Jacobs' moment of glory passed unnoticed by team

by Tony Cozier in MELBOURNE
Stabroek News
December 30, 2000

RIDLEY JACOBS had "no idea" he had equalled a world record.

Nor, apparently, did his teammates. As they trudged off the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, at the end of Australia's first innings, no guard of honour was formed for the wicket- keeper who had snared seven catches, as many victims in an innings as recorded in the long history of Test cricket.

The procession up the steps to the dressing room was as usual, with no order of preference.

Jacobs now features alongside Wasim Bari of Pakistan, Bob Taylor of England and Ian Smith of New Zealand as the only keepers who have had a hand in so many dismissals.

It was an outstanding achievement by the most reliable member of a team desperately in need of a boost but the chance of appropriate celebration passed almost unnoticed.

Not that Jacobs was perturbed. It was all part of the job.

"I just went out as always and gave 100 per cent," he said. "I don't go out thinking I'll get five, six or seven catches. I just concentrate on every ball and, if the chance comes, I take it." Simple.

With one more catch and a rare stumping in Australia's second innings yesterday, Jacobs now has assisted in 20 of the 50 Australian dismissals for the series. His tally in his 25 consecutive Tests is 98 that include his fourth stumping yesterday.

It is not only Jacobs' keeping that has made him such a vital member of the team since his belated introduction on his 31st birthday in South Africa two years ago. At No.7 behind Test cricket's most fragile batting, he had repeatedly had to fashion a rearguard action to help save face.

In the second Test in Perth, he entered on the first morning at 22 for five. By dint of determination and common sense, he mounted a recovery to 196 and was four away from his first Test hundred when Courtney Walsh was last man out. The situation on Wednesday was almost identical, as was his response.

An hour and three quarters after he ended the Australian innings with a straightforward take to dismiss Glenn McGrath off Merv Dillon, Jacobs was heading back onto the ground, his team 28 for five, ready, yet again, to "give 100 per cent".

Jacobs met it in his usual way, respecting the good balls, seizing his chance against any loose ones that came along. In company with young Marlon Samuels, he restored some respectability to his faltering team with a partnership of 75 before Mark Waugh collected one of his few edged strokes with a dazzling slip catch.

"Basically, I just look to play my natural innings which is to be positive," he said. "If the bad ball comes along, I try to put it away. These Australians are good bowlers so you've got to take advantage whenever it's there."

The responsible West Indian selectors must be acutely embarrassed over not recognising Jacobs' complete committment to the game earlier. He had the figures with the bat as David Williams, Junior Murray and Courtney Browne were all given their chances after Jeff Dujon's exit but those who decided such things rated his keeping beneath Test standard.

He immediately proved them wrong on the difficult tour of South Africa in 1998-99, his first. He headed the batting averages and proved that reliability, rather than razzmatazz, is the vital factor in the art of wicket-keeping. He has been the first choice since, completing his 25th Test in Melbourne.

After his unbeaten 96 in Perth, Steve Waugh paid a rare compliment to an opposition player. "Ridley Jacobs is a good Test cricketer the Australian captain said. "He's tough and he gets stuck in."

The West Indies could do with a few more of those right now.

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