Friday, November 25, 2011

My Favourite Cricketer: Gavin Larsen by Ken Miller, The Man in Beige

In our series My Favourite Cricketer, we invite respected cricket writers and bloggers to describe the impact one particular player had on their life.  This week Ken Miller, the Man in Beige, presents us with the archetypal New Zealand seamer, Gavin Larsen.

When people are asked to name their most iconic image about New Zealand cricket, some might picture Sir Richard Hadlee, appealing (probably successfully) arms and legs akimbo. For others the image might be of Martin Crowe cutting off the back foot for another glorious boundary. Or maybe it would be Daniel Vettori being left to do absolutely everything by himself like he has for the last decade.

For me however, the enduring image of New Zealand cricket is Gavin Larsen hopping and skipping his way to the crease and the batsman helplessly deadbatting the ball back to him. Not the most glorious image, granted, but for me it typifies all that is great about New Zealand cricket. Palyers doing the most with their, often, limited resources.

Larsen - with my haircut
Being a Wellington boy myself, Gavin Larsen was my hero growing up. So much so that I copied his style from an early age. Not as a bowler or a batsman - my exceptionally limited cricketing skills are beneath the radar even in New Zealand. Instead, I modelled my haircut on him. That’s right, the overly short spiky thing he had going on for most of his career. That was me.

 Larsen was a massive part of the New Zealand one-day side for a decade and did the job that was asked of him very, very well. His reliability with the ball earned him the nickname ‘The Postman’, in the sense that he always delivered. Some less charitable types took his nickname to mean that he actually only delivered on weekdays and sometimes on Saturdays, and this was unfortunate for a cricketer who primarily plays at the weekend.

His main weapon as a bowler was his accuracy. He knew where he wanted to bowl, and the ball went there. Over after over. He got a lot of wickets from batsmen getting frustrated and trying to force the ball. This tactic worked. He ended with over 100 ODI wickets with an economy rate of around 3.5 rpo which was great for the time, and unheard of now. I won’t forget his hundredth wicket, and I suspect he won’t either. At the Basin Reserve – his home ground. The batsman? None other than Sachin Tendulkar. A big wicket for a big achievement.

For some reason, he was never seriously considered as a Test player, competing in just 8 tests during his career. Maybe it was seen that a containment bowler had no place in a New Zealand bowling attack where leaking runs was apparently a requirement. The one-day game changed around him as well. Batsmen started becoming more aggressive (thanks Adam Gilchrist) and towards the end of Larsen’s career his figures did suffer slightly as a result. Whether he would make it in the New Zealand side for a decade in the current climate of Twenty20s and big scoring one-dayers, I’m not sure. What I do know is that he was a very popular player with the Basin faithful and that he was one of the most effective one day bowlers of his generation. Gavin Larsen was a big part of New Zealand’s ODI success through the 90s and his accuracy with the ball made Glenn McGrath look like Heath Davis.

 In preparation for writing this article, I went looking for images of Gavin Larsen to include. I found this:
Err. I’ve now got a different defining image of Gavin Larsen than I had.

 You can follow Ken Miller at his blog, The Man in Beige, or on Twitter @ManInBeige

Back to My Favourite Cricketer homepage.

Portrait courtesy

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