Says it was a privilege to have had a few conversations with Tendulkar when he was younger
There’s a thing about David Boon that draws one to him, even a decade and more after he hung up his bat.
Not just his heavy record and reputation as the world’s best batsman of his time. Is it the long and heavy moustache, the naughty glint in his eyes or his other record of downing 52 cans of beer on a flight to London that gave him the popular tag, ‘keg on legs’?
Australian great David Clarence Boon is now in Kochi as the match referee for the Star Plus India-West Indies One-Day International series, the first of which begins at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
The last few months, or longer, Boon has been watching a kind of cricket very different to the one he played between 1978 and 1999.
And Virat Kohli’s racy century, off just 52 balls with seven sixes and eight boundaries in the ODI against Australia in Jaipur the other day, looked a lot like a T20 act.
With 350 and more becoming the norm these days, one-dayers are looking a lot like the Twenty20 games and even Tests are no longer the quiet and patient affairs they used to be. The sport is brutal these days and bowlers are almost always at the receiving end.
With bowlers now virtually running for cover, will 400 runs become the norm in one-dayers in a couple of years?
Boon, the man of the final for champion Australia in the 1987 World Cup in India, feels it’s just around the corner. “I think it’s very much possible. With the kind of talent going around, players have become very adept at one-day cricket,” said the 52-year-old from Tasmania, the world’s best batsman in the late eighties and early nineties, in a chat here on Tuesday.
“I think, most definitely T20 has had an influence in the way one-day cricket is played and I think it’s fantastic, it’s great for the game. At both those levels, it’s a very good vehicle for cricket as a game to spread its wings to countries and people that may not necessarily have it as a natural sport.”
But there is a small worry too.
“Only thing I’m a little bit wary of is the change to Test cricket and, you know, the overall aggression can sometimes break forward into Test cricket. But generally speaking, really good players will adapt the correct attitude, technique and style that is required in all forms of the game.”
Boon, Australia’s hero in many of its Ashes battles — his best was 1993 when he made 555 runs at 69.37 during the tour of England and it included three centuries — also stood out with 149 runs in the team that had a memorable victory over a strong West Indies in 1989.
The West Indies side then included Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and fast bowlers like Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose who could send a shiver down batsmen’s spine with their lethal pace bowling.
Good and competitive in ODIs
So, what’s wrong with the West Indies now?
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong, I think the wheel changes for everyone,” said Boon who was also a former Australian selector. “They have shown some really good signs of getting back in strength in the last couple of years. In one-day cricket, generally speaking, they will be good and competitive.
“They have got some very good players, they have also got young players, which takes time to nurture and get them used to international cricket and to get the consistency like elite teams. So, every opportunity they get to play against the best is going to be good for them.”
This is the Sachin Tendulkar season in Indian cricket. And Boon will never forget the little chats he has had with the master blaster.
And he cherishes this one.
“I was privileged to have a few conversations with him when he was younger, and breaking in, and I recall one where he asked me how to play the West Indies,” he said.
“I’ll always cherish that one of the greatest players of this era would ask little old me something like that.”