DAVID BOON
Illustration- Vasim Maner

In the annals of Australian Test history, eight batsmen have a higher runs tally and eighteen batsmen have a better batting average (minimum 50 Tests) than David Boon.

Boon averaged just 44 and wasn’t the most stylish or flamboyant batsman of his era. He crossed fifty just 53 times in the 190 innings he played. His highest score was 200.

However, he played a crucial part in the resurgence of Australia as a cricketing superpower and scored runs in the matches and series which mattered the most.

When seen through the Impact sieve, David Boon emerges as the eleventh-highest impact batsman in Australia’s Test cricket history. Given the rich and dominant cricket history of Australia, that is not a small achievement. Just for perspective, he had a higher impact with the bat during his career than Michael Slater, Ian Redpath, Justin Langer, Mark Waugh and Michael Clarke amongst others.

OPENING WOES SORTED

In the decade before Boon made his debut (1974-1984), Australia had played exactly 100 Tests and had a win-loss ratio of 1.06, having won 36 and lost 34. West Indies were the dominant side then (win-loss ratio of 1.9) followed by England (1.45) and Pakistan (1.35).

One of Australia’s major concerns was the lack of an opening partnership. Post the Laird-Wood partnership, various combinations from amongst Dyson, Wood, Hilditch and Wessels were tried but none were able to give solidity at the top.

All other countries had a stable opening pair – Greenidge-Haynes, Gavaskar-Chauhan, Boycott-Gooch, Mudassar-Mohsin, for example.

India in Australia, First Test, Adelaide, 1985: Boon, opening for the first time, displayed excellent temperament and discipline and stabilized the Australian innings after a couple of early blows. He went on to score his first Test hundred – a stubborn 123 in 255 deliveries. The match was a high scoring draw but Australia had discovered a new opening pair – Boon and Geoff Marsh, who faced the new ball in the second innings.

Marsh and Boon went on to become an outstanding opening pair for Australia. They opened in 41 innings between 1985 and 1988 and scored 1871 runs at an average of 47, after which Boon became primarily a number three batsman.

BIG-MATCH PLAYER ESTABLISHED

Trans-Tasman Trophy, First Test, Brisbane, 1987: New Zealand were cleaned up for 186 on an under-prepared Gabba pitch. Boon and Marsh gave Australia a solid 65-run opening-wicket stand before the latter departed. Although, Boon held up one end, wickets fell at frequent intervals. Australia were soon reduced to 131 for 4. Boon stayed positive and partnered with Steve Waugh to put together 88 for the fifth-wicket (Waugh’s contribution was just 21) before being run out for a magnificent 143 (out of Australia’s 219). The lower-order helped Australia post 305. The second-highest score in the innings was Peter Sleep’s 39. New Zealand could only muster 212 in the second innings. Australia chased down 94 losing just Boon for 24.

Boon earned his first series-defining performance ( SD ) as the second and third Test ended in draws.

He was a big-match player with the temperament to rise to the occasion and perform in decisive matches – matches which decided the fate of a series.

He has four SDs in 107 matches. This is the reason why he is above the likes of Slater, Redpath, Langer (2 SDs each) and Martyn, Walters, Hussey and Border (one SD each) amongst others.

Only Steve Waugh (6) and Bradman and Greg Chappell (5 each) had more SDs with the bat than Boon in their careers. Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting also have 4 each.

GOLDEN PERIOD UNDERWAY

The Gabba Test against New Zealand marked a major transformation in Boon’s career. His batting impact increased by 103% from then till the end of his career – that is unreal by any standard.

Boon was the fourth-highest impact batsman in the world (minimum of 40 Tests), after Mark Taylor, Graham Gooch and Richie Richardson during this period (December 1987- January 1996). This means he was the fourth-highest impact batsman in the world for eight successive years and for 80% of his career. All his 4 SD performances came in this time-frame. Only Gooch and Taylor had won as many series with the bat for their teams in this period.

He registered his second SD against India in the home-series in 1992 for giving two high impact performances in the victorious fourth and fifth Tests (in Adelaide and Perth). Australia won the five-match series 4-0.

Boon excelled in the dual role of an opener and a number three batsman – the two most difficult and challenging batting positions in Test cricket.

THE TWO AWAY SDs

Boon produced two of his four SD performances outside Australia. These were achieved from the number three position, where he batted for 66 of the 107 Tests he played.

Sri Lanka vs Australia, First Test, SSC, Colombo, 1992: Australia, put in, could muster just 256 in the first innings. Boon, batting at number three, contributed 32. Sri Lanka amassed 547. Boon top-scored in Australia’s second-innings total of 471, with 68. Sri Lanka, chasing 181, squandered a great start and were bowled out for 164. The second and third Test ended in draws.

South Africa vs Australia, Second Test, Cape Town, 1994: South Africa had thrashed Australia in the first Test in Johannesburg. In the second Test at Newlands, electing to bat first, the hosts registered 361 in the first innings. Australia lost Slater early but Boon and Taylor put together 105 for the second-wicket. Boon then added 91 for the fourth-wicket with Border and was finally dismissed for 96 (highest score of the innings) with the team score at 244. Australia posted 435. South Africa were skittled for 164. Australia chased down 91 with nine wickets in hand with Slater and Boon unbeaten on 43 and 32 respectively.

Boon earned his fourth SD performance as the third Test in Durban ended in a draw. He was the highest impact batsman of the series.

ASHES HISTORY CHANGED

England had won three out of the four Ashes series before Boon’s debut in 1984. They also won the two series immediately after his debut, which meant that between 1977 and 1986, England had won five out of the six Ashes series.

Ashes, Second Test, Lord’s, 1989: England posted 286 in the first innings. Boon, coming in at 6 for 1, put together 145 for the second-wicket with Mark Taylor. His 94 and Steve Waugh’s ton helped Australia notch up a mammoth 528. England made 359 in the second innings, setting Australia a fourth-innings chase of 118. The visitors again lost Marsh early (9 for 1). Boon and Taylor took the score to 51 before the latter departed. Wickets fell in a heap and Australia were in trouble at 67 for 4. Boon (58 not out) and Steve Waugh (21 not out) put together an unbeaten 52-run partnership taking Australia to victory by six wickets.

Australia won the series 4-0. It was their first series win in England after 14 years. This marked a transformation in Ashes history and domination. Australia won the next seven Ashes from 1990 to 2002 before the urn returned to England in the classic 2005 series.

Ashes, Second Test, Melbourne, 1990: Boon scored 28 and 94 not out (from 10 for 2) chasing 197 in the fourth innings. With Marsh, he put together an unbeaten match-winning 187 run-stand for the third-wicket. Australia won by eight wickets.

Australia won the Ashes 3-0. Boon scored 530 runs at an average of 76 in the series. He was by far the highest run-scorer and also the highest impact batsman of the series.

Ashes, Second Test, Lord’s, London, 1993: Boon slammed 164 and was one of the three centurions (along with Taylor and Slater) in the Australian first innings score of 632 as the hosts went down by an innings and 62 runs.

Boon followed this up with tons in the third Test at Nottingham and the fourth Test at Leeds.

He was the second-highest scorer and also the second-highest impact batsman of the series (both, after Graham Gooch).

Ashes, Second Test, Melbourne, 1994: Boon contributed 41 (from 10 for 1, which became 39 for 2) and steadied the Australian innings. Australia scored 279. England were bowled out for 212. Boon came out to bat at 61 for 1 in the second innings and notched up 131 (the second-highest score of the innings was Slater’s 44) as Australia declared at 320 for 7. England, set 388, were knocked over for a paltry 92 handing a 295-run victory to the home team.

Australia won the five-match series 3-1.

Boon gave one high impact performance (impact of 4 and above) in each of these victorious Ashes campaigns. These are amongst the fifteen-highest impact batting performances of his career, speaking volumes of his ability to perform on the biggest stage.

FOUNDATION FOR GREATNESS LAID

In the decade leading to his retirement (1986-1996), Australia had a win-loss ratio of 1.95, and were second only to the West Indies (2.3). This was a significant jump (almost double) from their record of the previous decade. Boon was the pivot on which the foundations of a great future Australian team were laid.

He was instrumental in the revival of Australia as a major cricketing power in Test cricket. The West Indies were overthrown in 1995 and Australia dominated world cricket for the next decade and a half.

The fruits of the hard work put in by their immediate predecessors, of which Boon was an integral part, were reaped by the world-beating Australian sides led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

 

 

Nikhil Narain

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.