January 1969, Adelaide Oval. An interesting fourth Test against West Indies was under way. In a match that had seen many ups and downs, Australia needing 360 to win were 215 for 2, with plenty of time. Charlie Griffith saw the non-striker back up too much, promptly took the bails off and appealed. It was the second case of Mankading in Test history and the fielding captain Garry Sobers was aghast that Griffith hadn’t given a warning but could not do anything (or did not) as the batsman had left the middle. The Australians took it in their stride; it was a transgression after all (none of that nonsense about ‘spirit of the game’). The batsman was 27-year-old Ian Redpath, playing his 27th Test.
Going by Test scorecards, that moment marked a turning point in his life.
In those 27 Tests, Redpath had averaged 35. In the 39 Tests he played from then till the end of his career in 1976, he averaged 49. All his eight Test hundreds came in the second period. That’s the conventional view, undeniably revealing in itself.
Here’s the Impact view. Redpath was the third-highest impact Australian batsman after those 27 Tests – after Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry, and the ninth-highest impact batsman in the world. But, incredibly, the fifth-highest impact batsman in the world after those 39 (minimum 20 Tests in both cases) – after Greg Chappell, Geoff Boycott, Ian Chappell and Basil D’Oliveira. He had a 52% failure rate in those 27 Tests. And a 26% failure rate in those next 39. Literally, inexplicably, half.
Something clearly happened. A view is that this dismissal made Redpath value his wicket so much that he became an entirely different player from before. From a somewhat laid-back batsman and expansive strokeplayer, he became a dogged batsman, fiercely valuing his wicket, riding out the tough spells and capable of long periods of concentration.
In fact, Redpath became a regular Test opener at the end of 1972 (something he had done a few times previously) and was the highest impact opening batsman in the world from then till the end of his career (during which he played 23 Tests).
It coincided with the period in which Australia became the world’s best Test team- not a mere coincidence. In the next ten series Australia played in the next five years, they won eight and drew two. Greg Chappell and Ian Redpath were the highest impact batting stars of the side – Ian Chappell was high impact too, because of 3 SDs.
In the very next Test match after that dismissal, Redpath hit his first Test century, though with the team in a position of some domination. In India, Redpath was the second-highest innings scorer twice in a row before falling away somewhat.
India in their backyard, 1969. In the last Test of the series, Australia (2-1 up), with a 95-run first innings lead were 24 for 6, in danger of losing the initiative in the match and series, with EAS Prasanna on the rampage. Redpath’s three-hour 63 took the game away from the Indians- he was ninth out at 140 and in the end, India’s target of 259 proved too much as they fell short by a good 80-odd runs.
South Africa in their backyard, 1970. In the famous 1970 series in South Africa (their last before the Apartheid ban, in which Australia were beaten 0-4), Redpath was the only Australian batsman to somewhat hold his own, scoring the most Australian runs and had the highest impact for his team.
The Ashes in Australia, 1970. Replying to England’s 397 in Perth (which made its Test debut as well), Australia were 17 for 3 when Redpath walked in, later 107 for 5, when debutant Greg Chappell joined him. As the senior partner, Redpath took charge and allowed the younger Chappell space to settle down, while taking on John Snow; gradually, Chappell showed glimpses of what was to follow in the near future. The result was a 219-run partnership that took their team to safety (in a series they lost 0-2). Redpath made 171, his highest Test score.
Between 1972 and 1976, Redpath was the highest impact opening batsman in the world.
New Zealand in their backyard, 1974. Australia were 0-1 behind with one Test to go. With an advantage of an 109-run lead, Redpath produced the match’s most dominating batting performance (he carried his bat through with 159 in about six hours of batting) and ensured that Australia drew level in the series, making it a
The Ashes in Australia, 1974/75. In the third and fourth Tests of the six-Test series, Redpath and Greg Chappell combined brilliantly to put England further on the back foot. Redpath first produced 55 and 39 in a drawn low-scoring thriller that almost took Australia home. He made 33 and 105 in the next Test to help his team dominate and win easily. Australia won the series 4-1.
West Indies in Australia, 1975/76. With the series at 1-1, West Indies made just 224 after a Lillee-Thompson blowout. A 102 at the top of the order by Redpath gave Australia a foundation from where they were able to able to dominate the Test match. Australia went on to win the series 5-1 and the last Test at Melbourne was Redpath’s last. He made 101 and 70 and retired at the height of his powers (his two innings before that yielded 103 and 65). With Australia having touched the summit again.
His reason was very noteworthy, given the Packer revolution to follow very shortly- he could not afford playing cricket anymore and wanted to concentrate on his antiques business that had been neglected for too long.
REDPATH’S PLACE IN TEST HISTORY
Notably, Ian Redpath the fourth-most consistent batsman in Australian cricket history, after Don Bradman, David Warner and Doug Walters. His 36% failure rate remains the fourteenth-lowest in Test history (minimum 50 Tests, after Bradman, Hutton, May, Hobbs, Lara, Barrington, Sutcliffe, Boycott, Trott, Williamson, Warner, Gavaskar and Walters – that’s exalted company).
If we take his entire career of 66 Tests played over 13 years into account (and if we take 50 Tests as the minimum), Ian Redpath is Australia’s thirteenth-highest impact batsman ever. He is higher impact than the likes of Mike Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Allan Border, Doug Walters, Michael Clarke, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Dean Jones and Simon Katich (in no particular order). Redpath’s batting average was 43 but he is higher impact than many with a higher average than him, including everyone mentioned above.
During his career (1964-1976), Redpath was the fourth-highest impact Australian batsman, after Greg Chappell, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell. And the sixth-highest impact batsman in the world after Greg Chappell, Sobers, Lawry, D’Oliveira, and Ian Chappell.
He had the fourth-highest
He built the most partnerships for Australia in that period; in fact, he had the second-highest
He had a batting average of just 39 in the Ashes but had one
Curiously, due to his lanky body and long neck, he was nicknamed ‘Gandhi’ in the early part of his career. But thin-skinnedness is not a new phenomenon in India, and in the 1964 tour to India, apparently some indigenous objection to that nickname resulted in that being changed to ‘Redders’ (which remains to this day). Interestingly, Greg Chappell said years later that Redpath was one of the two players he knew who would ‘kill’ for his team (the other one was Rod Marsh), while the rest of them would merely die for the baggy green. From that benign vibe to an enviable ruthlessness and desire one probably wouldn’t have associated with him at first perhaps is the story of his cricket life.
Ian Redpath’s contribution to Australian cricket is immense. It manifested truest in the second part of his career, after Charlie Griffith ostensibly seemed to do him a favour.
His lack of big scores in an age of skewed averages and monumental aggregates has no doubt kept him from being seen as one of the all-time great Australian batsman, but very few in Test cricket made as many tough runs as Redpath did. Whether it be due to the high proportion of runs in low-scoring games or the circumstances he scored them in, his teammates knew his value.
Jaideep Varma/ Soham Sarkhel
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.