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Pleasures of having a sibling in cricket

Comments & Analyses-II

Pleasures of having a sibling in cricket

By Joy Bhattacharjya

There were emotional scenes this January at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Shaun and Mitchell Marsh scored centuries in the same Test innings. They joined an elite group of cricketers, the Flower brothers from Zimbabwe, Majid and Sadiq Mohammed from Pakistan, the Chappell brothers and Steve and Mark Waugh. The second time that Steve and Mark scored centuries together will also be remembered for probably the best verbal comeback in cricket history. It was in an Ashes Test at the Oval in 2001. All-rounder James Ormond had come in to bat with England in serious trouble and Mark Waugh went straight for him. “Look who it is. Mate, what are you doing here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England.” Ormond replied: “Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my family.” Ormond’s comment just put into perspective the pressures and pleasures of having a sibling in international cricket. For the Waugh brothers, it was quite a journey, especially after Steve’s Test career was in danger during the 1991 Ashes series at home. Steve had just been dismissed by a ‘nothing’ bal l from England off-spinner Eddie Hemmings, and he sensed that he was due for the axe. Later that evening he was told by coach Bob Simpson that he had been dropped and that his brother, after scoring over 7,500 runs in first class cricket had finally earned a Test berth. The problem was that in the days before mobile phones, Mark was not available at home, and it was Steve who drove over to his parents’ home to give them the news. When his mother asked who had taken his place, he nodded towards his brother and said ‘he’s over there.’ While both the brothers had stellar careers, Mark’s 8000 odd Test runs and 20 centuries tend to pale when compared to Steve’s 10,000-plus runs and 32 Test centuries. It’s tel ling that Mark’s two nicknames were ‘Junior’ and ‘Afghan,’ as the Afghan War was the ‘Forgotten War’ in colonial history. Whi le the Waugh brothers never really had a fraught public relationship, Ian Chappell was never scared to comment about his brother’s cricket, especially his captaincy. They might have thrice scored Test centuries together, but when Greg asked the youngest of the Chappell brothers, Trevor, to bowl an underarm ball in an ODI against New Zealand to ensure a win in 1981 it was Ian on commentary who exclaimed that Greg couldn’t do that. His next day’s column said “Fair dinkum Greg. How much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000,” that being the prize for winning the Tri-Series. While India’s first Test featured Wazir and Nazir Ali, and the Nayudus and the Amarnaths represented India with honour, the most memorable time that brothers competed for the same spot was actually in domestic cricket. A few days before Bengal’s vital Ranji semi-final match in the 1989-90 season captain Arun Lal had decided to have a practice match with the reserves and decided to call up an unheralded U-19 batsman for a knock. Sourav Ganguly’s 68-ball hundred in that match had the handful of spectators watching slack jawed. A week later, the team was announced for the finals and Snehashish Ganguly, one of Bengal’s batting stalwarts and definitely still a contender for national selection made way for his younger brother. Sourav batted at number four and got 22 and Bengal clawed their way to only their second-ever Ranji title. While Snehashish made it back to the team in the very next match for Bengal, it was clear that his star was on the wane and Sourav was the next big thing in Bengal cricket. For the Marsh brothers it has been an emotional comeback. While Shaun has struggled with his form, Mitch’s recurring shoulder injuries have denied him a more regular spot in the Australian set up. The last word on this definitely goes to their father, former Australian opener Geoff Marsh. When he was around to present Mitchell with his baggy Green when Mitch made his debut in Dubai in 2014, Marsh said that given his boys’ success he told his wife that they probably should have kept going and had a few more. Ameer Bee, the matriarch of the Mohammed brothers, four of whom played Test cricket for Pakistan, would probably have approved.

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