The plodding nature of Bill Lawry's batting was such that he was once described in the English press as a 'corpse wearing pads.'He was reassured, though, by then captain Richie Benaud, who told him, 'I don't care how slow you are, just as long as you don't get out.'
As an ex-opening batsman myself I completely understand the appeal. There was always something beautifully satisfying about having some bloke come steaming in from the fence, aiming to knock over this quite tiny wicket that you're standing in front of. He hurls the red pill at you as fast as he can and... you block it with the willow... He has to pick it up, walk all the way back and repeat the process.
Tremendous fun, and you can do it all day. The thing about it is that it used to be fun to watch too. The delicious slowness of test cricket.
Despite copping a pillorying in the papers players like Lawry were appreciated and even begrudgingly respected. Patience was part of the game, both playing and watching.
Asked recently who was the best player he ever saw Bill Lawry responded with 'Garfield Sobers.'
Given the amount of cricket Lawry has watched it's an opinion that carries some weight. It's interesting, though, that he named a competitor from such a distant era. He's too gracious to say it but you get the impression that Lawry might not be the biggest fan of these modern 'bells and whistles' forms of the game where everybody's trying to hit every ball out of the park.
World Series cricket saved Bill Lawry from obscurity, and he more than made up for his previous dullness at the crease with his flamboyance in the commentary box, but traditionalists are right in wondering how far down this road we really want to go.
For my part real cricket is a five day test. For his part, Bill Lawry doesn't watch much cricket anymore. He races pigeons.
Question: What do you call a homing pigeon that doesn't come home?
Answer: A pigeon.
'Send a raven!' one of the characters would yell and you'd roll your eyes, but using birds as messengers is an ancient art and much more than a clumsy method to advance a clunky plot-line on The Game of Thrones.
Selective breeding for the purpose through the centuries has led to the development of elite modern pigeons able to find their way home from up to 1800 kms away and at 100 km/h speeds. These avian racers resemble your normal garden variety bird about as much as the family station wagon resembles a Formula 1 Ferrari.
Pigeons were a prevalent form of communication until 1844, when Morse invented the telegraph, and so it was at about this time that the sport of pigeon racing began gaining popularity. It's a simple sport in concept - you take them miles away and see how long it takes them to fly home - but fascinating in the nitty gritty.
There has been considerable controversy in the sport ... there was a doping scandal recently where six Flemish pigeons tested positive for performance enhancing drugs
See, we still don't really know how they do it. Some suggest a sensitivity to the earth's magnetic field; others think it's to do with atmospheric smells (olfactory navigation); still others reckon they use visual cues, making left and right turns according to landmarks in much the same way as you or I in the station wagon. It remains a possibility that they use some combination of all of the above.
There has been considerable controversy in the sport. There was a doping scandal recently where six Flemish pigeons tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Traces of paracetamol and caffeine were found while one, presumably quite a jaded cosmopolitan flier, tested positive for cocaine!
Birds have also been found with traces of corticosteroids which delays their moulting and allows them to race later in the season.
There have been accusations of cruelty from animal rights groups. Many say that the high percentages of birds lost attempting feats such as flying the English Channel are unacceptable.
Enthusiasts argue that if the birds are so poorly treated then they wouldn't be in such a hurry to get home.
Which brings us to the ethically problematic practice of 'widowing.' Pigeons are monogamous.
Handlers utilise this monogamy by allowing them to couple up before then removing one of the pair and using its desire to reunite with its partner as motivation for training and competition. Cruel?
That'd have to depend on how the relationship was going you'd think, but the gender dynamic in pigeon racing does provide some insight. The male birds, which are stronger, tend to be the sprinters while the long distance fliers are almost exclusively female. The reason for this is that, if taken far enough away, the males often decide that monogamy is overrated and don't come home, whereas the females are far more reliable.
There is a taxidermed bird on display in the Smithsonian. An American WW1 division under heavy German attack, and being mistakenly shelled by their own artillery, desperately sent this messenger pigeon, 'Cher Ami,' off with the vital message to 'please stop.'
Despite losing an eye, a leg and taking a bullet in the breast the bird accomplished the feat, saving hundreds of lives. The French awarded 'Cher Ami,' the Croix de Guerre. The Americans took it home where it died shortly afterwards due to the wartime injuries.
It is by far the most famous avian in the 'Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame.'