The most courageous cricket eccentric to have lived is Derek Randall. His figures suggest him being a below-par batsman at the international level, averaging just 33, his technique adhered to no set rules, it was pure improvisation. He was an electric fielder with cat-like reflexes. Apart from unsettling the bowler with foolish-looking, yet effective batting and extreme audacity, he was the master of wit and wisecracks. And he didn’t mind having fun at his own expense.
The last test before Kerry Packer took the cricketing world by storm, the centenary test, brought Randall’s moment of glory. Though England lost the test by the same margin as the first-ever test match played, Randall was memorable, with his innings as well as his replies to Lillie’s bouncers with his bat as well as his tongue. Never trusting anything unconventional, the English selectors didn’t select Randall as often as they should have, but whenever he was in the team and England batting was in disarray, Randall fought.
While making 174 in the Centenary Test, and copping a lot of music from Lillie in particular, he got a vicious bouncer from Lillie which he miraculously saved his own head and life from, thanks to his sharp reflexes. If this physical reaction was commendable, the mental reaction was even more astonishing, amazing, and entertaining.
Randall doffed his cap, and said to Lillie, “No good hitting me there mate, nothing to damage.”
Another brutal, short-pitched delivery now floored the helmetless joker.
Randall simply rose to his feet and saluted Lillee.