Test series against Australia tend to provoke thoughts of conflict – recall England’s pre-2009 Ashes bonding trip when they paid their respects to those felled at Ypres – although the erudite Rahul Dravid provided perspective on such sporting analogies when he delivered the Bradman Oration in Canberra.
Ahead of the Boxing Day Test between Australia and India at the MCG, Dravid said: “When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly the words ‘war’, ‘battle’, ‘ﬁght’ are used to describe cricket matches.
“Yes, we cricketers devote the better part of our adult lives to being prepared to perform for our countries, to persist and compete as intensely as we can – and more. This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, ﬁght – for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.
“The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australians together. That cricket is our single common denominator.
“(But) we share something else other than cricket. Before they played the ﬁrst Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side.
“In Gallipoli, along with the thousands of Australians, over 1300 Indians also lost their lives. In World War II, there were Indian and Australian soldiers in El Alamein, North Africa, in the Syria-Lebanon campaign, in Burma, in the battle for Singapore. Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades.”
No matter whose side you are on, there is one thing all cricket fans agree – Rahul Dravid is a class act.
Chris Schofield was in possession of a surprising career statistic but not an employer at the end of the 2011 season, having been released by Surrey days after their Clydesdale Bank 40/County Championship promotion double.
For former England leg-spinner Schofield had at that point proved more prolific with the ball in Twenty20 cricket than heralded duo Shane Warne and Anil Kumble. The 33-year-old’s career return of 61 wickets at a strike rate of 17.3 outstripped both Warne (59; 21.4) and Kumble (57; 21.8).
Schofield has already experienced two lives on the county scene, of course, re-emerging at the Oval with Surrey in August 2006 almost two years after an acrimonious split from Lancashire.
He drifted into Minor Counties cricket in the interim and has shown a similar passion to stay involved in the game this winter as captain-coach of Perth club Swan Valley. His double hundred and figures of 3 for 46 in a heavy victory over Balcatta in a Western Australia Suburban Turf Cricket Association match took his tally to in excess of 400 runs and 13 wickets in four matches.
Warne’s Big Bash showboating, predicting how he would dismiss Brendon McCullum over the player microphone and then executing the plan next ball, has proved a popular internet video clip worldwide.
But Warne is not the only 40-something making an impression in Twenty20 this winter. New Zealander Chris Harris, also 42, was man of the match in the final of Zimbabwe’s domestic competition.
Harris’s Mountaineers were crowned champions but runners-up Mashonaland Eagles possessed the player of the Stanbic Bank 20 tournament in Somerset’s Peter Trego, one of half-a-dozen England-qualified cricketers featuring as overseas players.
Of all tyro fast bowler Tymal Mills’ attributes, it was a combination of an extra yard of pace and left-arm variation that won him a place in the England Lions party to tour Bangladesh.
But it could as easily have been for attitude that the Essex man got selected: the 19-year-old supported his single-parent mum financially from the age of 12 by getting up at 4.30am each morning for a three-hour shift at a Suffolk market stall before school.
In comparison, the chores set for England’s Performance Programme this winter – including the occasional 15-hour day – would have seemed a breeze. However, the admirable Mills, fast-tracked after just four first-class matches, admitted to becoming panicky during a session of white water rescue in north Wales earlier this winter when he got in the wrong position trying to ‘save’ a dummy with ropes.
Yorkshire’s attempts to sign a Kolpak fast bowler, as revealed in this column a few weeks ago, concluded in their intended target getting cold feet.
The club had hoped to reveal the identity of the unnamed player at the press conference to unveil new first-team coach Jason Gillespie, who diplomatically declared his complete satisfaction at the strength of the current squad.
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