Friday, March 12, 2010

Neunundneunzig runs

When it comes to batting tragedies (or comedies, or tragi-comedies, take your pick) there is nothing quite like a 99. The first one I ever saw was the one inflicted on Javed Miandad. I still remember the fielder: Srikkanth. But not the bowler (Cricinfo tells me it was Madan Lal!). In those days, Miandad was quite a favorite of mine, and I was keen to see him get his ton. He dithered in the 90s, got stuck on 99, and then incredibly, was gone, to a scooped-off-the-shoelaces catch by Cheeka. I had heard about 99s but didn't think I would ever see one or that it would happen to a batsman whose success I was invested in (a few years later, I would have rejoiced on seeing Miandad dismissed on 99).

Since then, incredibly, I've never seen a 99 live again in test cricket. I've seen plenty on highlights I missed Ricky Ponting's 99 last year against South Africa because I was called away for a cup of tea by my sis-in-law. I was visiting India at the time and a beautiful Delhi morning beckoned. I wasn't feeling too fond of Ricky at that time so there is a good chance I would have cheered.

For a good example of the kind of reaction that a 99 dismissal can engender, check out this one from the now-sadly-defunct Outside the Line. What made Ponting's dismissal particularly catastrophic was that he had scored 101 in the first innings. Still, a nice round 200 for the game. Not a bad return, and one that every single batsman in the world would envy.

I have, however, borne witness to a Tendulkar 99, which was a pretty painful experience. (If I remember correctly, it was one of the three he picked up in one-day internationals in 2007, probably against England).

The most painful 99 for me, however, was one I read about in a newspaper: Kim Hughes' dismissal against England in the non-Ashes series of 1979-80. I'll never forget the horror of that morning. I had eagerly run out to get the paper to check the first day's scores and still remember thinking there must have been a mistake when I read the score. It turned out to be a match-winning score, because without his 99 out of a first-innings 244, Australia would have been in much worse shape in that game. But that was no consolation for me. My hero had come so close and yet had been cruelly denied. (Someday I need to write a post about my Kim Hughes obsession, which would put my reaction into some perspective.)

So, how do I feel about the Pietersen dismissal yesterday? Strangely indifferent. There was a time when KP did get under my skin and my reactions might have been akin to those of DS Henry's above. But KP has become more human recently, perhaps lost a bit of his swagger and so concomitantly has lost his ability to get under my skin as well. Schadenfreude isn't that much fun in those circumstances. Still, bully for the Bangers; it must have lifted their spirits a bit.

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Blogger Gaurav Sethi said...

Read DS Henry's post more than a year ago last, it's a classic - if anything, Ponting should read it some day.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

NC: If only we knew his postal address, we could print it out and send it over. Perhaps C/O Cricket Australia would work?

2:58 PM  
Blogger Suhas said...

Poor old Ponting, even the emergence of the highly unlikeable Shane Watson doesn't give him anywhere to hide, does it?

Do you remember Mike Atherton's 99 in the Lord's test of the '93 Ashes, Samir? He turned around for an easy second run (and a well-deserved hundred) when he slipped and fell, and with him England's chances of saving the match. Tragic indeed!

1:43 AM  
Anonymous raj said...

The one I remember is Warne's 99. It is the most poignant because he never got to surpass that score. I still remember his face. Ah! God does compensate, doesnt he? :-)

7:15 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Suhas: I do remember that one! I think I saw it on the highlights, not live. What a way to go.

Raj: Another one seen on the highlights - Warne deserved to get one at some stage or the other, but it wasn't meant to be!

5:06 PM  

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