ARTICLES: GARY SOBERS AND THE BRISBANE REVOLUTION

Reading Time: 16 minutes

The “Brisbane revolution” is a limited revolution. What has happened to cricket since 1960-61 might be of some significance for the West Indian communities and for a section of West Indian cricket but it means little to the game in general. The West Indians (and Australians) were credited with having started a great cricket revival in 1960·61 which was continued in England in 1963. Throughout this period (1960-65) the West Indians not only played the “bright” and “exciting” cricket for which they have become famous, but they also played it with unprecedented distinction and success. They managed to produce clear cut results in sixteen of their twenty Test matches; they won eleven of their Test matches and three of their four Test series; and wherever they have played they involved most of the spectators deeply in the game and in its outcome. Johnny Moyes’s comment on the performance of the West Indians during their tour to Australia in 1960-61 is illuminating. “The impact they made on cricket in Australia was amazing”, he wrote. “They turned the world upside down …they gave the genuine cricket lover a thrill he had not felt for a quarter of a century”. Equally significant is Alan Ross’s tribute to the West Indians after the tour to England in 1963: “Enriching the common idiom of the game, they restored to it not only spontaneity, but style”. This was and is the “revolution” in action.

But few, if any, of the major cricketing countries have attempted in the last five years to catch the sparkle of the West Indies performance and example. Most Test matches (and nearly all English county matches) continue to be tedious games of attrition with clear-cut results laboriously achieved, if achieved at all. Mediocre seam bowlers on inadequately prepared pitches dominate the game, and spinners, particularly leg spinners, are a luxury few teams can afford. (Even in the popular English one-day K.O. matches the spinners are often dropped from the county teams for these matches, and if they are selected they are used either as batsmen or as slow-medium seam bowlers.) The batsmen, often mediocre in quality, appear even more pedestrian in performance because they fear to venture more. They too are infected by the seam bowling and “professional” psychology. Consequently, a definite result to a game (particularly a Test match) is an exception and a relief and sometimes a national disaster. The spectator seems to have been forgotten although he is the necessary witness of this exercise in futility. All captains and managers of touring teams assiduously pay lip service to the god of “brighter cricket”; yet, when not playing the West Indies, neither India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, England nor Australia manage to entertain the long-suffering spectator or to terminate the depressingly long series of drawn games. Recently, Ken Barrington, the most successful English batsman in the past six years, spent over seven hours in compiling a century against a weak New Zealand bowling attack apparently without being reprimanded by his captain. The English selectors, in a sudden and startling fit of memory of the bright promises easily given and callously tarnished, dropped Barrington “more in sorrow than in anger” for his pointless vigil. But if the selectors intended to be consistent or to be taken seriously they should also have dropped the captain for the following match. In addition, one wonders whether the selectors’ now-found solicitude for the game and for the spectators would have operated at all if England had been involved in a Test series against Australia, the West Indies or South Africa. In short, the “revolution” as far as the game in general is concerned, remains an empty, pious promise made at the start of every cricket season and of every Test series which is occasionally and accidentally redeemed by the presence and genius of personalities like Dexter, Burge, R. G. Pollock or Trueman.