Kolkata: Sir Richard Hadlee, the cult figure in Zealand cricket and one of the awesome foursome of allrounders in the ‘1970s and ‘80s along with Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev, is a happy man at his country making the World Test Championship final aginst India. He had ploughed a lonely furrow for his country for years to end with 431 Test wickets - once the highest tally till Dev overtook it - but did not often see his country reaping rich from it.
It’s upto Kane Williamson’s men now to turn the tables on fancied India in the WTC final, which gets underway at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on June 18, and the 69-year-old legend feels it’s ‘‘too difficult’’ to call a winner at this stage.
‘‘The Test Championship is a one-off game. Yes, it is a final, but I don’t think either team will be too fazed about it. It is a neutral ground with no home team advantage. It is something to look forward to. Both teams deserve to be contesting the final because of their consistent playing performances over a set period of time. It all comes down as to who is better prepared and who adapts better to the English conditions the quickest,’’ Hadlee said in an interview with the International Cricket Council (ICC).
‘‘The weather may also play a part and if it is cold, that will favour New Zealand. The Duke ball will suit both team’s fast bowlers especially the genuine swing bowlers and the Kiwis are well served in that department with Southee, Boult and Jamieson. If the ball seams around off the pitch, batsmen in both teams will be challenged. Both teams have high class batsmen so it will be an interesting game to watch. It is too difficult to call a winner at this stage,’’ he said.
There is some good news for Sir Richard’s fans on the health front - he is doing much better after a harrowing battle with a Stage IV colorectal cancer a few years back. Two separate surgeries were needed to remove a third of the bowel and 15% of the liver – while the gall bladder was also removed. ‘‘I had to deal with five months of chemotherapy, which was an ugly experience and sapped all my energy – I also lost 10 kilos during that period. Today, I have regular check-ups every three months (blood tests and scans if necessary). Fingers crossed for the future,’’ he said in a matter of fact manner.
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The two captains who will be squaring off in the WTC Final are like chalk-and-cheese in terms of personalities: Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. Kohli’s in-your-face persona is quite an anti-thesis to that of Williamson, but the Indian captain found a strong backer in the New Zealand great. ‘‘I see Virat as being a very passionate and competitive cricketer with a strong desire for himself and the team to succeed. He is a proud man and a world class player – a delight to watch. The pressure and expectations on him to ‘win’ is enormous. There are millions of Indian fans who idolize him which puts great pressure on him. Virat is responsible for ensuring that Indian cricket remains competitive and be one of the best teams in the world,’’ he felt.
‘‘However, fans still need to understand that we are all human and champions will fail from time to time – any cricketer can score a duck or get no wickets which is deemed to be a failure, but when a player succeeds, everyone is happy, except perhaps the opposition!,’’ he said.
As someone whose economy of bowling action had been praised over the decades, what’s his take on Jasprit Bumrah’s action vis-a-vis a risk of injury? Delving into the grammer behind his art, Sir Richard said: ‘‘Fast bowling is an explosive sequence of highly coordinated movements – it is about rhythm, timing, and co-ordination and not necessarily about brute strength. All fast bowlers will have their own way of developing and fine-tuning their actions to get the best result of delivering the ball to get to the batsman. Some bowlers have simple classical and effective actions, others will have unorthodox and unusual actions, and some will have short or long run-ups.
‘‘Jasprit fits into the unorthodox bowling category with virtually no run up to the crease. His technique in some ways defies belief but has proved to be a highly effective one. He is what I call a shoulder or strength bowler with all his power and pace coming from the final part of his action as he releases the ball.’’
Showing a concern about the Indian pace ace’s longevity, which had been shared in the past by greats like Michael Holding, the New Zealander said: ‘‘Jasprit’s longevity in the game is yet to be determined. I suspect he could be more vulnerable to injury problems than those fast bowlers with more classical and ‘pure’ actions or techniques. Some of his potential injuries could be severe because of the stresses and strains he places on his body. I hope any injuries he may incur will not be potentially career-ending because he is a delight to watch, and he causes batsmen all sorts of problems with his unsuspecting pace, bounce, and ball movement in the air and off the pitch.’’