The late 1970s to 1980s saw the existence of many high quality batsmen in World cricket .Cricket followers were attracted to the brilliant strokeplay of Viv Richards and David Gower, the quality of Javed Miandad and the batting masterclass of Sunny Gavaskar. However ,the player who was surprisingly least discussed amongst the above greats was Allan Border. As a batter Border was the least attractive amongst the above names. His batting was built around resilience, determination ,fierce fighting qualities and great ability to adapt to conditions . Neither he had the dazzling strokeplay of Richards or Gower nor he had the impeccable technique of Sunny Gavaskar. However Border finished the decade of 1980s as the finest batsman in test cricket by same distance scoring 7386 test runs at 55 average in 97 tests which was well ahead of his other contemporaries Gower (6196 runs at 42 avg in 89 tests), Richards (5113 runs at 49 avg in 78 tests )and Miandad (5642 runs at 54 avg in 76 tests) during 1980-89 period . Border with his upright stance ,crouched himself at the point of delivery before playing the ball. A predominantly bottom handed player, he was a fierce cutter, good puller and a fluent driver with a strong sweepshot. He was quickfooted against the spinners and was quick to spot the length off fast bowlers. He was one batsman who had to work the hardest to achieve his greatness .
Border has always been the player for crisis. Extremely consistent and resilient throughout his 16 year long career, he started his international career during the World series cricket tenure and was soon scoring runs everywhere .Early successes included 521 runs at 43 avg in 6 tests in India in 1979. Only player ever to score two 150 plus scores in a single test which he achieved in Pakistan in 1980. A fabulous Ashes series in England in 1981 scoring 533 runs at 59 average and battled with an injured finger for certain part of that series. The retirement of legends Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Marsh and big losses to West Indies at home saddled him with the captaincy in the middle of West Indies series. More bad news was in store for Australia cricket with joining of many of their leading cricketers to a rebel South African tour just before 1985 Ashes in England. Border was the lone man standing with 597 runs in the Ashes at 66 average including a match winning 196 at Lords and another match saving 146notout . However Australia lost the series at the end due to poor batting .Border continued to play the crisis man role with hundreds vs a rampaging Richard Hadlee and a brilliant match saving 163 vs India at MCG in 1986 to save Australia the blushes . He alone stood like a Rock of Gibraltar against his opponents fashioning some great escapes. His test record was superior in overseas compared to home.
Border’s career coincided with the peak time of the menacing fast bowlers of West Indies. After a big struggle in his very first faceoff series with the Windies ,Border had their measure in 1981 in Australia with 336 runs in 3 tests at 67 average and then was singlehandedly brilliant in the West Indies in 1984 series with 521 runs at 74 average with a batting masterclass of 98 and 100 notout at Port of Spain , none of their other batters in the team crossed 300 runs in that series. Border best years as a batsman coincided with the worst phase of Australian cricket between 1982 to 1987. During this period he was the lone crusader, showing his fierce fighting qualities and was singlehandedly holding the nation’s fortunes. His epic knocks during this phase saved Australia from further embarrassments. Opposition bowlers knew,the importance of Border’s wicket to beat Australia, hence they prepared accordingly but AB was rock solid.
The rewards began to flow from 1987 onwards. Considered as rank outsiders in World cup 1987 , Border took underdogs Australia to a magnificent World cup win by beating England in the finals at Kolkata by 7 runs with the skipper scoring a brisk 31 and getting the all important wicket of Gatting through that infamous reverse sweep. Australia lost just 1 game in the event and showed strong willpower in winning some close games—-a trait introduced by Border himself. And finally the much awaited Ashes win in England by 4-0 under his captaincy came in 1989 with he himself scoring 442 runs at 73 avg. Series wins started to follow vs India, Pakistan,New Zealand, Srilanka ,England again (1990-91 and 1993 ashes). In 93 tests as captain Border won 32 ( mostly in 2nd half of his captaincy career) and lost 22 ( mostly in 1st half of his captaincy career ). However his only unfulfilled ambition was not been able to win a test series vs West Indies. He came agonisingly close within 1 run of achieving that objective in 1993 at Adelaide. Also no series wins vs South Africa but Border played them at the fag end of his career.
In ODIs Border scored 6524 runs in 273 games at 30 average, batting at no 4 or 5 mostly, hence a moderate runs tally and only 3 tons. As a captain he was very successful in ODIs with 107 wins in 178 games and of course that World cup win of 1987. Border also played one of the top 5 or 6 best ODI innings of all times . It was a batting masterclass of 127 notout vs West Indies in 1985 in 1st final of Benson and Hedges triangular against the menacing bowling attack of Marshall, Garner and Holding after Australia lost 2 early wickets.
Border ended at 11174 runs at 50.56 in 156 tests, scored 27 hundreds and took 39 test wickets . He was 2nd to reach 10000 test runs after his good friend Sunil Gavaskar. Hit centuries in all countries he played except South Africa where he played only 3 tests.
As a left arm change spinner ,Border was more than handy and even got 11 wickets in Sydney test on a turner vs West Indies to win a test for Australia in 1988. Then there was his 2/27 in World cup finals 1987 at Eden Gardens. Another match winning spell.
Border ,with his single minded dedication and fierce competitiveness soaked up all the struggles in the first half of his career to reap great rewards as he entered the 2nd half of his glittering career. He refused a blank cheque for South Afican rebel tour in 1985 to serve Australian cricket. He was the epitome of dedication, resilience and determination which further took his batting skills to a higher level. He faced his contemporaries eye to eye and soaked up the thunderbolts of the great Windies pace attack which was at its peak during his era.
The India v Australia test trophy is named after Border and Gavaskar and the highest yearly medal award for Australian cricket is named after him. That says it all.
We congratulate the legend, Allan Border as he turns 64. Happy birthday !!