Article yehhaicricket.com

Laughing at age 
The ‘Golden Oldies’ put youngsters to shame

Tushar Bhaduri

‘Sports is a young man’s domain’ - or so we are led to believe. It is said that with fading age, the physical and mental faculties do not remain as strong. More so, in the case of cricket which is taxing both the body and the mind.

But, if we take a look at the Cricket Scene around the world today the ‘oldies’ seem to be ruling the roost. Be it WasimAkram, Mohd. Azharuddin, Robin Singh, Aravinda De Silva or Steve Waugh, senior players with their levels of performance and fitness have taught the youngsters a thing or two about consistency of performance and dedication to the game.

Concentrating on the ongoing England-West Indies Test Series, we find three oldies, who have belied their advancing years. Alec Stewart, playing in his 100th Test at Old Trafford, celebrates by scoring a stroke filled hundred, his 14th when his team required it most. In the process he became only the second Englishman after Sir Colin Cowdrey and only the fourth cricketer overall to score a century in his 100th Test.

Stewart can be considered as a genuine all-rounder in the side as he doubles up as a wicket-keeper and does a very competent job. In fact, when he was skipper, he had the unenviable task of leading the side, keeping wickets and scoring runs as and when required. Inevitable, this triple responsibility took a toll on his performance and state of mind. Relieved of his captaincy duties after the last World Cup, Stewart again blossomed to show what he is capable of, even at the age of 37.

Stewart provides the much needed flair to English batting, when younger batsman like Mark Ram Prakash and Nick Knight have time and again showed their big-fright and lack of class. Alongwith Atherton, who fittingly also completed 100 Tests at Old Trafford, Stewart formed the backbone for a decade.

Stewart is the most competent English batsman in counter attacking the West Indian quickies. He is also the lone Englishmen to have successfully tamed the deadly Pakistani W’s – Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. It must be admitted that Stewart is not at his best against spin, specially wrist spin but he has learned to hold his own against quality spinners over the years.

If one thinks that keeping wickets and batting in the middle order, at the age of 37 is tough, what about bowling 20 overs a day at above 80 mph with scrooge like economy and running through the opposition batsman, at that age.

Two of Alec Stewart’s greatest Cricketing foes Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose are doing just that.

In the present scenario, where the next-crop of West Indies fast bowlers like Rose, King, McLean, Dillon etc have been a disgrace to the long and illustrious tradition of West Indian fast bowling the two ‘grandfather’ of the side have repeatedly come to their team’s rescue.

Ambrose has said that the present series would be his last and Walsh may not have much fuel left in his tank either. One wonders what the state of the once mighty West Indian team would be without their two senior statesmen. Sir Vivian Richards has in fact, requested Amborse to postpone his retirement plans for a year but Ambrose is in no mood to relent.

Ambrose and Walsh have been the greatest fast bowling partnership in the history of Test Cricket with nearly 900 Test Wickets between them. In fact, they have more Test Wickets between them than the whole Zimbabwe nation!

Walsh and Ambrose are two of the greatest characters and team men. They have performed on all kinds of tracks and used their skills and experience to get wickets  in all conditions. They consistently attack the batsman on or around the off-stump without giving any scoring opportunities, thus putting him under immense pressure. They even try new things like the slower delivery.

They are also true gentlemen of cricket and have never resorted to sledging. Only a stare and a raised eyebrow would convey the message.

Bob Willis has said something very apt about these two – “Age shall not weary them.” No words could be truer about these two “class acts”.

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