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The good the bad the ugly October 1996 - April 1998

Submitted by rickeyre on December 29, 2009 - 11:04am

(The following is a compilation of a monthly column that I wrote which originally appeared in Cricinfo in 1996, 1997, 1998. It was done as a not-too-serious companion piece to a Player of the Month selection that I was also doing for Cricinfo over the same period of time. I have modified some of the links in this version for clarity. Note also that these awards pre-date another certain Google.)

The good, the bad and the ugly who didn't win the CricInfo googler's Player of the Month:

October 1996:

Shahid Afridi: Selected for the Pakistan one-day side in Kenya as a bowling replacement for Mushtaq Ahmed, his debut innings with the bat was the fastest one-day international ton in history - 37 balls, wiping Jayasuriya's six-month old record off the face of the earth. All this at the age of either 16 or 19. Very confusing... at pre-school was he uncertain whether he was 3 or 6?

Saqlain Mushtaq: For his world record Test eighth wicket partnership with Wasim Akram - especially as he faced more balls than Wasim and scored less than one-third as many runs as him.

Mark Taylor: For scoring the Century They Said Could Never Be Made - his maiden ODI ton against India at Bangalore.

Mohammad Azharuddin: For his grace and professionalism in his calm acceptance of his LBW dismissal in the same Titan Cup fixture against Australia at Bangalore, which aroused so much popularity with the crowd that he had to do a victory lap of honour...

and the entire Goa Ranji Trophy side: For pulling off one of the all-time upsets, an innings victory against defending champions Karnataka, the first game they have won in eleven years of trying.

November 1996:

Ian Healy: They said he was all washed up, he couldn't bat, he was getting injured too frequently. They called up Adam Gilchrist as a replacement for him in the Titan Cup, and they said that Gilchrist's batting was so superior that it was enough for him to replace Healy in the Test side. Heals's reply? 250 runs for once out in his first three Test innings of the WI series; his usual customary effort behind the stumps; and a whack in the head from Brian Lara's bat (revenge for something??)

Javagal Srinath: One scintillating spell won a seemingly lost Test against South Africa at Ahmedabad.

Mohammad Azharuddin: one of the fastest centuries in Test history at Calcutta on November 29

Anil Kumble: Apart from his usual customary match-winning bowling efforts (eg the Titan Cup Final vs South Africa), he is starting to aspire as an all-rounder. Shared India's all-time 8th wicket record with Azhar (see above) but fell at 88. A century may just have been enough to give him November's googler's prize...

the groundsman at Rajkot Municipal Ground: if you want to know how to prepare a batsman's pitch, here's your man... the Mumbai v Saurashtra game from November 4-7 produced 1242 runs for the loss of just eight wickets over four days, and Wasim Jaffar scoring 314 runs without losing his wicket at all.

Vinod Kambli: for getting out for seven on the aforementioned Rajkot pitch in the aforementioned Mumbai - Saurashtra game.

and finally, Merv Hughes: What does one do when your country doesn't want you any more, your state doesn't want you anymore, and you have just had your thirty-fifth birthday? The Swervin One finished November by taking 6-20 for Footscray in dismissing Prahran for 43 all out in the Melbourne First Grade comp.

December 1996:

Glenn McGrath: He was man-of-the-match in the Sydney Test against the West Indies for his bowling, but let's not forget his career-best 24 at number eleven in the first innings, which was more than Lara could achieve in that game.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul: It's a fair bet that he will put together a half-century every other innings, and his second innings effort in the Sydney Test was an exceptional cameo. But great batsmen are remembered for their hundreds and double hundreds, not for 50+ averages with a highest score of 82...

Mohammad Azharuddin (yet again): For another outstanding innings in the Kanpur Test. One day he will fire when it will actually assist the team...

Justin Langer: the highest score of the month (274* for WA vs South Australia), earning the chance to be humiliated by Curtly Ambrose in the Melbourne Test

Tom Moody: Think of Moody in December and most people think of his unlikely recall to the Australia one-day side. However he was also the West Australian captain responsible for declaring their innings closed with Justin Langer 26 runs short of an almost-certain triple ton.

Deepak Choughale: Remember this name. On December 24, twelve year-old Deepak scored 400 not out off 322 balls (two sixes, 72 fours) in Karnataka Under-13's innings of 589-4 in their two day game against Goa.

Bandula Ranjith: There may not be a need to remember this name, but Bandula took first-class cricket's best match figures in December with 15 for 98 (8 for 50 and 7 for 48) in the Sara Trophy game in Sri Lanka for Singha SC against Galle.

and the number 66: Plenty of attention for number 66 in December - Wasim Akram's jumper number in the Carlton & United One-Day Series, and India's entire second innings score against South Africa in the Durban Test.

January 1997:

Ijaz Ahmed Senior: The most outstanding Ijaz Ahmed of the month in international cricket, well ahead of runner-up Ijaz Ahmed Junior. Senior (in the English school system they may well have been called Ijaz Major and Ijaz Minor) was the most consistent batsman for Pakistan in their Carlton & United Series victory over the West Indies and Australia, and must have been envious of Brian Lara riding his man-of-the-series motorbike around the MCG on January 20.

Anthony Stuart: For emerging from the obscurity of Sheffield Shield cricket to play for Australia in one-day internationals, taking a hat-trick against Pakistan, and then returning to interstate obscurity again.

Mohammad Azharuddin (again): He smashed 115 off 110 balls in the Cape Town Test on January 3, and his 222 partnership with Tendulkar was described by some witnesses as one of the most scintillating episodes they had seen in Tests. Unfortunately five-day Tests are decided on more than just scintillating episodes, and India lost the match by 282 runs.

Danny Morrison: Test cricket's most accomplished duckster of all time came to the crease before tea on the last day of the Auckland Test against England with defeat certain. He stayed around for the final 165 minutes, remaining on 14 not out, assisting Nathan Astle to his century, and giving England Yet Another One That Got Away.

Mike Hussey: On January 30 this Western Australian opening batsman played a lusty cover drive to a delivery from Scott Muller of Queensland. In the follow-through his bat flew out of his hands, high into the air, back over his head and onto his stumps. That was the greatest hit wicket you'll ever see!!!

and the entire Pakistan womens team: In a one-day international against the New Zealand women on January 28, they were dismissed for 56. NZ scored the winning runs in 8.1 overs for the loss of no wickets. Pakistan's bowling improved in the next ODI the following day inasmuch as they took five NZ wickets. They did, however, concede 455 runs in the space of fifty overs, and could only themselves manage 47 runs all out this time, to lose the game by a world record 408 runs. January was a very mixed month for Pakistani international teams...

February 1997:

Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton and Debbie Hockley: The three outstanding batters of this year's Rose Bowl series between the Australian and New Zealand women achieved almost identical aggregates (Clark of Australia 278, Rolton of Australia and Hockley of New Zealand 272 each) All made big scores, with Belinda Clark's 142 the highest of all.

Alex Tait: This Northern Districts medium-fast bowler had a whale of a February with the ball and was very close indeed to winning the major prize. His efforts:

Mario Villavarayan: The Sri Lankan Board of Control for Cricket (BCCSL) insists that Sara Trophy Division A matches are first-class, and so Mario's devastating 9 for 15 for Bloomfield against Police on February 17 will earn him a prestigious entry in the 1998 Wisden.

Curtly Ambrose: The Long Goodbye - Curtly's last Test match appearance on Australian soil, the Fifth Test at the WACA on February 3. So long, that he overstepped the mark to be no-balled nine times in his final over - his fifteen-ball over believed to be the longest over in Test cricket in modern times. Earlier, his final innings of the series ended in a run out when he got his bat stuck in a crack in the pitch trying to ground it behind the return crease.

Phil Simmons: The inaugural googler's Player of the Month finished January with two ducks in each of the Carlton and United one-day series finals. He started February with a nought at the WACA in the Fifth Test against Australia, and then followed that, for Trinidad against Jamaica, with a pair. Five ducks in a row - because they were scored in a mixture of first-class and limited-overs games the sequence doesn't count for the record books, so we'll highlight them here.

and the Northern Districts Shell Trophy team: for having one of their bowlers take sixteen wickets in a match (v Auckland - see above), and then losing that match by getting all out for 32 in their second innings.

March 1997:

Chris Harris: Just two first-class innings in March for Canterbury say it all: 206 and 198. What they don't say is why the New Zealand selectors don't want him.

Navjot Sidhu: A Test match double century is not to be taken lightly, but Sidhu's 201 in the Port-of-Spain Test was one of the heavier ones.

Ian Healy: For two notable bat-waving efforts in March, his last-ball six at Port Elizabeth which earned Australia victory, and his post-dismissal salute at Centurion, which earned a two-match vacation.

Stephen Fleming: The New Zealand captain who declared with Bryan Young in sight of a Test triple hundred against Sri Lanka.

Ryan Campbell: They called this Western Australian opening batsman the new Jayasuriya, Australia's new hope as at the top of the order. National selection beckoned. Come the Sheffield Shield final against Queensland, his first-innings zero is followed by a second-innings duck. Qld won the Shield. Michael Di Venuto was chosen for the South African tour.

Heath Davis: Winner of the Bronze Zarawani for walking to the crease without a helmet in the Christchurch one-day international against England, and being hit in the head by Darren Gough.

and the Barmy Army of the Month award goes to the Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) who organised a demonstration against the Israeli team before the start of their ICC Trophy match at the PKNS ground in Kuala Lumpur, only to find that Canada and the Netherlands were playing. But never let that stop a good protest, and they still forced the abandonment of the game.

April 1997:

Full international of the month: Aravinda De Silva.

A phenomenal April for Aravinda, he would have been a worthy winner of the month's award in his own right, his opportunities will no doubt come again and again. An extraordinary comeback to form by a player many had written off as finished. Following Test match scores of 3, 0, 1 and 5 against New Zealand last month, his one-day efforts against the Kiwis in late March produced 66 and 36. At Sharjah in the first fortnight of April he scored 60, 97, 134, 32 and 87 not out. As April concluded his two Test appearances at home against Pakistan produced 23, 168, 138* and 103*. Never write off a great batsman when he's down - critics of Mark Taylor and Mohammad Azharuddin take note.

Nation of the month: The People's Republic of Bangladesh.

Just as Sri Lanka's World Cup victory last year changed the balance of power in world cricket, Bangladesh's ascendancy to World Cup status is quite possibly the first step in another balance shift. A nation of over 120 million people, with large sports stadia ready for cricket and an extremely enthusiastic base of supporters and players, their impeccable performance in winning the ICC Trophy showing that the country's future in the game is extremely promising. Test status before the turn of the century? A possibility.

Runner-up nation of the month: Scotland.

Euphoria on April 10 as the Scottish Cricket Team (and I still can't say that phrase without a grin) won their dislocated local derby against Ireland and the third spot in the south-of-the-border 1999 World Cup. But after the tournament, it was back to earth, and back to work for most of the part-time superstars of Scottish cricket. Eight of the triumphant team couldn't get the time off work for their Monday clash with Leicestershire in the B&H Cup on April 28, and their county opponents knocked up the highest innings total in the cup's history as Scotland fell to a 178 run defeat.

Multi-national player of the month: Hansie Cronje.

Captain and key player for South Africa in their 4-3 series loss in the one-day series to Australia, ending April 13 with 69 runs off 63 deliveries. On April 29 he was man-of-the-match in his debut for Ireland, a historic and unprecedented victory over Middlesex in the Benson & Hedges Cup.

May 1997:

Saeed Anwar:
November's player of the month missed almost six months of international cricket due to illness, but returned with a vengeance during the Independence Cup. Against India on a hot Wednesday afternoon in Chennai he scored 194 runs to break the twelve year-old ODI world record of Vivian Richards. Controversy surrounded his use of a runner for a large part of the innings, but the record book is not one to take regard of innuendo (unless your name is Glen Chapple or Tom Moody - but that's another story).

Adam and Ben Hollioake:
In the tradition of the Chappell brothers and the Waugh brothers come two more young Australian brothers whose fast scoring and all-rounder capabilities have suddenly grabbed the attention of the cricketing world. The difference is, they play for England...

Shivnarine Chanderpaul:
West Indies' Mr Consistency followed his maiden Test century in April with a maiden ODI century on May 3 during the locals' clinical demolition of India in the Port-of-Spain one-dayer. However for Guyana he was anything but Mr Consistency, as his Red Stripe Cup season produced 186 runs at 26.57 with a top score of 60...

I.Grizzle: The Jamaican umpire who, along with his colleague Felix Whyte, refused to officiate at the second day of a schoolboy cricket final in Kingston, resulting in the abandonment of the game. They informed authorities that they had been abused by fans of one of the school teams. Representatives of the tournament did not turn up at the ground to resolve the problem, presumably because it was "Teacher's Day" in Kingston, and the match could not continue. Media reports do not indicate what the "I" in Umpire Grizzle's name stands for.

Mantra of the month:

"I'm seeing the ball well, I'm getting better every day, I deserve to be in the team, the big score is just around the corner" -
Mark Taylor. Every media interview, every press conference, every day.

Numbers of the month:

666: Representing the number of wickets by which England won each of the three Texaco Trophy matches against Australia; and the outcome of three consecutive deliveries from Kumble to Saeed Anwar during the latter's world record innings.

224: Pakistan's losing score in both of the Independence Cup finals.

128: The most runs scored in a one-day innings by a batsman while assisted by a runner when not physically injured.

June 1997:

Mark Taylor: Australian Fairytale No.1 - Under immense pressure and increasing tabloid ridicule for his poor batting form on the tour, he came out in the second innings of the First Test at Edgbaston and scored a brave 129. Not sufficient to save Australia from a surprise first-up defeat in the series. Taylor is acknowledged as one of Australia's finest captains ever - his last eleven Tests have produced five wins... and five losses.

Glenn McGrath: Australian Fairytale No.2 - His bowling was part of Australia's problem in their huge loss at Edgbaston, but his first innings in the rain-ruined Second Test gave him that dream of doing something special in an Ashes Test at Lord's. And then some - his 8 for 38 being the best individual innings performance against England at the Lord's Ground.

Matthew Hayden: Australian Fairytale Not - Unwanted by Australia for the Ashes tour, as May turned to June he completed an extraordinary weekend for Hampshire against Warwickshire by scoring 472 in three innings, his 235 not out being the best of three consecutive centuries in the sequence. As the month progressed he scored two more county championship centuries and one in the Sunday League. The month finished with his chance to say "I told you so" in the Australians' tour match against his county. His response? two compact innings of 6 and 2 respectively.

Three Aging Off-Spinners of the Month:

1. Arshad Ayub:
His enterpreneurial skills brought the Siyaram's Cup to the world, brief media attention to the city of Hyderabad, the non-appearance of selected Indian captain Tendulkar, and confusion as to what the whole tournament was really about.

2. Dipak Patel:
Responsible for organising a New Zealand team to participate in Mr Ayub's said carnival. So unofficial was this team that the New Zealand Cricket Council not just disowned it, but insisted that it be referred to as the Dipak Patel XI. New Zealand's favourite ex-England-"B" off-spinner thereby earned a place in cricketing immortality for having a touring side named after him, an honour usually reserved for the likes of Sir Julian Cahn, the Maharajah of Patiala and Ginger Meggs.

3. John Emburey:
Announced his retirement from first-class cricket during June at the age of 44. This retirement appears to have more finality than his previous retirements, but he is still playing one-day cricket for Northamptonshire so one can always hope. Possibly the departure of Ray Illingworth as England chairman made his chances of yet another Test recall seem less likely. In the last ten of his seventeen years as an England player, he appeared in 39 Tests and took 80 wickets at 45.44 runs apiece.

Team of the Month: It just has to be Glamorgan. Consider their five first-class matches over the period May 29 to June 28, in chronological order:

  • Made their highest score of all-time, 597 for 8, in defeating Durham by an innings;
  • Lost to Oxford University, the first county side to lose to a university in a first-class fixture for four years;
  • Trailed Middlesex by 38 runs on the first innings, and lost the match by an innings and seven runs. Yes, all out for 31 in the second knock!
  • Defeated Lancashire by bowling them all out for 51 in just 14 overs.
  • Defeated Sussex by an innings, dismissing them for 54 in the first innings and 67 in the second.

Horses get swabbed for more consistent form than this.

July 1997:

Matthew Elliott: Why did he play that shot to Darren Gough on 199? Already being dubbed the new Bill Lawry... as long as he stays away from the microphone when he retires...

Venkatesh Prasad: For producing the outstanding bowling performance of the Asia Cup, 4-17 in five overs against Pakistan. Unfortunately it, and the match, came to nothing as the tournament organisers faith in the July Sri Lankan climate manifested itself in bucketloads.

Alastair Brown: Apparently no longer wanted by England at one-day level, and totally unconsidered at Test level, he scored 203 in a Sunday League game for Surrey against Hampshire on July 20. Although he is the fourth person to have scored a double century at domestic one-day level (after Graeme Pollock, Alan Barrow and Alvin Kallicharran), none of the others have had to do so within the constraints of a forty-over limit.

Marcus Trescothick: The former England Under-19 international was a central figure in an extraordinary finish to Somerset Second XI's fixture against Warwickshire Second XI concluding July 18. Somerset lost the match by six runs... thing is, they were chasing 612 to win. Marcus scored 322 of those runs. Both his innings and Somerset's total of 605 are all-time records in the Second Eleven Championship.

Keith Arthurton: The Binary Man of last year's World Cup scored the first double century of his first-class career on July 10, running out of partners on exactly 200 not out playing for an MCC eleven against the Pakistan A tourists. Enough runs to last him 400 innings for the West Indies, if indeed the selectors ever want him back...

Mike Roseberry: The opening batsman for Durham suffered the ultimate indignity on July 16 in a County Championship game... flattened by a bouncer from Craig White!! Retiring from the field for 144 minutes with double vision, he returned to the crease only to be dismissed first ball.

Alfred Mynn: For achieving immortality by being rated the fourth greatest cricketer of all time by former Wisden editor John Woodcock, thereby overcoming the extreme handicaps of having been retired from the game for 150 years, having never played a Test match, one-day international, or faced a three-pronged spin attack at Gaddafi Stadium.

and the back half of a cow: A pantomime cow was accosted by security officials while grazing on the Headingley outfield at stumps on the second day of the Fourth Test. A person in the back half was knocked unconscious when rugby-tackled by officials, but recovered shortly after. The front half of the cow was not injured.

August 1997:

Aravinda De Silva: One of our favourite "nearly men" on these pages, he scored a century in every appearance at the Test crease in the series against India, giving him a world record six consecutive Test centuries on home soil - something not achieved by Sir Donald Bradman, or even Javed Miandad...

Mohammad Azharuddin: Our other main "nearly man" of this section, he scored a century in each of the Tests against Sri Lanka. It would be easy to applaud this as a magnificent comeback performance except that he has not actually missed a Test match so far in 1997.

Phil Tufnell: Thirteenth man for England five Tests in a row, meaning he gets sent home even before being given the opportunity to carry the drinks. Promoted to the starting lineup he took eleven wickets at The Oval and gave England a thrilling nineteen-run victory over Australia. Of course the England selectors saw no need for him earlier in the series... who won the Ashes again???

Nilesh Kulkarni: A fairytale start to his Test career when he had Atapattu caught behind from his very first delivery in Test cricket. Three days later, with Sri Lanka 952 for 6, he left the field with figures of 70-12-195-1, and was dropped for the Second Test.

Charlotte Edwards: Very few players in the women's game have star status yet.. hopefully this December's World Cup in India will change all that. Charlotte grabbed the attention when opening the batting for England in the one-day series against South Africa. In a rain-affected series, her century in her second ODI was the standout achievement, all the more remarkable because she is still 17 years of age.

and Roshan Mahanama: Just in case no one noticed, he scored 225 and shared in a world record Test partnership of 576 in the First Test.

This month's lucky numbers:

48: The number of runs by which Sri Lanka failed to reach 1000 in the First Test;

35: the number of runs by which Jayasuriya fell short of Lara's world record; and

1: the number of runs by which Jayasuriya fell short of his second Test double-century of the month, and by which he and Mahanama fell short of the world first-class partnership record.

Supplementary number 419: The number of deliveries Nilesh Kulkarni bowled in the First Test after taking his first and only wicket.

September 1997:

Disciplinary Committeeman of the Month: Inzamam ul-Haq.
This member of Pakistan's recently formed players' disciplinary committee produced some innovative ways for keeping his committee active
at the Toronto Cricket Club on September 14. Unfortunately he was required to stand down from the committee which heard the charge against him, and who fined him the massive sum of $US1000. ICC officials had already exacted their own judgment by forcing Inzamam to miss two days' play for his actions. If only Rashid Patel, Raman Lamba, Eric Cantona and Mike Tyson had these disciplinary processes to answer to... Committeeman Inzamam is clearly a reformed man as his two 70+ innings in the three matches following his suspension have shown.

Batman of the Month: Mohammad Hussain.
In the days before the "Caped Crusader" when the sun never set on the British Empire, a batman was a soldier who acted as servant to a senior officer in the army. At Toronto on September 14 Mohammad Hussain performed the batman duties quite literally for Mr ul-Haq, as the latter entered the records books as the first international player to require the use of a bat whilst fielding.

Vegetable of the Month: The Potato.
What has this poor defenceless legume done to deserve so much adverse publicity during the month of September? Why did Shiv Kumar Thind use the poor spud's name in vain? Why did the media of bilingual Canada tag the whole sorry mess alternately Potatogate and l'Affaire Pomme de Terre? Is there a ready-made sponsorship deal awaiting Inzi if he ever takes up a coaching position in Ireland? Will we ever know the answers?

Flower of the Month: Grant.
In a year when an unusual number of instances of "centuries in each innings" have taken place, Grant Flower put Zimbabwe's name onto this list with scores of 104 and 151 at Harare against the mighty New Zealand bowling attack of Shayne O'Connor, Heath Davis, Daniel Vettori, Nathan Astle and the two Chrises, followed by a first innings in the Bulawayo Test of 83. However the record for the most runs in a single game by a Zimbabwean in September 1997 goes to...

Zimbabwean of the Month: Graeme Hick.
The man not good enough to be selected even once for England during the 1997 season finished the County year with Worcestershire by scoring 303 not out and 28 not out against Hampshire. Captain Tom Moody (see December 1996) declared with Hick only 102 runs short of his personal best (mind you, Tom himself was on 180 not out at the time)

Committed disciplinarian of the Month: Chris Cairns.
Like his father he normally uses his bat like every ball was a megaphone-wielding spectator. Cairns defended grittily for over four hours on the final day of the Harare Test to save the match for New Zealand. Seventy-one not out from 238 balls, seven fours and only one six. Surely one has a right to expect a triple-ton from Chris in that length of time!!

Shrubbery of the Month: Chris Cairns's hair. (as usual)

October 1997:

Pat Symcox:
Like all good off-spinners it was as a batsman that Pat attracted the most attention during the deciding Third Test at Faisalabad.
In the first innings he came to the crease at number 9 with the score 98 for 7 and clubbed 81 from 94 balls with 10 fours and two sixes to help raise South Africa's innings total to 239. His second innings 55 scored as nightwatchman from a leisurely 120 deliveries (7 fours and one six) was the top score of the innings.
Just as a reminder of the real reason he was chosen to represent his country, he took three wickets for eight runs in the thrilling conclusion to the match as Pakistan, chasing 146 for victory, were sent packing for 92. A near thing for October's Player of the Month title.

Azhar Mahmood and Ali Naqvi: Joint winners of this month's Leonard Baichan Medallion for Cricket Immortality,
Azhar and Ali both scored Test debut centuries in Pakistan's first innings of the First Test against South Africa, thereby earning the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those other great debutant centurions, such as the said Mr Baichan, Rodney Redmond, Billy Griffith, Dirk Wellham and Praveen Amre.

Adam Dale: His diving one-handed airborne outfield catch at the Gabba for Queensland on October 12 has the honour of being the first catch of the 1997-98 season to be described by Bill Lawry as "the best catch you'll ever see!". His attempted repeat effort at the same ground in a Sheffield Shield match five days later was even more spectacular in that he missed the ball by half a metre.

Flower of the Month: Andy. Man of the series in Zimbabwe's first-ever tournament victory at full international level, the Trust Bank Tri-Nations Presidents Cup, won against home team Kenya and that other fully international side Bangladesh. Andy contributed innings in this competition of 81, 72, 70, 66, 79 and 7, and shared in three century opening partnerships with September's Flower of the Month, Grant.

Number of the Month: 127.
On October 25 Queensland defeated New Zealand by an innings and 127 runs. A day later, they defeated the Kiwis again in a one-dayer by 127 runs. One hundred and twenty-seven is also the score Mark Taylor made on October 15 to register his first first-class century on Australian soil for 23 months.

November 1997:

Marvan Atapattu: One of modern cricket's great absurdities was shattered at the PCA ground, Mohali on November 20 as Atapattu (who started 1997 with a Test batting average of 0.1666667) scored his maiden Test century.

Phil Simmons: Recalled to the West Indies Test side for the First Test at Peshawar, after scoring 0 in his last Test innings (v

Australia in February 1997) and 0 in his last Test innings before that (v New Zealand in May 1996). His form has improved since those days, to the level where he scored 1 in the first innings at Peshawar, and followed that in the second innings with another one (run that is). A sequence that his former team-mate Keith Arthurton would be proud of, and one that now seems to be a thing of Marvan Atapattu's past.

Carl Hooper: The West Indies' best player after they scraped into the final four of the Wills Quadrangular One-Day Series in Lahore.
Hooper scored 68 and 105 in their first two games of the tournament, but more than that, he was his team's most successful and most economical bowler of the series, with figures of 8-0-31-1, 10-1-49-1 and 9-1-29-0. Sad really.

S.C.G.MacGill: His hat trick for New South Wales against New Zealand on November 2 drew attention to a bowler seen by some as Australia's number 2 spinner and a likely tourist to India in early 1998. A candidate to be another of the tradition of Test players named after famous grounds (following on from Lord Harris and Waca Younis).

The New Zealand team: It is hard to know where to begin with a touring team with such outstanding lack of success as the Kiwis touring Australia, but special mention must go to Daniel Vettori, for starting the month with a bad haircut and finishing the month with an even worse one.

Aravinda de Silva: Two more brilliant centuries from "Pads" in November, showing yet again his superiority over Mohammad

Azharuddin in his ability to score centuries at any time except when it matters. A magnificent 102 not out in Sri Lanka's thrashing of Pakistan on November 5 was followed by two sparkling cameos of 6 and 24 as Lanka were annihilated (twice) by South Africa. Strike rates of 96.77 are fine when you can actually stay at the crease long enough to win important matches. On November 23 his 110 not out in the First Test against India at Mohali was his fourth century in five Test innings, and his seventh of the year. His match-winning value to the Sri Lankan Test effort can be shown in the following Test statistics for the 1997 calendar year to November 30:

Batting In:     T   Inn  NO  Runs  Aver    HS  100 50
Tests Won       0     0   0     0   ?       -    0 0
Tests Lost      3     6   0    56   9.33   47    0 0
Tests Drawn     7    11   3  1080 135.00  168    7 1

Number of the month: 99: The score that Lance Klusener made in South Africa's one-day final victory over Sri Lanka on November 8. Also Saurav Ganguly's score when dismissed in the Nagpur Test at 5.51am GMT on November 28, and Greg Blewett's score when he was dismissed at Hobart at 5.53am GMT on November 28.

Supplementary number: TWO: Like Atapattu and Simmons, Roger TWOse was an unlikely recall to the New Zealand team when his international career appeared to be all finished, especially as his last four Test innings had been TWO, zero, TWO and TWO. TWOse's first innings score on November 30 in his comeback Test? TWO. (Imagine Richie Benaud reading this aloud.)

December 1997:

Debbie Hockley: One of the great players in the modern history of womens cricket. The leading run-scorer in the second-best team in the 1997 World Cup. Scorer of two centuries in the tournament, passed 3000 career ODI runs, scorer in the final of the only six of the tournament, where she was player of the match. One can only speculate on what she may have achieved if New Zealand were placed in the same half of the draw as Pakistan or Denmark...

Lottie Edwards: We nominated Charlotte for this page in August when she was seventeen, now she is eighteen and everyone calls her Lottie. Described as one of the Spice Girls of English cricket, but whether this means that she, too, can't sing or dance is unclear. The highlight of her World Cup was her knock of 173 not out against Ireland. It broke the previous world record... trouble is, Belinda Clark was also breaking the world record (and the 200 barrier) at the very same time. Her long awaited first appearance against Australia produced a duck, but expect to hear a lot, lot more about Lottie in the future.

Apparently the boys played games in December as well...

Carl Hooper: Proved in December that it is possible to excel in both Test and one-day cricket at the same time.

Chris Harris: Proved in December that it is impossible to excel in both Test and one-day cricket at the same time.

Food of the month: The chicken. In particular, the whole, uneaten, cooked chicken that was thrown onto the SCG outfield in the general direction of Pat Symcox during an over-exuberant Mexican wave in the day-night international against Australia on December 4.
The chook was the only edible item among the large amount of rubbish thrown onto the field. Symcox described this as the worst crowd disturbance he had ever seen. Pat, it's time you got out a bit more...

Weight-watcher of the month: Shane Warne. Not as bulky as when he made his Test debut against India in 1992,
but never, in his playing days, as slender as the wax likeness of him on display in Melbourne this month. (Which makes the physical resemblance of the wax dummy to Victorian premier Jeff Kennett very spooky.. if not sickening.) One can only speculate on how Shane would have reacted if it was him, and not Symcox, when the cooked chook was thrown on the field...

Australian batsman of the month: Paul Reiffel. Arguably Australia's most consistent Test batsman this summer, followed up his two half-centuries in the New Zealand with a career-best 79 not out against South Africa in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Even before that innings, the Pepsi Coproration had adjudged him to be the tenth best Test batsman in the whole world. At year's end it appeared that he would be rewarded with a demotion to number 9 in the order in the new year's Test at Sydney.

Australian bowler of the month: Mark Waugh. Promising off-spinner who scores about as many runs as he takes wickets. Several years ago he was Essex's answer to Peter Such, and is finally starting to realise his true potential. Could be regarded by Australian fans as the next Ashley Mallett or the next Tim May, but Mark is a much-loved cricketing personality who belongs to the whole world, and should thus be looked upon as the new John Emburey, the new Dipak Patel, the new Aashish Kapoor*... all rolled into one!

Administrative body of the month: The BCCI. A truly exceptional month for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Just a sample of their achievements in December 1997:

  • Having announced in October that one of next year's Australia-India Test matches was to be staged at Eden Gardens, Calcutta - the largest cricket stadium in the world and the most lucrative in India for gate receipts - they announced on December 13 that the Test has been relocated to Cuttack, and that Eden Gardens will stage an India-Zimbabwe ODI instead. Who said the BCCI were in it for the money?
  • On December 15 BCCI president Dungarpur announces that Bobby Simpson is to be appointed as a technical consultant to the Indian national team. Simpson, when contacted by the media, knew nothing of the announcment nor of the job he was supposedly taking. Reported reaction from BCCI secretary Lele - "We took the decision only yesterday, so how do you expect us to convey the news to Bob so soon?"
  • Earlier in the year Kapil Dev was appointed national Director of Grounds and Pitches. It was revealed during the month that the BCCI had not once responded to any feedback that he had forwarded to them. This revelation was made as a result of...
  • The Christmas day one-dayer against Sri Lanka at Indore, which set a new record for abandoned matches by having more scapegoats than there were deliveries bowled. Secretary Lele considered the decision to cancel the match hasty, after all nobody had been injured yet and they "could have waited for three more overs"...
  • At year's end everyone in the BCCI was rigorously denying veteran Mumbai journalist Rajan Bala's claims that Tendulkar had tendered his resignation as Indian captain to the Board. This one, I am sure, we can mark down to be continued...

* OK, I got a little carried away there. The only person who can become the new Aashish Kapoor is the old Aashish Kapoor.

January 1998:

Marvan Atapattu: Putting the past even further behind him, with the first Test double century of 1998, a score of 223 in the First Test against Zimbabwe.

Mohammad Azharuddin: His ups and downs of late have been complementary to Tendulkar's, being appointed captain after seemingly almost being axed from the one-day side in December (as indeed he was last May). He demonstrated at Dhaka the ability to lead a team successfully and perform to his best. The head-to-head encounter with Mark Taylor is yet to come.

Aravinda de Silva: No month would be complete without an Aravinda century or three. He gave us one in January when it really mattered, as part of a huge match-winning partnership with Ranatunga in the Second Test against Zimbabwe, a match that could easily have gone to the visiting side.

K.T.Francis: The truth-in-umpiring award, for honesty above and beyond the call of duty on the final day of the Second Sri Lanka-Zimbabwe Test on January 18. As reported by the London Daily Telegraph, Francis admitted to Zimbabwean bowler Andy Whittall that he had made a mistake earlier in the day by not giving Ranatunga out from Whittall's bowling, caught off the glove whilst sweeping. Ranatunga went on to assist Aravinda De Silva in the match-winning partnership described above. Such honesty is to be admired, and we long for the day when players admit to umpires and apologise for their mistakes too...

Alec Stewart: His tidy 9 not out was top score on the placid, over prepared Sabina Park pitch where the First Test was called off as a draw slightly earlier than the customary "30 minutes before stumps day 5", thereby denying England the chance to beat the world record of 952, or Lara the chance to beat his own 375.

"Absolutely the greatest one-day international of all time" of the month #1: South Africa's two-run victory over New Zealand at the Gabba on January 9 by 300 runs to 298. Dropped catches, dodgy boundary ropes, pushing, shoving, it was all there.

"Absolutely the greatest one-day international of all time" of the month #2: India defeated Pakistan in the third final of the one-day series in Dhaka on January 18, by chasing and achieving a world-record run target. Poor bowling, poor fielding, football-strength floodlights, umpires getting over-ruled by match referees... the stuff that flawless cricket is made of.

Nominations for February's "Absolutely the greatest one-day international of all time of the month" are now open...

February 1998:

  • Was Mark Waugh out?
  • Should Club 69 change its constitution to bar women from its premises?
  • Is it OK for the young cricketers of the world to throw stumps and other equipment around after the game, just so long as they say they're sorry afterwards?
  • Just some of the questions that won't be answered in this month's the good, the bad and the ugly....

Azhar Mahmood: Chosen for Pakistan as an all-rounder. OK, so the bowling hasn't been that spectacular, but the batting has... a century in each of the Test matches against South Africa, plus another against Free State, to add to his debut ton against the Proteas last year. How long before he gives up the bowling completely and focuses on improving his batting even further?

Pat Symcox: As in October 1997, extremely close to winning the major player of the month award, with a half-century at Adelaide and 108 at Johannesburg. Pity, however, about the bowling - he ended the month as South Africa's twelfth man.

Triple centurion of the month V.V.S.Laxman: His 301 not out for Hyderabad against Bihar in the Ranji Superleague on February 5 and 6 was the first first-class triple ton of the 1998 calendar year. Has taken just five years to score his maiden 300, obviously a great player with a long career at the top ahead of him.

Double centurion of the month Sachin Tendulkar: Right-handed batsman from Mumbai who has been showing promise for many years, and finally on February 25 achieved his first double century of his senior career by scoring 204 not out for his home team. However, unlike Laxman, his innings was scored against an uncompetitive bowling attack (Australia) and it took him ten years to reach his first 200. Obviously a player not destined for a bright future...

Hairstyle of the month Brett Bowden: The New Zealand umpire who it seems has been making productive use of Chris Cairns' cast-off hairpieces. (Why do New Zealanders always win this award? And if it's not the players then it's the umpires, what next?)

Food item of the month Tomato sauce (bottled): As personally delivered in an airborne manner by a Wellington spectator to Stuart Law in the middle of a one-day international.

Number of the month Seven: The number of balls per over that was randomly trialled as an experimental unannounced rule change by the umpires in the Second Test between the West Indies and England. The trial proved a success as Nasser Hussain was dismissed at the conclusion of one of these experimental expanded overs. The trial has since been extended to include the number 5.

March 1998:

Not so much the good, the bad and the ugly for March as the Disappointed, the Dissenting and the Disgusting

Food of the month: The baked bean. In particular, the Australian-made, Australian-tinned, Australian export baked bean whose extreme quality and unique nutritional value is so highly regarded by Shane Warne that he couldn't eat anything else in India. His results in the three-Test series demonstrate how successful his strategy has been (bean?) for himself and his country.

Team of the month: It could have been India A who were so extraordinary that they played in two countries at the same time (at home against Australia and away to Pakistan A), but the award really belongs with Bangladesh who succeeded in making two international tours at the same time to play in two separate tournaments, one called the Wills Trophy and the other called the Wills Cup.

Farewell of the month: Fanie De Villiers. Unwanted then belatedly recalled to the South African team, he produced a series-tying 6-23 in the final Test against Pakistan to end an illustrious career.

Off-spin all-rounder of the month: Mark Ramprakash. Described by no less an expert than David "Bumble" Lloyd as a future great Test all-rounder, Ramprakash ruined his prospects of ever passing Roger Wijesuriya's mark for the highest Test career bowling average by taking three (yep, three) wickets in the Test series against the West Indies, bringing his average down to a staggering 89, only four times that of his career batting average. (Runner up for off-spin all-rounder of the month: Gavin Robertson.)

Up-and-coming youngster of the month: Clayton Lambert. This 36 year-old youngster from Guyana arrived back on the Test scene for the West Indies with innings of 55, 29 and 104. (Runner up for up-and-coming youngster of the month: Gavin Robertson.)

Gavin of the month: Gavin Rennie. Following on his 13, 15, 0 and 0 in February's Test series against New Zealand, he missed Zimbabwe's first Test against Pakistan while debutant Dirk Viljoen contributed a tidy 0 and 0 in his place. Recalled for the second Test Gavin's contribution was 13 and 0. (Runner up for Gavin of the month: Gavin Robertson).

Sweepstake numbers of the month: 633, 219 and 147. India's score at Calcutta, the number of runs in their innings victory in that Test, and the number of runs Shane Warne conceded in that Test without taking a wicket.

Timespan of the month: Nine seconds. The length of time Graham Thorpe remained at the crease before walking to the pavilion when given out, resulting in an official rebuke for dissent in the Fifth Test against the West Indies. Can we presume from this, then, that eight seconds or less is merely disappointment? What is the cutoff point, 8.5 seconds, 8.6? Does it fluctuate according to CEAT ratings, humidity, or the Dow Jones index? Can someone from the ICC Academy of Match Referee Higher Education explain this for me please?

April 1998:

Alistair Campbell and the entire Zimbabwe team:

A compelling argument for the outlawing of Man of the Match presentation speeches was provided on April 3 after Australia's victory against Zimbabwe when match referee Peter Van Der Merwe announced at the end of another long and rambling man of the match speech that he was giving "a joint award... to Alistair Campbell and the entire Zimbabwe team". The prospect that a complete losing eleven would win a best player title for the very first time evaporated when it was clarified later that Campbell really did win the title on his own.

Guy Whittall:

A hero of Zimbabwe's first (and only) Test victory over Pakistan in 1995, and double centurion against New Zealand in 1997, the elder Whittall cousin showed himself as a true successor to Chris Cairns' vacated title of cricket's worst hairstyle. In April 1998 he showed his true
value in elevating Zimbabwean cricket to what it is today...

Highlights of Guy's April:
April 3 v Aus: c Gilchrist b Fleming 0 (1 ball)
April 5 v India: 9-0-70-1 (10 wides) and c&b Sanghvi 9 (13 balls). India won by 13 runs.
April 9 v India: 8-0-68-0, Zimbabwe's most expensive bowler as Azharuddin and Jadeja blasted a new world record ODI partnership of 275*.

But the piece de resistance came on April 11 against Australia at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. Following on a dynamic bowling spell of 5-0-52-1 he produced a sparking innings of 7 from 12 deliveries, including three reverse sweeps.. the first hit straight along the ground to slip, Guy took off for a suicidal single and ran out his partner Evans. The second was dispatched successfully for four, but the third was a slow full toss from Darren Lehmann pulled straight to fly slip - a field placement made specifically for Whittall's reverse shot. Australia won that match by 16 runs, by the way.

(Note: before leaving the Zimbabwe team behind for this month, it is worth noting that since our Player of the Month awards began, Zimbabwe have won one award to New Zealand's none... surely a key factor incorporated into the Wisden team ratings which have placed Zimbabwe 8th and New Zealand 9th among Test nations.)

The Kimberley Women's Development XI: It became clear on April 7 just how much development this South African representative girls team needed when they faced the England Under-21 touring side captained by Lottie Edwards (there, I've mentioned her again on this page!). Kimberley were dismissed for 16 runs in 19 overs. England won by nine wickets with 46.2 overs to spare. Top score in the match was wides in the England innings with 8.

Animal of the Month: The South African guard dog. Clearly a contributing factor in Sri Lanka's disappointing South African tour as highlighted by Elmo Rodrigopulle in his newspaper column on April 7:

"The Sri Lankans fielding in the country are hesitating to chase the ball and stop it before it crosses the line. The reason apparently for this is because there are guard dogs round the boundary line and they fear that they would be bitten, if they crash on to the dogs. It is time that the organisers do something about the dog business."

Way to go Elmo! We are sure that the ICC will step into this dog business without hesitation.

Stuntsman of the Month: Ricky Ponting, whose attempt at Sharjah to set a new world record for the most Tendulkars cleared in a single jump failed when he was unable to make it over even one Tendulkar at a time.

Numbers of the Month:
483: the size of the first innings lead that the best state side in India, Karnataka, held over the second-best state side in India, Uttar Pradesh, in the Ranji Trophy final.
94: number of runs that the third-best state side in India, Mumbai, scored against the second-best side, Uttar Pradesh, in their first innings of the Ranji Trophy semi-final.
0.71: the number of runs by which Kent defeated Middlesex in their rain-interrupted Sunday League match on April 19 under the Duckworth/Lewis method. This decided after most people had left the ground at the end of the game thinking that it had been a tie.

Cola of the Month:
After much deliberation and sampling, this is a three-way tie between No Name, Home Brand and No Frills Cola from the supermarkets down the road. I look forward with bated breath to the day when we have a "No Name Triangular One-Day Cup".

The opinions stated in this article are those of the editor, and the editor alone. No one else would come near them with a barge pole.