Darryl Cullinan’s attempted pull shot against Sri Lankan medium pacer Pulasthi Gunaratne caused more groans amongst his supporters than a dozen women in simultaneous labour.
Second ball, nogal, second ball! It was too short, too wide and begging to be left alone. It might even have been called a wide. But Darryl tried to pull it over midwicket from two feet outside off stump.
He received much criticism for the shot which must have made some people question whether it was all fair. After all, he was opening the batting, a role with which he is unfamiliar. Or is he?
If he had been batting in his customary position then surely it would have gone for four!? Also, did the fact that he had the courage to play the shot not make an emphatic statement about his confidence, his self-belief and his clear lack of inhibition despite the national selectors and the eyes of the nation watching expectantly, hopefully?
For some people, however, there was a nagging sense of deja vu. Where had they seen it before? Ah, yes. Melbourne, January 23rd, 1998. That was it.
Having been dropped from the Test XI courtesy of Shane Warne’s mouth as much as his flipper, coach Bob Woolmer infamously referred to Cullinan’s “psychological cloud”.
But Cullinan fought back strongly and admirably. Not only did he insist he could come back during the one-day series but he suggested to Woolmer and the other selectors that he could do so as an opener. Woolmer and co agreed.
Cullinan looked majestic. He carved the hapless Paul Wilson all over the place and was primarily responsible for Paul Reiffel’s first three overs costing 18 runs. Then Steve Waugh brought Warne into the attack, for just the seventh over of the innings.
Darryl flew at him like a sprinter from the starting blocks waving his bat like a man defending himself from a swarm of hornets. He was stumped by several metres for 26 from just 23 balls.
Yes, that was Warne. But just maybe, maybe, Cullinan is prone to the descension of a red mist that clouds his judgement and perception at other, vital moments. The SA ‘A’ game was, after all, a priceless and possibly critical opportunity to prove his skills have not diminished at the age of 35.
What made it so sad is that he didn’t just ‘get out’, he gave it away.
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