2016 has given immeasurable number of great moments over the course of 12 months, but has also taken away some of the finest of the game, who enthralled cricketing fans over generations. While we have some moments left to cherish in the year, let’s take time to celebrate the legacy of those legends.
1. Hanif Mohammed (1934-2016)
The original ‘Little-master’, Asia’s first legendary batsman, Hanif Mohammed is widely regarded as the greatest-ever Pakistani cricketer to hold a willow in hands. He faced uncountable struggles in his life- both on and off the field, but endured all of those to create a name for Pakistan in world cricket. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no one in the history of cricket had faced the amount of pain and struggle that Hanif had to face in his entire lifetime to carve a niche for him and Pakistan cricket alike.
Hanif arguably had a significant impact on the popularity of cricket in his country. He holds the record for the longest Test innings in terms of time taken- taking just over 16 hours to score 337 runs against a strong West Indian bowling attack in Bridgetown in 1957, which is still the highest score by an Asian batsman outside the subcontinent.
Hanif was born in Junagadh, a small city in the Indian state of Gujarat, on December 21, 1934. He was the third of five brothers. The entire family moved to Karachi during the time of partition and had to stay in an unused Hindu temple. But as history has it now, the entire family went on to serve Pakistan cricket with distinction as three of his brothers Wazir (born in 1929), Mushtaq (1943) and Sadiq (1945) played Test cricket for Pakistan, while Raess (1931) would come very close to the Test side.
In Tests, Hanif made 3,915 runs (with 12 centuries) at an average of 43.98. He played 239 first-class matches as well in between 1951 and 1976, scoring 17,059 runs, which included a staggering 55 centuries at an average of 52.32. He also took 53 wickets in his career.
Hanif was the first prodigal son of Pakistan cricket, who transcended the reputation of his country to the realm of excellence. With his demise on 11th August 2016, it was cricket, which became the ultimate loser.
2. Martin Crowe (1963-2016)
If elegance and eloquence in batting ever needed a mention, remember to cite Martin Crowe. With sheer poise on the field, Crowe defined his aura as a batsman, a leader, and the cricket culture of a country, which had always been fascinated only by the game of Rugby.
Coming from a cricket-playing family, Crowe didn’t have to go too far for inspiration. His father and elder brother- both - represented New Zealand in Test cricket. But what Martin achieved in his career, crossed the border of excellence and projected a new horizon for his country.
Crowe played 77 Tests and struck 17 centuries in his glorious career, which was a testament to his credentials as a batsman since New Zealand were historically a team that played a lesser number of Tests than other countries. In 1991, he fell one run shy off a triple-century, becoming the first man
Crowe’s life was dealt a cruel blow in the year 2012 when he was diagnosed with cancer. But the fighter that he was, he continued to smile and even was present at the Stadium to motivate the Kiwis in the final of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Maybe Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum helped New Zealand achieve a formidable position in world cricket or maybe Kane Williamson will go on to make the team into world-beaters, but nobody can deny the fact that what Crowe had done for New Zealand cricket is more than beyond bare statistics.
As Peter Roebuck rightfully wrote of him, “Crowe could soar like an eagle.”
3. Trevor Goddard (1931-2016)
Much before the arrival of Hansie Cronje, Jacques Kallis, and Graeme Smith, it was Trevor Goddard, who gave hope to South African cricket. One of the greatest all-rounders of South Africa, if not the greatest, to grace the cricket field, Goddard’s death created a big vacuum in South African cricket.
Goddard was best remembered for leading South Africa to a drawn series in Australia in 1963-64, in the aftermath of his team having been described as no-hopers by the media. He proved every detractor wrong with his tactical nous. Graeme Pollock and Peter Pollock were unearthed from the tour whereas Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland went on to establish themselves in the international circuit after that.
Goddard believed in orthodox technique and spent his entire life perfecting his left-hand batting skill. He was an expert in analyzing the opponents' strengths and weaknesses. One of South Africa’s best opening batsmen, Goddard was one of the best bowlers in his country as well.
His career spanned 41 Tests between 1955 and 1970. He scored 2516 runs and took 123 wickets as well. His only century came against England in 1965, and his economy rate of 1.64 remains the third-best of all time.
He died on November 26, 2016, at the age of 85.
Cricket commentary is an art. It is those voices that elevate cricket, not letting it head towards tedium. But the world of cricket had lost two valuable gems in 2015 as Tony Greig and Richie Benaud left.
The year 2016 saw the demise of another golden age commentator, Tony Cozier, the voice of West Indian cricket, who passed away on 11th May 2016.
With a warm and avuncular voice, Cozier was the instantly recognizable voice of West Indian cricket. He had seen the best and worst, struggle and glory of Caribbean cricket and never hesitated to voice his opinion without any fear.
He always remained critical in his judgment- not cynical or skeptic and brought up the actual facts to the fore with his wonderful columns throughout his life. The silencing of his voice wasn't any different from that of Grieg or Benaud for sure.
He edited the West Indies Cricket Annual between 1970 and 1991, and in 1978 wrote, The West Indies: 50 Years of Test Cricket. In 2011, the MCC awarded Cozier, honorary life membership for his services to the game.
5. Max Walker (1948-2016)
Former Australian pacer Max Walker was, in fact, a first-class footballer before he was a first-class cricketer, playing 85 league games for Melbourne in the AFL Cup. He quit playing football, after taking six wickets for 15 runs in only his second Test as an Australian Test cricketer. Although for the major part of his career, he played second fiddle to the fearsome pacers of Australian cricket- Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, he carved a distinct niche for himself by being a charismatic fielder.
After retiring, he became a media personality, including a stint as co-host of Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sports program. He was also a member of the Nine Network’s commentary team between 1986 and 1991, and worked with the network until 1999, hosting the AFL Sunday Footy Show between 1993 and 1998 and presenting for Nine News in Melbourne.
Walker was named a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to cricket and the Australian community in 2011. He was born in Hobart, on 12th September 1948 and breathed his last on 28th September 2016.