A fantastic feat

G. VISWANATH

SAY Leeds to the practitioners of fast, swing and seam bowling and the chances are that they will respond spontaneously with an `ear to ear grin', tease and trick the batsmen and take a bagful of wickets.

Leeds, the home of Yorkshire brand of cricket that typifies stoical batting and skilful and wily bowling, has, for time immemorial, given the seam bowlers special treatment.

For the tall and gangling boy from St. Vincent, Windward Islands, Winston Davis, his first appearance in a World Cup match vaulted him into instant fame. It was like a dream-come-true incident in the early years of his international career. To take the story further Davis' tryst with Leeds also made him an ODI wonder. Even then it was a fantastic achievement finishing with figures of seven for 51 in 63 balls bowling alongside such greats as Andy Roberts and Michael Holding in that West Indies versus Australia World Cup match at Leeds in 1983.

Clive Lloyd's bowling department had a new look about it after he had led his team to consecutive Cup triumphs in 1975 and '79. `Big Bird' Joel Garner and Colin Croft, with an awkward action, were gone. The new boys were Davis and Wayne Daniel. Davis made his one-day international debut against India and took the wicket of Yashpal Sharma in the home series that preceded the World Cup. He returned one for 40 in that match — not a bad start.

Bowlers earn fame after sensational feats. Davis' seven for 51 belonged to that category. The Aussies had no clue to his manipulations and were flattened in 30.3 overs, chasing West Indies' 252. They were skittled out for 151. Davis dismissed Kim Hughes (c Clive Lloyd), David Hookes (c Dujon), Graham Yallop (c Holding), Allan Border (c Lloyd), Ken Macleay (c Haynes), Geoff Lawson (c Dujon) and Dennis Lillee (bowled). Hookes was the saving grace, making 45 runs.

What was unique with the West Indies fast bowlers was that each had his own distinguishing run-up and action. The quartet in Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft gave no respite to the batsmen in the '75 and '79 editions and one was always associated with the other. But Davis was an exception and he was a lone ranger. That's why he did not survive long enough. He was a lightweight, compared to the famous quartet and Malcolm Marshall. Davis had a whippy action that made the ball skid through.

As pointed out before, Davis' performance at Leeds was a unique one. He never occupied the big stage again in a one-day international match of the World Cup and in the series that followed. His figures were none for 35 against Zimbabwe, none for 51 against India and one for 57 against Australia. On that day, in the match at Leeds, Australia's opening batsman Graeme Wood retired hurt and Kepler Wessels was dismissed by Roberts. Thereafter it was all Davis as he ran through the Australian batting line-up and humbled the big names.

Nicknamed `Uncle Jed' for reasons unknown, Davis' performance — he became the first bowler to take seven wickets in an ODI — came a day before Australia's Ken Macleay managed to get enough deviation off the Trent Bridge pitch and took six Indian wickets for 39 runs. But Macleay lost out on the `Man of the Match' award as it went to Trevor Chappell, who made a dogged and fortuitous 110, whereas Davis took the award straightaway even if Larry Gomes made a fighting 78 and prevented Geoff Lawson from wreaking havoc.

The leading bowlers in the 1983 edition of the World Cup were all seamers; the exceptions being England off-spinner, Vic Marks and Pakistan leg-spinner Abdul Qadir. Davis was not consistent and hence was not among the top nine wicket-takers. Those in the honours list were Roger Binny (18 wickets), Asantha de Mel (17), Madan Lal (17), Richard Hadlee (14), Vic Marks (13), Malcolm Marshall (12), Michael Holding (12), Kapil Dev (12) and Abdul Qadir (12). But Davis topped the list of 12 bowlers who took four wickets and more.

Davis played no big part in the West Indies campaign in one-day internationals although he was capped in 33 more matches. He took 39 wickets from 35 matches at 33.38. Personal life has not been good for Davis, the wrecker-in-chief of the Australians that day. Four years ago, Davis fell from a tree in his hometown and broke his neck and became immobile upwards of his shoulders. He spent five months in a trauma centre in Florida for rehabilitation which is estimated to have cost close to half a million U.S. dollars.

Davis cannot be regarded as one among the West Indian giants. But he had his moments under the sun (actually under cloud cover) at Leeds and made sure that his seven-wicket haul will ever remain somewhere in the top bracket of World Cup honours and etched for posterity.