I think most of you would have clicked on this article having no idea what this has to do with cricket and I don’t blame you. The title I have given has disclosed absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is an article about cricket but before I explain, I need you to cast your mind to the physics lab that you once studied in (this will require more memory power for some than it will for others).
For those who do remember their time in the physics lab, they should be able to recall learning about magnets and the way they function. You should also be able to recollect one of the first things physics teachers imprint upon their students about magnets: the basic law of magnetism. This rule states that like poles repel one another and unlike poles attract each other and in simpler terms, “Opposites attract and likes repel”.
This, I expect you to have deduced, is the title of the article which means we have ventured ever closer to the answer of this puzzle. To release you of your agony, the reason my title is named “Opposites attract and likes repel” is because the rest of this article will be dedicated to cricketing duos that collaborated their contrasting styles to become legendary partnerships that will be inscribed in the history books. Enjoy.
Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden
For our first cricketing exponent of “Opposites attract and likes repel” I introduce you to the revered opening partnership of the seemingly invincible Australian test side, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden.
These two players are magnificently talented batsmen in their own right but their perfectly complemented attributes coupled with a deep understanding of one another’s game is what cracked the code of the art of batting at the top of the order, an art that many great players, of the highest calibre, have struggled and subsequently failed to decode.
Both of them are both left-handed batsmen but their similarities end there: Matthew Hayden, a man gigantic in physical structure but also gigantic in the volume of runs scored, is a squash buckling stroke player who’s dashing pumps down the ground result in salivating fans all across the world.
In contrast, Justin Langer, having a slighter frame than his fellow compatriot, is a player gifted with bucket loads of mental resolve and character. In his heyday, he embodied the Australian spirit as he got thwacked on the head by a 90 miles per hour bumper numerous times but each time he bounced right back up, staring into the soul of the bemused bowler. He may have not been the head-turning entertainer his opening partner was but he made up for it with unparalleled spirit and fight.
As stated before, these 2 players are outstanding batsmen individually but together they formed a formidable opening duo: Justin Langer had the role of wearing down the toiling bowlers with unsurmountable patience as he was a wall that refused even the most express pace of deliveries to breach his imperishable defences.
Mathew Hayden, however, capitalised on the weary bowlers as he smacked them to every corner off the field with an imperious nonchalance that reminisced the glory of Sir Vivian Richards while langer tirelessly battled on, blunting the sharp pace of the opposition quicks.
Mathew Hayden may have got more plaudits than his fellow teammate for his awe-inspiring stroke play but Justin Langer knew that burying his ego will be for the betterment of the team, so he continued to grind away, guaranteeing a safer passageway for his partner while acknowledging that his time will come.
This deep understanding of role play in a team is what made this polarising pair the bedrock of the indomitable Australian outfit.
Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillee
Continuing with the Australian theme, our next couple with opposing styles is the famed Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson. This example is slightly different to the first as Dennis Lille and Jeff Thompson are very similar in the outcome of their craft, unlike Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden, but what sets them apart is how they perform it…
This fast bowling duo were the destructors in chief for the 1970s Aussies as they scared the living daylights out of anyone who dared to take them on. Their bouncers were a thing of brutal beauty as they jagged into the batsmen’s body with the accuracy of a laser-guided missile.
However, you must have noticed that their incredible pace and terrifying bouncers are not the characteristics that comply with the law of “opposites attract and likes repel” as it is, in fact, their bowling actions that have caught my eye, 2 of the most distinctive bowling actions that our planet has had the privilege to host…
Dennis Lillee was one of the most fearsome and deadliest pace bowlers in history as batsmen shivered in fear when faced with the task of playing his demonic bowling but if you’re not facing him, you can appreciate the mastery he has attained at the art of the bowling action…
Dennis Lillee’s side on action looked like it came straight out of an MCC coaching manual as spectators drool with pleasure at the very sight of it. He glided in with the poise and elegance of an ice skater and his load up seemed to temporarily stop time so that the world can admire its aesthetic beauty.
If Dennis Lillee was the epitome of orthodoxy, his teammate was the complete opposite…
Jeff Thompson, like his compatriot, was a bowler who was capable of hurling the ball at unthinkable speeds but in terms of frightening the batsman, I believe that Jeff Thompson reached a level of intimidation that even his partner was not able to do and this was due to his action.
Jeff Thompson’s action has been called many things: slingy, whippy, strange and unorthodox. I agree with all of these adjectives to describe one the most peculiar actions ever but I think the description that suits this action best is a medieval catapult laying siege on the opposition’s fort with immeasurable force and power. The mere sight of this living catapult running at you would have made batsmen feel like fleeing for their endangered lives.
I think that the essence of this polarising duo is that it showcases fast bowling’s diversity as it is an example that there is no set in stone way of bowling fast as everyone have subtly varying actions depending on their physique, height and weight. This partnership in particular “shows how orthodoxy and unorthodoxy can work together as one to complete the No1 Aussie goal; to terrorise pom batsmen” (quote from the joys and wonders of fast bowling).
Sourav Ganguly and John Wright
You would have noticed that both of my first 2 cases are examples of 2 players with contrasting styles working together and you would probably expect this one to be the same as well but I want this example to report the management side of cricket as well and how contrasting styles of leadership, contrary to common belief, can be very effective.
The year 2000 was the year of the match fixing scandal that had shook the foundation of Indian sport, in general as Mohammad Azharuddin, a veteran of 99 test matches, was found guilty of match fixing while others were found guilty of having links with bookies.
In short, Indian cricket was in deep turmoil and controversy and Indian cricket was at a crossroads: the team could either drown in the turmoil or emerge from it with some tenacious and passionate leadership and they definitely achieved the latter.
Sourav Ganguly and John Wright is an example of how a coach and a captain can have 2 completely different personalities: Sourav Ganguly was a dynamic and audacious top- order batsman who’s delightful stroke play towards the off side earned him the prestigious title of the”god of the offside”.
In addition to his playing style, Ganguly had an intriguing personality which, similar to his playing style, was healthily combative and not afraid to express his opinion in a blunt and candid style. He showcased this attitude out in the middle which was a first for an Indian cricket player. Despite his character, he was appointed as a skipper and when people thought he would tone his aggressive nature down to suit the role, he only toned it up which, to the surprise to many cricket fans, transformed him into a galvanising leader who his team would do anything for.
The start of Ganguly’s captaincy reign was also the start of a new Indian cricket team as Ganguly implemented new ideologies into the team such as giving chances to youngsters hence giving chances to players such as Yuvraj Singh, a man who proved to be essential to the victorious 2011 world cup campaign. In all, Sourav Ganguly changed Indian cricket for the better but he needed a silent facilitator behind the scenes, backing him every step of the way. Enter John Wright…
Cool, calm, collected: all of these words are more than worthy descriptions of Sourav Ganguly’s right hand man.
John Wright, in his playing days, was a dependable and tenacious, yet unspectacular, opening batsman who was part of arguably what was New Zealand’s most successful opening partnership in their history alongside Bruce Edgar. His career spanned a very respectable 82 caps and that excessive experience is what aided him in the arduous task of coaching the Indian team.
The John Wright-Sourav Ganguly dynamic is what drove the Indian cricket team out of the dark ages of 2000; Sourav Ganguly was the spearhead and focal point of the team as he propelled the team forward with his charismatic energy and aggression meanwhile John Wright played the role of the behind the scenes facilitator and allowing Ganguly to be his natural self.
This partnership proved to be a match made in heaven as both their styles complimented each other flawlessly and results followed: Under John Wright and Sourav Ganguly, India defeated the unassailable Australian side who before that, was on a 15 game winning streak! Talk about defeating the unconquerable!
India was on the rise and the model coach-captain combo was at the forefront of it. Indian cricket was rosy and devoid of all controversies and as Ganguly alluded to after his retirement, John Wright was more of a friend than a coach. Indian cricket was in a good space and the years ahead seemed promising but in hindsight, it was the calm before the storm…
The team, despite the promise of a new beginning, suffered a drastic change in form after humiliating series losses to Australia and Pakistan. John Wright subsequently lost his job and Greg Chappell continued…
Thus, one of the darkest periods of Indian cricket as the Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly proved to be the clash of two massive egos: Greg Chappell was demanding to be the driving force of the team, a role Sourav Ganguly had been fulfilling before then . Understandably, he didn’t approve of this and the already shaky relationship of the two was further soured and the rest of the team, in support of their captain, followed suit.
This marked the start of some abysmal performances by the team and suddenly the fans were mourning the departure of John Wright…
The Greg Chappell fiasco was a consummate example of why role play is vital in team environments and how important understanding each other’s strengths and capabilities is. John Wright and Sourav Ganguly were perfect examples of this indispensable component in dressing rooms and they weren’t the only ones…
In fact, everyone I have mentioned in this article is an exponent of how important distinctiveness is in team environments and why a successful team should be brimming with contrasting talents. This can be an overlooked factor in a team’s success but every single one of my examples were part of a world beating side . Surely this is comprehensive proof that diverse styles should be recognised as part of the ingredients of success.
From what started as a venture back in time to the physics classroom, has ended as a commemoration of divergent qualities. Hope you enjoyed this article.