THE Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan starting tomorrow at the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has nothing to do with the pugilistic competition, I mean a boxing contest, but in fact has everything to do with cricket which indeed is the most awaited an event in an Australian calendar.
Boxing Day, a day after Christmas is named so because of the fact that the churches who collect alms, charity boxes and gifts for the underprivileged and poor open the those boxes the day after Christmas to hand over those who deserve and are in need of the presents to give over to their near and dear ones.
Practiced first in England the tradition travelled over and to date is a revered occasion.
The Boxing Day Test attracts huge crowd and I shall not be surprised of a record turn over at the MCG when Australia take on Pakistan in the second Test of the ongoing three-match series. The epic first Test at Brisbane which nearly saw Pakistan upstage the home team beckons that.
From 1853 the MCG at the banks of Yarra river holds cricket matches. Not only that it hosted 1956 Olympics, Commonwealth Games of 2006 besides Australian rules football which attracts over 120,000 people.
It is also a venue of the National Sports Museum and historically the most important ground like Lord’s or Eden Gardens.
It was here that first Test of history was played in 1877 which Australia won beating England and it was here that the first ODI was also played in 1971 when Test was washed out and the final day was converted into a limited over game which Australia won by five wickets.
And it was here that Victoria once made 1107 runs in an innings in a first-class match against New South Wales with Bill Ponsford making over 428 and Jack Ryder over 200.
I can say with pride that it has been my privilege that I have the opportunity to be part of this arena over the years on my visits to Australia with various teams.
The most memorable of course being the 1992 World Cup final in front of 87,110 people that I watched when Pakistan led by Imran Khan defeated England to lift the cup for the first time. The Australians on their feet shouted for Pakistan and they were not let down
Earlier in 1985, I was there when Pakistan and India played in the final of the World Championship of Cricket to celebrate 150 years of Victoria as a state. Pakistan lost in the final.
Pakistan won a Test here in 1981-82 by an innings and 82 runs under Javed Miandad when Mudassar Nazar scored 95, Zaheer Abbas 90, Majid Khan 74 and Imran Khan 70 in Pakistan’s 500 in the first innings. Dennis Lillee and all were blunted.
But as far as Pakistan are concerned the most sensational Test victory against Australia was achieved here at the MCG in 1978-79 Test when Sarfraz Nawaz in a sensational spell took seven wickets for one run in 33 balls demolished Australia to finish with nine for 86 in the innings and 11 for 125 in the match, incredibly won by Pakistan by 71 runs.
On the final afternoon Australia required 77 runs to win with seven wickets in hand when Sarfraz struck like lightening on Australian batting. His figures still remain the best on Australia soil.
What really saddens me however was the drawn 1964-65 Test at the MCG when Pakistan visited Australia for the first time and only for a solitary Test. The legendary Hanif Mohammad, a captain then scored 104 in the first innings batting at number six and then in the second innings he was wrongly given out stumped when 93 by Barry Jarman off Tom Vievers the spinner.
Late Hanif always maintained to his dying day that he was not out. Ian Chappell was played his first Test and he told me that Hanif was not out because the keeper had dropped the ball of his gloves before breaking the stumps.
Sir Don Bradman who was then I think was the chairman of the selectors at the time told me in 1983 at Adelaide that he was highly impressed with Hanif’s footwork and his placement of the ball all round.
Bradman told me too that the best innings that he ever watched at the MCG was Sir Garfield Sobers who hit 274 for World XI.
It was here too that umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan eight times for throwing where the other umpire did not which created huge controversy and rules have to be changed by the ICC later.
It was here at the MCG too that the Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered his younger brother Trevor Chappell to bowl an underarm delivery to New Zealand’s Brian McKechnie to prevent him hitting a six on the last ball to win an ODI.
Shameful as it was Greg was condemned by all for being unsporting behaviour.