Sir Ian Botham begins his Test journey

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28 Jul 2020 | 06:00 AM
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Pramod Ananth

Sir Ian Botham begins his Test journey

On this day in 1977, one of the greatest all-rounders made his Test bow

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A talented footballer - who decided to pursue cricket more seriously, Ian Botham made his Test debut for England on this day in 1977. In the 15 years he was part of the England team, he saw ups and downs, had his share of controversies, but left a huge mark on the game, which not many have managed to emulate since.

His knighthood was not for his achievement of scoring over 7,000 runs and picking 500-plus wickets for England, but for his charitable services. It was, in fact, for his active participation in helping children overcome leukemia for which he had put in a lot of time and effort in raising money.

It so happened that in August 1977, Botham broke his toe, for which he was admitted at the Musgrove hospital in Taunton. He apparently took a wrong turn and reached the children’s ward, who were suffering from leukemia and had just a few months to live. That motivated Botham to do something for the kids and over the years, he alone has helped raise more than 10 million pounds for leukemia research. Now, the survival rate of leukemia has gone up from 20 to 80 per cent, to a large extent due to Botham’s selfless effort.

Considered as one of the best allrounders to have ever graced the game, Botham was at a few times caught on the wrong side of the fence too: he was banned for three months for smoking cannabis, there were rumours of womanizing, he had an ugly fallout with his Somerset captain Peter Roebuck, he ran Geoffrey Boycott out on purpose leaving the latter fuming and was also charged of ball-tampering by Imran Khan – an issue that was taken up by the courts – which Botham eventually lost and eventually had to pay all the expenses out of his own pocket, including that of Imran’s. 

Nevertheless, England cricket gained a wonderful servant of the game who set excellent examples on the field with some astonishing performances that are still remembered fondly. 

Here is a look at some interesting statistics of Botham’s career:

An enviable double: Botham had to compete with some top class allrounders in his era, which included the likes of Garry Sobers and Kapil Dev to name a few. In fact, Botham and Kapil are the only cricketers to do the double of scoring 5,000 runs and picking up 300-plus wickets in Test cricket. While Kapil went on to pick up 434 wickets, Botham finished with 383 scalps to his name.

Sharp catcher: Often stationed in the slip cordon, Botham took some excellent catches and in 1992, he equalled Colin Cowdrey to become the most successful catcher in Tests for England for an outfielder, and that too in his final Test against Pakistan.Only Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook have taken more. Nicknamed ‘Beefy’ for his physique, he was nimble on his feet when it came to ground fielding or taking catches.

Century and 10 wickets: Botham became the first cricketer to score a century and pick up 10 wickets in a Test, when he achieved this feat against India in Bombay in 1980 as England went on to win the match by 10 wickets. Botham picked up 6 for 42 and 7 for 48 with the ball and with the bat, he scored a 144-ball 114 with 17 boundaries punctuating his innings. 

Only Imran Khan (1983) and Shakib Al Hasan (2014) have replicated this feat since. Even though Australia’s Alan Davidson was the first player to score a 100 (44 & 80) runs and pick up 10 wickets in the same match – against West Indies in 1960 – he however did not score a century. 

A career of two halves: Botham’s career started exceedingly well: he picked a fifer on Test debut, scored his maiden Test ton in his fourth match and also registered back-to-back centuries against Pakistan in Birmingham and Lord’s respectively. While the first half of his career – with both bat and ball – indicated that things would only get better, but after he suffered a back injury in 1980, it limited his pace and ability to swing the ball. While he could still pack a punch with the bat, he could no longer do so on a consistent basis.

Leading wicket-taker: Botham had 354 wickets to his name at the conclusion of the Test against West Indies in 1986 – just one behind Dennis Lillee – the leading wicket-taker at that time. In the third Test against New Zealand at The Oval, Botham dismissed Bruce Edgar to equal the record and with the scalp of skipper Jeremy Coney, Botham became the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket until Richard Hadlee overtook him a couple of years later. 

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