TONY LEWIS; In association with.
MDid you notice this national media headline during the week concerning Eoin Morgan, the Irishman who is the captain of England's cricket team of one-day international players? He has decided not to tour with his men in the run of matches just started in Bangladesh and India.
I could never imagine in my playing days refusing to lead England on any sort of international tour. The subcontinent can appear troublesome to some players and a delight to others. Tom Graveney always loved telling the tale of his time in up-country southern India when he shared a small wooden billet with three others which had only open-air window spaces.
"In the middle of the night," he would slowly tell the tale, "a dark figure appeared within the window frame. Suddenly this great baboon swung himself down, holding on to the cross-beam with one giant arm and grabbed all of the bananas out of our fruit dish on the centre table before swinging up and out of the open window on the other side. God! Worcester seemed a long way away!" In fact, most of the best stories were about playing on the mat in Pakistan, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and India. They were great for togetherness and team spirit, mainly because in the evenings there was little to do and nowhere to go. Much has changed now. Eoin Morgan could buy a beer in the hotel bar and sip away with his mates. We had mates, no beer and definitely no cocktail bar.
But why has a captain chosen to opt out? Can you imagine turning down the invite to captain any of the England cricket teams? Why have the England and Wales selectors announced that he can come back to the captaincy at the start of January when his men are in India? Will his players welcome him? Why should they be loyal to a leader who does not appear loyal to them? Morgan has doubts about security but our Board of Control has always been outstanding at keeping its players safe. The Director of Security will have checked out everything with the Foreign Office, who confirm that the measures taken by the Bangladesh Board have mitigated threats to such a level that the tour has been confidently graded "acceptably safe".
Perhaps Morgan believes that his being the captain is the problem. Maybe pre-tour threats have picked him out as a target. Not for the first time, I can tell you.
Way back in 1972, I captained England on a full Test tour of India, Ceylon and Pakistan. We toiled in the blinding heat and dust for 122 days, from the end of November to the last days of March, in front of massive crowds, often in riotous mood, with lathi-bearing police and armed soldiers sorting out trouble by the yard under a blinding, big sun. We played eight five-day Tests and, before the era of one-day international fixtures, we fulfilled a long programme of first-class three-day matches around the leading states.
After only a couple of days' play, we received the first threats to our lives.
Just under two months before the tour, the infamous Black September group had seized 11 Israeli hostages at the Munich Olympic Games, and killed them. Thereafter we received continual news from London of small Black September movements sending letter bombs to specific victims.
Immediately our mail, security-checked daily, included death threats to the following - Lewis, "because he is captain"; secondly Alan Knott, the brilliant Kent wicket-keeper, who so far had only been the target of the Indian umpires who kept giving him out lbw trying to sweep; and thirdly, Dennis Amis.
Test match cricket grounds are large open spaces, often surrounded by high buildings. Assassination would be easy work for a crack marksman. I noticed that Alan Knott just wouldn't stand still. He persisted in walking into the stumps from a point several yards behind them as the bowler ran in at the other end. I had never seen a wicket-keeper do that.
Luckily the team's wonderful off-spinner, whose humour was a legend in the game, helped out. Leicestershire's all-rounder Jack Birkenshaw encouraged me: "Don't worry about Knotty walking about behind the stumps, Skipper. He's eyeing up all those tall flats trying to spot the telescopic lens of the Jackal's rifle. But I told him, 'don't worry, Knotty, if he shoots you, he'll only hit you in the leg and you'll be leg-before-wicket again'.'' Team song: "Keep right on to the end of the road", sung each day as the team bus, with armed soldiers and riot squad squeezed in, conveyed us from ground to hotel.
There was no-one who did not know the words.
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|Title Annotation:||News; Front Page; Teasers|
|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Oct 22, 2016|
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