‘Golden Oldies’ put youngsters to shame
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”.