1984: A trip down Lowerhouse Lane

Because of George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ this was a famous year even before we’d arrived there. Two big international incidents happened in India. A gas leak at a Union Carbide plant killed 3800 at Bhopal and the P.M. of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated. Domestically the I.R.A. tried to do the same thing to Mrs Thatcher and her Cabinet, in a Brighton hotel, at the time of the Conservative Party Conference.  On the sporting front, the Soviets played tit for tat with the United States. The latter didn’t turn up at the Olympics in Moscow, so the Soviet Union predictably boycotted the L.A. Olympic renewal.      Singer Katie Melua was born in 1984, as was Kelly Osbourne. Cricketer Alistair Cook came into the world, as did one of the world’s richest sportsmen, basketballer LeBron James, and now of the Miami Heat, Singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye died in 1984. Other departures were comedian Tommy Cooper and film stars Richard Burton, Diana Dors, Flora Robson and the most famous of Tarzans, Johnny Weissmuller.     In the 1984 pop charts Frankie Goes to Hollywood blitzed to our attention with 3 consecutive No 1’s. Lionel Ritchie said ‘Hello’ and Wham were at the height of their popularity. Popular films of 1984 were Ghostbusters, Beverley Hills Cop and the Karate Kid.    In the Lancashire League of 1984 Kirti Azad was in the middle year of his 3 at Lowerhouse. At Accrington C.C. old boy David Lloyd had returned from Lancashire and was in the first of a 2 year stint as their pro.      DAVID LLOYD was born in the town of Accrington in 1947. He had a long career at Old Trafford beginning in 1965 and lasting until 1983. He finished with almost 20,000 first class runs as a left-handed batsman who combined stylishness with an ability to graft when necessary. His slow left-arm bowling took a handy 237 wickets. He was capped by the County in 1968 and served as first team skipper from 1973 to 1977. His Test career was very concise, lasting 9 Tests and just over 7 months. In only his second match at Edgbaston in 1974, Lloyd scored 214 not out versus India. This was not only his best Test score but his highest in first class cricket.  This encouraging start didn’t last and he was a victim of the unequal contest Down Under that winter. England were ambushed by Dennis Lillee and the new boy revelation that was Jeff Thomson. Whilst others survived the Aussie onslaught, Lloyd was seen as damaged goods and that was that for his Test career. He ended with 552 runs at over 42(a far better average than fellow Lancastrian Mike Atherton) His O.D.I. average was also over 40. His bowling in internationals was 4 overs in Tests and 2 overs in O.D.I.’s. In the latter he took his only international wicket for 3 runs.   After David left Accy he has made occasional amateur appearances sometimes alongside his talented son Graham. The highlight was when Lloyd senior was at the crease when Accrington retained the League Championship in 2009. David Lloyd did a spell as an umpire. Latterly he has been England coach, a talented after dinner performer, and as found his most apt niche as a Sky cricket commentator.

KIRTI AZAD was born in Purnea in 1959. His father was an important government minister. He scored 20 centuries at first class level with his entertaining, swashbuckling style and took 234 wickets with his fast off-spin. For all that, any of his admirers at Lowerhouse or at first class level, will be amazed at what a disaster his international career was. His Test debut was at Wellington in 1981 and it ended two years later versus West Indies at Ahmedabad. In 7 Tests he scored just 135 runs and didn’t get above 24. His bowling was equally dismal and 3 expensive wickets was his lot. He was only slightly more successful in O.D.I.’s of which he played 25. His only real bowling highlight was bowling Ian Botham in the 1983 World Cup semi-final. His batting highlight was a great cameo 39 not out which won an early day-night game against arch-rivals Pakistan. At the highest level Kirti’s Achilles heel was not being able to cope with really fast bowling. Although he could hit medium paced bowling and spin all day long, that disability was to cripple his international chances. Kirti Azad and his wife are both now involved in politics in Delhi.         In 1984 Kirti Azad had easily his best year for the ‘House. He scored 1069 runs at 56 and took 72 wickets at 17. A great performance by any standards. The run total erased Basil Butcher’s 1962 total from the record books. A 38 year-old David Lloyd couldn’t compete with those numbers. He scored 673 at 28 and captured 37 wickets at 24. Lowerhouse finished fifth and Accy tenth.  The head to heads occurred early in the season, on 29 April and 20 May.  In the first game at Thorneyholme Rd, the ‘House scored 184-8 with Azad’s 38 top scoring.  David Lloyd opened for Accy and had got to 41 when he was bowled by his fellow pro. ‘House won by 51 runs. At Liverpool Rd Accy batted first and were on 118-2 when rain caused an abandonment. (Lloyd 37)      To conclude David Lloyd can feel disgruntled about his international chances.  He was certainly found wanting in Australia but wasn’t the only one. Most of those got extra opportunities, Lloyd didn’t.  For those of us who were enthralled by Kirti Azad’s ability, his debacle of an international career is hard to fathom. The likely reason as Mudasser Nazar once explained, an inability to cope with fast bowling. Nazar said Imran Khan started warming up as soon as Kirti came to the wicket. The Yorkshire batsman of the 1930’s Maurice Leyland famously said nobody liked fast bowling but some could handle it better than others. Kirti Azad just couldn’t handle it at all.