On the Front Foot: The greats who failed to trouble the Lord's signwriters


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The Independent Online

Perhaps there should be an alternative honours board at Lord's. This would be for great players who never quite cut the mustard there.

As things stand a visitor from far away, Planet Zog or Co Durham say, might never hear of some of the greats of the game. Jacques Kallis is merely the latest in a long line of outstanding cricketers not to have stamped his impression on the ground. His score of three in South Africa's first innings on Thursday, albeit brought to an end in unfortunate circumstances, added to previous scores of 0, 7 and 13.

Four of the top five run-scorers in Test cricket – Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Kallis and Brian Lara – have never made a hundred at Lord's. The first two have yet to make a fifty. But it goes further back than that, before the number of Tests played increased together with the length of players' careers. Sunil Gavaskar, Clive Lloyd, Javed Miandad and Neil Harvey also never troubled the St John's Wood signwriters. This anonymity also extends to bowlers.

Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, the two most prolific wicket-takers in Test history, never took the five wickets in an innings necessary to make the board. Nor did Courtney Walsh, Dennis Lillee, Shaun Pollock or Fred Spofforth. It could be a team of its own.

The most illustrious England players missing from the boards are probably, as batsmen, Mike Atherton, Graham Thorpe and Ted Dexter and, as bowlers, Jim Laker, Maurice Tate and Matthew Hoggard. For most of these it is too late, but it is one reason that Ponting, for one, is desperate to make one last Ashes tour next year.

A load of pink balls?

The above may be something that could be considered by MCC's World Cricket Committee. It appears to be taking most other matters of the game into its orbit.

Consisting as it does largely of some of the greatest players to have graced the game, this body is undoubtedly a force for good. It is increasingly difficult, however, to see whether it achieves much. The agenda for its latest meeting last week was much the same as that for most previous gatherings: structure of the game, primacy of Test cricket, floodlit Test cricket, corruption, governance and switch hitting.

Not much, if anything, appears to have been done as a result of what the World Cricket Committee has said. This is a pity, because it has a voice that deserves to be heard. Michael Vaughan, for instance, is the latest new member, Mike Brearley is the chairman and Rahul Dravid was present last week. Since its inception the WCC has been banging on about floodlit Test cricket as a crazy way of saving the game. The committee wants it played with a pink ball in a country with poor attendances, at grounds and times when there is little dew, and at an accessible venue.

Still no sign whatever of it happening.

When is a Test not a Test?

This Lord's Test match is Andrew Strauss's 100th in all and his 50th as captain. It is Graeme Smith's 94th Test as captain, thus taking him past Allan Border's record of 93. Poppycock, of course.

Smith's record, inestimable though it is, includes the ridiculous exhibition match between Australia and a World XI in late 2005, which the International Cricket Council insist on branding a Test match. The ICC do not deserve half the flak they receive, but nothing has dented their reputation more than that decision to change the entire concept of a game.

Smith is equal with Border having led South Africa 93 times, and will overtake him if he does so against Australia in November.