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Did Trevor Bailey and Hanif Mohammed change cricket forever?


As a die-hard cricket fan born in 1988, there have been a lot of great matches and great cricketers that I missed watching throughout the history of cricket. From Bradman, Gavaskar and Richards to both the pace and spin quartets. One thing that I am glad to have missed though is the 1950’s.

Now don’t get me wrong, the 50’s had some legends of the game worth watching (The 3W’s, Sobers, Miller,Compton etc) but the cricket was far too slow for my liking. Don’t believe me? Want numbers? Of course, you do. Well for starters, the 50s was the joint slowest decade along with the 1880’s where runs were scored at the lordly rate of 2.3 per over. Furthermore of the 73 innings that lasted more than 20 overs with a run-rate below 1.5, 41 of them were from the 1950’s. This table shows how each team performed during the decade.

New Zealand
South Africa
West Indies

So, all in all it was a pretty turgid decade. Even though the 50s had their stroke-players, it was dominated by players like Hanif Mohammed, Trevor Bailey, Jackie McGlew and anyone playing for New Zealand. We cannot, unfortunately, compare the players of today with those the 50’s due to the fact that very few scorecards of the time recorded balls faced (either they were too sleepy to care or wanted to prevent future generations from seeing these scorecards and laughing). They do however leave us with a few performances from which we can hope to understand the collective insomnia. The hall of stodge includes Trevor Bailey’s 68 from 427 balls, Jackie McGlew’s 105 from 575 minutes, Jim Burke’s 28* from 173 balls and New Zealand scoring 69/6 in 90 overs.

So did this incredibly stonewalled decade lead to cricket as we know it? Well we do know that the paying public was not very happy about it. In fact Tony Cozier once recollected on air how he once watched England score 128 runs in the entire day (Ramadhin and Valentine had combined figures of 104.5-60-111-7) and how the English players had food stuff thrown at them [citation needed]. 

After a decade of putting people to sleep, the counties Leics, Derby, Notts and Northants were the first to pick up on public discontent and try something different. In 1962, these 4 counties played in the Mid-lands knockout competition, a 65 over game that was relatively well received. The response prompted the England board to establish the 1st Gillette Cup next year. It did take some time for international cricket to take note of it before the 1st ODI was played in 1971. From then on world cricket went through some massive changes- World Cups, Kerry Packer, Sharjah, the emergence of India as a cricketing superpower, T20’s and the IPL.

It is tempting to think what would have happened had domestic and international cricketers in the 50’s played in a bit more attacking fashion. How would fans and spectators of today have embraced a game that existed solely in its longer form? Was the formation limited-overs cricket inevitable?  How long could international cricket have continued the way it was before limited overs cricket was mooted?  And could players like Sehwag and Gilchrist have existed in such a scenario along with Tests that move along an RPO of 4+?

However if you are a fan of fast-paced and aggressive cricket, then you might have to thank the cricketer’s of the 1950’s who allowed hundreds of dot-balls so that cricket fans of the future may have a more enjoyable experience.

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