Sporting spectacles: Virender Sehwag and other sports people in glasses
To my mind, there is no more exciting player in world cricket than Virender Sehwag. Part of a golden generation of Indian batsmen, Sehwag holds some astonishing records. He has no fewer than six double hundreds in Tests, more than any other Indian, and twice he’s gone past 300 (none of his countrymen has even one triple to his name). He’s scored more Test hundreds than fifties, a record he shares with just four players in history. In One-Day Internationals, his 219 against West Indies in 2011 is the highest ever individual score.
But it’s not the bare statistics that make Sehwag special. It’s the manner in which he scores his runs. The second of his Test triples, for example, was the fastest the game has seen, coming off just 278 balls. Steve Davis once said that the key to success on the snooker table was to “play like it means nothing when it means everything.” It’s a mantra to which Sehwag is 100 per cent committed. Yes, the way in which he frequently goes after the bowling from ball one in any form of the game makes him vulnerable to early dismissals. But when it comes off, it comes off big. And, by God, is it thrilling to watch. The devastating ferocity of his strokes, particularly that square cut, is a true force of sporting nature.
There was something incongruous, then, about seeing Sehwag bat in glasses this week. These are not the feats you’d readily associate with a man who now resembles a librarian. I don’t say this to mock – no myopic-baiter, me, as an occasional specs-wearer myself – but, rightly or wrongly, we tend to see glasses as a sign of studiousness rather than sporting excellence. Possibly a blight on our societal prejudices but it’s true (although not as dramatic as ex-dictator Pol Pot, who executed people with spectacles for fear they were intellectuals who might overthrow him).
Here are a few others who’ve done their bit to buck that stereotype.
I could’ve picked Daniel Vettori or David Steele but Clive Lloyd is probably the most celebrated cricketing spectacles-sporter. Whenever I picture him in my mind’s eye, it’s those heavy-rimmed goggles that feature most prominently, as in the opening sequence of The Two Ronnies, where the frames appear on screen before the faces.
As a player, Lloyd was a tall, elegant, left-handed batsman, capable of brutal hitting. Scoring over 7,500 Test runs, he also whacked 77 sixes, making him the sixth most prolific maximum hitter in Test history. His century in the inaugural World Cup final in 1975 came off 88 balls, bringing victory to his team and the man of the match award to himself. He was also an exceptional fielder, patrolling the cover-point region with his distinctive loping gait and swooping in feline style, which brought him his nickname Super Cat (later, abject fielder Phil Tufnell would be christened Cat in more ironic fashion).
But it’s perhaps as a man manager and leader that Lloyd should best be remembered. There have always been differences and rivalries among the Caribbean islands, so that forming a truly united West Indies cricket team has historically been a huge challenge. Not only did Lloyd meet this challenge, he also set the blueprint for two decades of domination of the world game. Having seen his team battered 5-1 in Australia, thanks in no small part to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson, Lloyd set about forming his own fast-bowling production line. In the years that followed, West Indies became arguably the best team in Test history as the revolutionary all-pace attack swept all before it.
Maybe it was the specs but this was visionary stuff.
To some extent, the peerless Ed Moses conforms to the view of glasses-wearers as academic or studious. His background is in physics and engineering and, after retiring from competition, he helped to pioneer the out-of-competition drugs test.
But it’s as a 400m hurdles athlete that we remember him and few have dominated their field so utterly. After losing to his rival Harald Schmid in August 1977, Moses remained unbeaten for nine years, nine months and nine days. The streak comprised 122 straight victories.
He won two Olympic golds, in 1976 and 1984, and would surely have made it three had it not been for the USA’s boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow. Add to that his two World titles and four world records and it’s not difficult to place Moses alongside the very top sportsmen of the Twentieth Century. Even today, a quarter of a century after his retirement, he still holds 25 of the quickest 100 times in history.
Not quite the studious academic look, this, more Timmy Mallett on a dress-down day.
Anyone who’s tried playing snooker in specs will understand the problem that Dennis Taylor faced. You get down on your shot, rest your chin on your cue and look up – and there’s the top rim of your glasses, right in your line of vision. So you either peer over the top of the rim, which rather defeats the object of wearing the visual aids in the first place, or dispense with them entirely and make do. Neither could Taylor get on with contact lenses, so he was stumped.
The breakthrough came when snooker guru Jack Karnehm developed a pair of glasses with a far broader field of vision, which allowed the wearer to see through the optical centre of the lens. What this meant to the casual observer, and there were plenty of them, was that it looked as though Taylor had his glasses on upside-down, like a drunken uncle at a wedding.
But Taylor had the last laugh, winning the World title in 1985 in that final against Steve Davis. Those who witnessed it (about 18m on BBC2) will never forget Taylor’s joyful, finger-wagging celebration; he was apparently pointing at his manager, to whom he’d said: “I can still win this, you know?” despite being 8-0 down at the time. No-one else saw that coming.Tagged in: athletics, clive lloyd, Cricket, dennis taylor, ed moses, snooker, Steve Davis, Virender Sehwag
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