Cricket: Record-breaker who retained the affection of Australians: Allan Border's Test wicket was always the most cherished by opponents. Glenn Moore bids him farewell

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The Independent Online
IN THE end it appears the prospect of touring Pakistan overcame the lure of another crack at the Poms. Maybe, but perhaps Allan Border, with some pushing, finally let his head rule his heart. Having toured the sub-continent more times than any Western cricketer, he can hardly be accused of shirking its privations.

Indeed, he is as revered there as he is in Australia; the rest of the cricket world, less passionately involved, simply respects him as much as they have any cricketer. The figures themselves are awesome, more Tests (156), more Test runs (11,174) and more catches (156) than any other player - a mark of Border's extraordinary longevity and considerable ability.

Border, 38, is that rare figure in Australian society, a popular success who has remained so for a decade and a half. In a country where a sense of perceived equality reigns, where politicians and businessmen are discredited and held in contempt, where the public has turned away from the likes of Greg Norman and Pat Cash, Border has retained the affection of the public.

There has, in the last couple of years, been carping, plus hints that the time had come for him to retire from the international stage, but he kept on performing and his team continued to succeed. His wicket remained the most cherished for opponents: when South Africa won the Sydney Test in January, Border's dismissal, bowled by Allan Donald without playing a stroke on the final morning, was the pivotal moment for both sides.

It has long been such. Having been rushed into an Australian side plundered by Kerry Packer and overwhelmed by Mike Brearley's tourists in late 1978, Border was dropped after three Tests, quickly recalled and never missed a Test through loss of form, or injury, again. After six years he became captain, as much because - after Kim Hughes' tearful farewell - there was no one else than because of any ambition to do so.

'I was a bit reluctant,' he said. 'I'd always been one of the boys and suddenly I was in charge. It was not until the 1989 Ashes tour I got to grips with it.'

Border, who captained Australia in 93 Tests, took six years to get his win-loss record into profit. Now, having played every nation except Zimbabwe, there is one major regret: not beating the West Indies in a series. His greatest match with the bat was against them - he made unbeaten scores of 98 and 100 to save the Trinidad Test in 1983-84 - and the ball, taking 7 for 46 at Sydney in 1988-89.

There is a sense that Border has been pushed into going, if so it is to be hoped in time he will realise the moment was right. To borrow one of his favourite expressions, Border 'hit his straps' more often and over a longer period than anyone. Long will he be remembered.

AUSTRALIA'S CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: CAREER LANDMARKS

1976: First-class debut for New South Wales v Queensland, scored 36.

1978: Maiden first-class century, scoring 153 in Perth to earn a Test call against England. Scores 29 and 0 on debut in Melbourne.

1979: Maiden Test century, 105 v Pakistan in Melbourne.

1980: First player to score 150 in each innings of a Test, v Pakistan in Lahore.

1984: Takes over as Australia's captain in December. Loses debut Test as captain by 191 runs v West Indies in Adelaide.

1987: Leads Australia to World Cup win in final v England, Calcutta. Highest Test score of 205 v New Zealand in Adelaide. Passes Greg Chappell and Sir Don Bradman to become Australia's highest Test scorer. Wins series v NZ 1-0 for first success as captain.

1989: Takes 7 for 46 and 4 for 50 with left-arm spin for best bowling figures, v West Indies in Sydney. Leads Australia to Ashes victory in England with a 4-0 series win.

1991: Plays 126th Test to pass Sunil Gavaskar's record.

1993: Passes 10,000 runs, v West Indies in Sydney. Passes Gavaskar's record of 10,122 Test runs, v NZ in Christchurch. Leads Australia to a 4-1 Ashes win in England.

1994: Plays final Test on home soil v South Africa in Adelaide. Series is drawn 1-1. Captains first official tour to South Africa for 24 years. Series is drawn 1-1. Announces retirement from international cricket, 11 May.

(Photograph omitted)

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