5 fascinating contributions by players in series losses
Many top performances in Test matches and series have come in losing causes.
Defeat is more romanticised than victory. Does that even make sense, one may wonder. Given humanity’s continuous struggle to survive against all odds, shouldn’t we be celebrating victory more? Especially in the context of sport, I have no doubts whatsoever that we tend to recall the details of a painful defeat much more easily than we do for a major win. I can already sense many frowning in disapproval. I shall do you all a favour and provide a few examples.
Do we actually recollect the winning moments of every Roger Federer Grand Slam title? Unlikely, I’d say. In fact, the opposite is true. We will be able to visualise some of his most crushing losses such as the Australian Open final in 2009 and the Wimbledon final in 2008.
Just cast your mind back to the entire glorious Test career of Sachin Tendulkar. Chances are that the one moment you instantly recall will be the majestic 136 in that unforgettable defeat in Chennai. And South Africa? What about them? They have made it a habit of messing up at crucial moments. They are one of the most consistent teams in international cricket since their readmission but all we recall are their rough losses, none more so than the tragic run-out in the Edgbaston semi-final in 1999.
And yes, what is the first moment you recall when you think of Roberto Baggio’s career? I’d be surprised if it’s anything other than the shocking penalty miss in the 1994 World Cup final.
Many top performances in Test matches have come in such losing causes. Tendulkar’s masterpiece in Chennai, his brilliant 169 in Cape Town, and more recently Virat Kohli’s brilliant twin tons in Adelaide in 2014.
While the individual performance in a single innings is often easier to recall, we tend to forget the backs-to-the-wall, against-all-odds performances that have been produced in a full series. This often happens because we are much more used to series-defining performances from players on the winning teams.
The aim of this piece is to take a look back at a few fascinating contributions by players in series losses. I also try and provide a bit of a context leading to the series and what transpired in the few years after the performance – both for the player and for the team.
#1 Clyde Walcott – 827 runs at 82.70 versus Australia (1954-55)
Few records in cricket can lay claim to being part of the ‘never can be beaten’ club. Along with the more popular ones like Bradman’s average and Muralitharan’s 800 wickets, this performance by the great West Indian is perhaps never going to be surpassed.
Few series batting aggregates, even in victories, come close to what Walcott achieved in this famous series. West Indies were certainly not the world beaters they were to become a few years down the lane but were no pushovers either when the Australians arrived in the Caribbean.
West Indies had beaten England a few years back and were rising steadily. Australia had lost a home series against England after going up 1-0. The series seemed like a great opportunity for the West Indies to pull off a major upset. However, the Australians were in no mood to let up. Right from the first game, they dominated the contest and the hosts struggled to compete. Frank Worrell was going through a rough patch and Garry Sobers had only just arrived.
While the rest of the batting floundered, Walcott seemed to be on a different plane altogether. In the first Test, he scored a century, and added two centuries in both the second and fifth Tests even as Australia ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. A measure of Australia’s dominance can be seen in the fifth Test in Jamaica where five Australian batsmen scored hundreds in their first innings as the visitors won by an innings.
Walcott comfortable topped the run aggregate in the series scoring 177 runs more than the second highest (Neil Harvey) and 358 more than the second-best West Indian batsman (Everton Weekes). This was the high point of a stellar career for Walcott. He ended with an average more than 56, and together with Weekes and Worrell, put the West Indies on the road to great glory.
Balls per dismissal
% of team runs *
Top five batsmen (WI)
Top 5 batsmen (opposition)
Before the series
After the series
* Only runs scored by batsmen considered. Extras not counted.
** Top five batsmen other than the player considered