending Wikipedia article.

  3. Chanayaka - correct - real Test matches still happen from time to time.

    Iain - thanks. FB wouldn't know where to stop once he started.