Ian Botham bats
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Leave it to Beefy

The 1980 Jubilee Test was all Botham

Simon Barnes |

The most satisfying thing in sport is achievement, but the most thrilling is potential. There's nothing quite like that sense of anticipation when a talent emerges before your eyes and you say to yourself: We've got one here. This is the real thing. This is truly special.

I had that experience in 1978 when I went to Lord's to watch England play Pakistan. In those days I went as a punter rather than a writer, so this was an experience I felt as part of the day's pleasure, rather than a measured assessment put together for a newspaper piece. No doubt a beer or two helped.

Ian Botham was hardly an unknown, even at this stage. He had made his Test debut the previous year, marking it with a five-for. But it was this personal, almost private revelation of excellence that mattered to me. This was the moment when I realised that I was watching a cricketer who would be very good indeed.

Perhaps the first thing that got to me was his extraordinary grace. He's a big man, but not as big as he thinks he is. He has a reputation as a great smiter, a man who muscled the ball, but that wasn't really his way. That's a style associated with modern bat technology.

Botham's sleep-when-you're-dead philosophy achieved its perfect expression over those few days in India

What was wonderful about watching this promising young man was the way he flowed into a big shot, the way he threw his body weight into the collision between bat and ball, and yet retained his balance as he did so. His body curved into the shot and then cracked like a whip.

This wasn't the mysterious beauty traditional in Asian batsmen, or of his colleague David Gower. There was still the sense of a big man imposing himself. But there was always more to Botham than he liked to let on, and here I could see the balletic grace that comes with real timing.

The second thing that got to me was another kind of timing. He was moving in on his century as the day was drawing to a close, but he looked likely to be a few runs short at the close. So he accelerated, got the damn thing done before stumps, giving the crowd a chance to stand up and cheer and sparing himself the discomfort of overnighting on 90-odd. He was the master of space and time.

He went on to great things, of course, but perhaps the greatest occasion, in terms of pure cricket, is one of his most overlooked matches: the Golden Jubilee Test for the BCCI in 1980 in Bombay. This match has been forever upstaged by the heroics of 1981, but Bombay was perhaps his cricketing peak.

It's been overlooked because it was an otherwise poor match - though that's precisely what makes Botham's contribution so remarkable. He rose above the mediocrity and the exhausted cricket played by both teams.

For some extraordinary reason, conditions at the Wankhede favoured seam and swing. The Indian batsmen didn't fancy it but Botham did, and he took 6 for 58 in the first innings. The England batsmen didn't much care for it either; Botham came out to bat at 57 for 4.

In troubling conditions he scored 114 off 144 balls, supported by wicketkeeper Bob Taylor, who took 10 catches in the match. When India batted again, Botham, quite unsated, took seven more wickets for 48 runs. England won by 10 wickets.

Botham on the Lord's balcony in 1978 after the small matter of scoring 108 and taking 8 for 34 against Pakistan

Botham on the Lord's balcony in 1978 after the small matter of scoring 108 and taking 8 for 34 against Pakistan © PA Photos

There are more remarkable things about this match, not least the legends of Botham's relentless socialising and drinking back at the Taj hotel. Botham's sleep-when-you're-dead philosophy achieved its perfect expression over those few days in India.

It's normally accepted that a top allrounder will seldom excel in both disciplines in the same match. Botham was the great exception to this rule: he scored a century and took a five-for in the same match on five occasions; no other allrounder has done this more than twice.

The Jubilee Test is a largely forgotten bit of sport, not least because Botham was to eclipse it, at least in terms of drama, in that Ashes series of 1981. And there are several thousand more anecdotes of Botham's excesses.

There's no easily accessed footage of the match either, which is unusual. It wasn't broadcast live in England back in those days, so my memories are largely confined to the stately prose of John Woodcock of the Times and the distant voices on the radio.

But Bombay 1980 remains as near as damn it the perfect individual performance in a Test match. It's as close as one man will ever get to taking all the wickets and scoring all the runs. So when I saw him that day at Lord's in 1978 and felt the thrill of potential greatness, I was right to do so - and so was everyone else who was there and the millions who watched on television.

Wow, we all thought. This is the real thing. And it was. In Bombay he showed us how far those talents could take him.

Simon Barnes is a former chief sportswriter of the Times and the author of more than 20 books

 

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  • POSTED BY anthony on | January 14, 2016, 2:01 GMT

    I too enjoyed the article and also harshthakors comments......Botham was a Lord flashheart like figure rousing his country. In 1985 with his tom selleck moustache and bleached blonde bouffant and green pinstripe blazers worn with white trousers and shoes ,there was talk in the air that he could be the next james bond ,that he could crack hollywood.Tim Hudson said he could have any woman he wanted in america in 1985 and that apparently two women had spontaneous orgasms just seeing him walk the streets of beverly hills...and that he had had an offer to play baseball for the top american baseball outfit.....those were heady days for botham indeed

  • POSTED BY anthony on | January 14, 2016, 1:31 GMT

    Botham rarely gets a fair appraisal and is usually overshadowed by imran khan especially and hadlee and dev are rated as better bowlers.even kallis now is called the statistical best all rounder.consensus tho is sobers.........let me say all those cricketers are legends and great men who did incredible things were icons and leaders for their countries and were committed and prepared.botham was never a leader......he was overweight most his career ,usually stayed up drinking until 5am before and during a game...was finished after jan 1987...but at his absolute peak 1977-82 he was the best of them all.no doubt.a purer matchwinner with bat and ball than any of them.staggering statistics in those first 5 years.great fielder.he never had any bowling support after 82! as willis aged...if botham had had kallis"s proffesionalism he would have ended with a batting ave of 56 with 30 centuries and bowling ave of 22 and 550 test wickets

  • POSTED BY GV on | January 11, 2016, 12:11 GMT

    HARSHTHAKOR - I dont know what I enjoyed more - Botham's volcanic performances or your writing...! Since you refer to Hollywood, Botham did have a stab at that also, in 1985, when he came in his bleached long hair look, and teamed up with Tim Hudson. But it quickly evaporated, and Botham was back into the 1985 Ashes. except that his new avatar was that of an out and out fast bowler who would bounce everybody out.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | January 11, 2016, 8:02 GMT

    Whether bowling with full fury,pouncing to claim a slip catch or launching thunderous blow on a bowling attack Botham was one of cricket's ultimate characters.If one ever wished to see the equivalent of a dramatic reversal in the plot of an epic novel or Hollywood classic enacted then Botham would arguably fit into the character more than any other cricketer. At his best he could turn a candlelight into a bonfire.What lowered Botham's rank in the pedestal of great cricketers was his inconsistency after 1982 and his relative failures against the West Indies. Neverthles never forget his classic 8-103 and 81 at Lords against arguably the best test tea ever led by Clive Lloyd.Overall as a pure all-rounder Botham would rate below Sobers and Kallis and on par with Keith Miller and Imran Khan. In the 1981 Ashes and 1980 jubilee test in Mumbai Botham took cricketing performance to it's ultimate zenith.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | January 11, 2016, 3:43 GMT

    Often Botham reminded one of a great Hollywood star and an actor making a total reversal to a ply in a classic film.With both bat and ball together he eclipsed the likes of Imran or Kallis.Few cricketers ever radiated the energy Botham did on a cricket field.At his best may have made the all-time world 11.Close to a cricketing immortal.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | January 11, 2016, 3:29 GMT

    At his best from 1977-82 Botham was 2nd to only the legendary Garfield Sobers.At his best he even overshadowed Sobers ,Imran Khan or Kallis .as a match-winner.Botham would stride in like a collosus whether batting bowling or feilding.He could ressurect a team from the grave as very few cricketers could.Above all he enjoyed his cricket more than anyone radiating joy.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | January 11, 2016, 3:17 GMT

    The greatest all round performance in the history of test cricket Ian Botham was simply a revelation making the impact of a Greek god emerging.It reminded you of thunder and lightning interrupting a hot summer day Botham exuded the presence of an emperor.Rarely has a cricketer ever controlled a game so single-handedly.

  • POSTED BY Edwin on | January 10, 2016, 15:09 GMT

    Whilst it's true that Beefy didn't have as great averages against the great West Indies as Imran, Richard Hadlee or Kapil Fev, he played more Tests against them, and they acknowledged that they raised the tempo when he batted/bowled.

  • POSTED BY GV on | January 10, 2016, 11:17 GMT

    Imran and Kapil had better records against WI. Imran made a test century against a deadly attack in 1980, took 25 wickets in 5 tests in 1976-77, lead them to series draws in 1986 and 1988, and generally performed like a tiger vs WI. Kapil Dev made three centuries, took 9 wickets in an innings once, 29 wickets in 6 tests against a powerful batting line up, has the best bowling average from amongst all major bowlers for test matches in the west indies, led the team to two memorable victories against WI to win the world cup. Bottom's performance was limited to an innings of 80 and 8-103 at lords in 1984, but otherwise not very effective. I was very puzzled by this, because Australia at their peak in 1980 were not very far behind and during England's disastrous tour of Aus in 1979-80, Botham was a stellar performer. But when he played WI at his peak, he played as Captain, and that dragged him down. The other two rose to the challenge as captains vs WI. But finally only Imran really won.

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | January 10, 2016, 9:34 GMT

    Not a bad writeup, yeah the jubliee testof '80-Mumbai-almost forgotten..Botham was a natural, a one-of..always lifting his game against most esp Aus.somehow could'nt turn it on against the kings of the time-the Windies..in that same test a piece of play that also somehow never got the praise&mention it should-India's captain Gundappa Vishwanath,a true sportsman-gentleman warrior - recalled Bob Taylor with a handshake after he felt Bob was given out on an umpiring error..am not saying that was the turning piont-but bob & botham added heaps afterwards to put the match beyond india...Vishwanath was the epitome of indian sportsmanship of the times, a precursor to the likes of kirmani, mohinder, Rahul, Anil, Srinath, VVS, Kapil heaps of others-men who wore the india blue cap with pride, dignity&passion, yet did'nt resort to the ugly histronics&theatrics seen nowadays, the way they played had a distinct indian charm to it, hope the curent lot does same, cricinfo plz publish

  • POSTED BY Andrew on | January 10, 2016, 9:32 GMT

    A truly match winning all-rounder, especially in the first half of his career. An century and 5 wickets in a test 5 times. Imran Khan did it once. Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee never did it. I would say possibly second behind Sobers in Test cricket. Many would argue Kallis, but he rarely dominated with bat and ball in the same match. The thing that I liked about Botham, was that he had no regard for his career average. He simply won matches decisively by himself with bat and ball.