Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tavare: the legend lives

There are some names that, as a young cricketer, you do not want. They are usually familial. The surnames of Botham and Richards were hard to climb out from under for Liam and Mali, because they stand not just for cricketers of note, but for something bigger: a way of playing the game.

Imagine then, that you are William Tavare, who made his highest first class score yesterday for Loughborough MCCU against Kent, a very respectable 53 out of 127 all out. Because as surely as Botham, Richards or Lara are names that come freighted with meaning, then so does Tavare. William is the nephew of perhaps the most extraordinary batsman to appear for England in the last 30 years, the motionless phenomenon that was CJ Tavare.

No-one who saw Chris Tavare bat will forget it in a hurry, even after therapy. If David Steele was the bank clerk who went to war, Tavare was the schoolteacher who took arms. Tall, angular and splayfooted, a thin moustache sketched on his top lip, he would walk to the crease like a stork approaching a watering hole full of crocs. Once there though, he began not to bat but to set, concrete drying under the sun. His principal movement was between the stumps and square leg, to where he would walk, gingerly, after every ball. If John Le Measurier had played Test cricket, he would have played it like Chris Tavare.

Tavare's feats remain the stuff of legend. His five and half hour fifty against Pakistan in 1982 was the second slowest half-century in the history of the game, and yet even that paled in comparison to the six and a half hour 35 against India in Madras the following winter. In a team that contained Botham, Gatting, Lamb and Gower, Tavare truly stood out. The mighty ballast which he provided against the Australians in '81 played a part in that famous win, albeit a part that never quite makes the highlights reels.

Like a lot of slow players, stories abounded that Tavare was a wolf in sheep's clothing, capable of pillaging county attacks on quiet Canterbury afternoons. If it happened, no-one remembers it now.

And so into a game that Tavare - now rather marvellously a biology teacher - would not recognise steps William. He got his fifty yesterday at a decent rate in the circumstances, but even if he turns out to be the next Chris Gayle, the Tavare name will plod after him - gently, and from a distance of course. Good luck, my friend.

29 comments:

Vaibhav Sharma said...

hahah!! never knew about this "tortoise"batsman!!

Brit said...

Brilliant. Particularly "he would walk to the crease like a stork approaching a watering hole full of crocs."... but all brilliant.

John Halliwell said...

Marvelous stuff; that third para would grace any book written on cricket - ever.

I wonder if the fact that Chris is Uncle rather than Father reduces expectations? At least it avoids the keeper's greeting "It's Tav's lad - tell the scorer he can bugger-off for an early lunch."

Chris' Wiki entry informs us that he is the first cousin of Jim Tavare, the comedian. I wonder if Chris was brilliant with the one-liner retorts when Lillee and Thomson engaged him in some good-natured - and restrained, naturally - sledging on his arrival at the wicket?

SarahCanterbury said...

William followed yesterday's half century with another today. He looks very assured at the crease and played some lovely shots.

There was some excitement in the "crowd" that a Tavare was again playing at The St Lawrence. I think his uncle would have been very proud if he had been here.

Tony said...

The "bank clerk who went to war" instantaneously conjured up images of Warmington-on-Sea and, by extension, John Le Measurier (who I recently watched in The City Under the Sea with Tab Hunter, Vincent Price and the underrated David Tomlinson).

John Halliwell said...

Isn't it great when you can simply click on a commenter's name (SarahCanterbury) and be taken immediately to two striking images of a dismissal? Poor Ravi - I bet he wished he could have asked for a review. Well, its got 'no-ball' written all over it! Wonderful photos, Sarah.

The Old Batsman said...

Sarah, yes I saw he got another - good lad. looking forward to seeing him.

john, I was thinking about the actual relationships - we've had a lot of successful father-sons recently: the Butchers, Stewarts, Broads, Marshes etc but with due respect to the fathers, they weren't a Botham or a Richards. It's more to do with the power of the name I think. In all seriousness, I can't imagine William will have too many probs beyond a bit of banter. Unless her really does bat like Chris of course...

The Old Batsman said...

tony - quiet day mate?!? Actually I just googled it - lost city off the coast of Cornwall - top idea. Was JLM a frogman?

SarahCanterbury said...

Inspired by your post, OB, here is my photo equivalent. Will Tavare batting yesterday:

http://sarahcanterbury.com/2011/05/20/william-tavare-batting-at-the-slg/

SarahCanterbury said...

Oh and thank you, John!

The Old Batsman said...

Great, thanks Sarah - good stuff. Glad to see he's a gray-nicolls man, as was Chris I recall.

keith said...

"Pillaging county attacks"

Actually I can remember, he moved to Somerset in the late 1980s and scored a big one-day hundred, which might have even included a six. I was astonished so much that it sticks in the memory to this day.
I put it down to being liberated from the correct confines of Kent and let loose in the fun-loving west country but my Kent-supporting friends do insist that he was quite aggressive in county cricket.

diogenes said...

as I recall, at university and for Kent Tav was a dasher. Are there any stats out there on runs per hundred balls? When he played for England for the first time, WIndies 1980, I think he changed his grip on the advice of Alan Knott - moving his top hand behind the handle to control the rising ball better. He then stuck with that grip. He was still capable of playing strokes but somehow decided to deploy them in random bursts every 5 hours or so. His first England innings was a rip-snorting 49 or so in a large number of hours. Commentators went apopleptic - I particularly recall a virulent attack by EM Wellings. It wasn't helped by the fact that Gooch had scored a memorable attacking 120 at the top of the order while Tav went strolling round the popping crease.

Sid Smith said...

A delight, TOB, as so often. Thanks!

Brian Carpenter said...

'The youth of today' just wouldn't believe Tavare as there's simply nobody (Thank God, many would say) who bats like that any more.

It wasn't just the stroklessness and slow-scoring; it was the whole emotionless persona, which, as others have said, you've captured perfectly.

As a defenceless and impressionable lad I was subjected to a partnership between Boycott and Tavare at The Oval in the last Test of the 1981 series. I haven't looked up the details but memory tells me that Tavare was completely scoreless for what felt like hours (probably 40-50 minutes, par for the course for him) and when he finally scored a run everyone in the old wooden seats in front of the gasholders threw their cushions in the air in ecstasy and disbelief.

He made Boycott (hardly a fast scorer) look like Virender Sehwag.

diogenes said...

Brian - in the second innings of that 1981 test, I think the Aussie sledging must at last have got to him because, on the final morning, with backs to the wall, Tav played some very odd-looking square cuts with a horizontal bat (a stroke that had not been seen before in that series!) - to one of which he got out cheaply. I think the Aussies were heartily glad to see the back of him. He had a huge red splodge dead in the centre of his bat, with a splinter hanging from it. A s/r of 30.6 is actually respoectable for such a steady batter, though. i doubt if Boycs was a lot faster.

The Old Batsman said...

I seem to remember boycs would usually get his hundred at about 5.30 on a regular day of test cricket. That's pre the 90 over requirement.

Tavare was scoring at 30 runs per 100 balls - 100 balls is almost 17 overs, so say he's facing 50 per cent of those balls bowled, he'd get 30 every 34 overs. thus it's going to be about 120 overs bowled before he gets to a hundred. Slower than Geoffrey, I'd say...

John Halliwell said...

I remember Boycott scoring a wonderfully fluent 146 for Yorkshire in their 1965 Gillette Cup Final win against Surrey. Geoffrey's innings was so impressive, I remember commentator Benaud (or was it Fingleton?) saying how much Australian crowds would look forward to seeing him in the upcoming '65/'66 series. At that time, and after that innings, I thought Boycott might become more like a May than a Bailey. As it turned out, Bob Barber was the English opener who set Australia alight in that 66/67 series, with Boycott an excellent foil.

Backwatersman said...

There's a description of Tavare by Alan Gibson in 1978 - "If you had never seen him bat before ... you would have known he was a player of high class. Some of his drives reminded me of Beldam's pictures of Victor Trumper ... He is a sideways batsman, always ready to go forward, quick on his feet."

I suspect he felt he had been given a role to play for England (i.e. a limpet)and became a bit typecast.

The man who really suffered from the "pressure of a name" was poor W.G. Grace Jnr. A pair in the Varsity match with his father watching, and hardly played first-class cricket again.

Brian Carpenter said...

I may have been a tad unfair to Boycott. Even though the 146 was before I was born, I remember hearing a lot about it from my Dad, who was there. And there were a few other examples, notably an ODI century in Australia during the 79-80 tour (the first time England played under lights). In general, though, he liked to occupy the crease and he did it very well.

And, as others have said, in the years before Tavare played for England he used to play a lot of shots and score quickly for Kent and later did the same for Somerset. For some reason it was a mindset he got into when playing for England. At times (the twin fifties at Old Traford in 81, for example) it was beneficial, at others less so.

John Halliwell said...

I certainly don't think Brian was unfair to the later Boycott. Sorry to return again to Geoffrey when this wonderful post is about Tavere, but the first I saw of him was Yorkshire v West Indies in 1963. Even in those pre-England days, he bristled with what appeared an unshakable inner certainty that he was something special. In the first innings, he scored 71 against the ferocious Hall and Griffith - no helmet, little body protection, and wearing steel-rimmed spectacles. I remember the classic stance, almost flawless technique - right in behind the fast stuff, and those specs. What courage. God knows where the later stodginess sprang from. Was it an obsession with personal achievement that gradually made him risk-averse and much less fluent?

diogenes said...

just checked...Atherton scored in tests at 37 and Nasser Huassain at 40, Broad at 38, contrary to my expectations. Cricinfo does not give s/r stats for the people I grew up with! Alas...my Barrington and Boycott far away!

Tav was special - it was a form of mental disintegration. Amidst the chaos of that 1981 series, when Gooch achieved very little (just one splashy innings of about 40 if I recall correctly), and Gower kept hooking Lillee to mid-wicket (the 3 card trick, as Jim laker would say), tav just kept them out for hours and hours...with an occasional burst of fluent, even savage, off-drives that left the bowler (Lillee/Alderman, a pretty good pair) looking completely bemused - why this ball and not any of the others I have bowled over the last 3 hours? Brian Close commentating for the BBC once said "he's been out there so long he must be batting by memory." It was never clear why he suddenly decided that half-volleys were for hitting. OK he became a hero to me. It was cleaqr that the whole Aussie team hated him with a passion and were not afraid to tell him as he tapped his bat on the popping crease of the pitch alongside the one he was batting on.

Anonymous said...

TOB...delving back in jmy mentaql archive - the infamous Trent Bridge Test in 1978 - when Boycott ran out Randall. By the close of play,he had made 100, nd Alan Knott who came inj just before tea was on the same score...so 100 runs per day for Boycott. Tav was probably slower. However, do you remember the sheer tedium of the Saturday pre-lunch session in 1981 at Old Trafford....Boycott and Tav against Ray Bright and Mallett....it was cricket for those who think that Becket plays are too exciting.

Anonymous said...

Barry Carpenter. After seeing your comments I assume that you played for England with Chris Tavaré and know the actual situation. That must be the case to come to such a judgement.

Samy Tamy said...

Tavare was the greatest player of cricket!

Pay per head software said...

oh Tavare was an idol for my father and for me too, we admired him a lot and he was the player I wanted to become, but you know life, I just can admire him for all what he did

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Mike said...

Kent and England Tavares were Jekyll and Hyde, and I witnessed Mr. T play some savage one-day innings for the former.

Anonymous said...

My cricket coach at school just a few years ago - the team loved finding stories like this one.
A fun fact, he had this weird and crazy ability to throw the ball underarm higher and further than pretty much any of us could overarm, and i also remember we did some driving challenges and he did put in big distance even against the top 1st team batsmen. I can definitely see him being a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde

and if anyone wants more info - he holds quite a few school cricket records (he went to Sevenoaks also). He averaged about 100 for all his school years, and I think he made the first team aged 14 or even 13. Clearly a talented cricketer from a young age, but god was he one of the driest men I ever met.