Two-tier system adds context to Tests: Allan Border

Allan Border’s spirit shone like headlights on an unlit highway. It also inspired his men.

Allan Border.

Indeed, Border’s in-the-trenches-resolve and that precious ability to lead from the front saw him lift Australian cricket during a tumultuous period from the late 70s to the mid 80s. Under this feisty left-hander, the men from down under turned the corner.

Not the most attractive left-hander around, Border batted through sessions, took on the fastest of bowlers with fierce determination and employed his feet to tackle the finest of spinners.

The legend’s — he has a stunning 11174 runs in 156 Tests at 50.56 — courage under fire in many ways epitomised the Aussie way. In the city as a guest of the India Cements-Tamil Nadu Premier League, Border shared his views on various topics.

On Australia’s recent batting collapses against spin, the 61-year-old Border said, “The pitches back home, unlike in our times, do not assist spinners. So our batsmen hardly get to play on spinner-friendly tracks. When they get to the sub-continent, they are unsure in their mind about tackling spin, like whether to use their feet or rely on the sweep shot.”

Border added, “But now-a-days, the pitches in the sub-continent turn from day one, which makes it very difficult for visiting batsmen.

“In my days, the pitches would favour the batting side on the first day and then deteriorate in a gradual manner.”

Talking about day / night Tests and pink ball, Border felt the experiment was worth the effort considering. As for the pink ball, he said, “In Australia last season, some batsmen complained they could not see the seam. Also the colour on the red ball is more natural for leather and stays longer. You get to see different elements such as reverse swing. However, the pink colour seems to come off the ball a lot faster.”

Asked about a two-tier system for Tests, Border said, “It is an interesting idea and adds context to Test cricket, gets rid of meaningless matches.”

Border admired Virat Kohli’s aggressive strokeplay but added if he were to pick someone from contemporary cricket to bat for his life, it would be New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy, Border felt, was better suited for shorter formats. “In Tests, there have been times when he has let things drift.”

Border had high praise for Mike Brearley’s captaincy. “He got the best out of Ian Botham, not the easiest cricketers to handle. During times, I came in to bat when he was captain, Brearley invariably had fielders in areas I was not comfortable in.”

And Pakistan leg-spinner Abdul Qadir was the finest spinner he faced. “He was hard for the left-handers, getting the ball to jump off the rough.”

Remembering the timeless tied Test of Chennai in 1986, Border, whose brave declaration set the stage for a dramatic final day, recalled the tense final moments. On the game-ending leg-before decision against Maninder Singh, he said “I must admit the umpire went up quickly, his historic finger in the sky.”

While Border has plenty of respect for Kumar Sangakkara, his favourite left-hander is Brian Lara.

In his time, Border played his cricket hard, surmounted tough conditions away from home and left behind immortal footprints.