From left: Peter Carlstein(photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) and Ali Bacher © Getty Images
From left: Peter Carlstein (photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) and Ali Bacher © Getty Images

On October 28, 1972, Queen’s Sports Club, Bulawayo witnessed one of the most bizarre demonstrations of sledging, from Ali Bacher. Abhishek Mukherjee tells the story.

What is the most effective way to sledge? Some hurl the choicest of abuses.The stump microphones pick up a lot these days, but even before that, Glenn McGrath-Ramnaresh Sarwan turned out to be quite ugly — perhaps beyond the relatively innocent domain of sledging.

Some, like Fred Trueman (remember the perhaps-apocryphal sentence to Raman Subba Row?), Brian McMillan, and Kumar Sangakkara, are masters of wit. Witty sledges do not always work, but they make the best stories.

There are also famous comebacks, like James Ormond’s to Mark Waugh or Eddo Brandes’ to McGrath, among others. Some of these have attained iconic status.

Merv Hughes sledges are possibly a different genre altogether. Bill Athey was the only known one to find a response of any sort to Hughes.

But how do you handle a cricketer who actually wants to sledge? Ali Bacher probably demonstrated the best way to go about it, in a Currie Cup match of 1972-73.

Peter Carlstein was a feisty character who loved a fight or two. He had played 8 Tests on either side of 1960 without much success. His Test career met with a tragic end: while touring New Zealand in 1963-64, news arrived that his wife and three children had died in a road accident back home. He never played another Test.

Carlstein had started his career with Orange Free State. He later played for Transvaal,moved to Natal for a season,returned to Transvaal, switched to Rhodesia, returned to Transvaal again, and finally ended his 25-season career with Rhodesia.

His final move from Transvaal to Rhodesia was in 1972-73. When Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) hosted Transvaal the next time, Carlstein was up against several men he had played with, including captain Bacher.

Rhodesia were 47 for 2 when Carlstein walked out to join Duncan Fletcher. The team acted on cue. Not a single fielder uttered a word. Even the sound of Carlstein marking his guard was fairly audible. He did not show it, but they had already managed to get him worked up.

Now as William Kerr ran in to bowl his left-arm medium pace, he was stopped on his track by Bacher. There was a change in field, obviously in pin-drop silence. Carlstein, getting impatient with every passing moment, now walked down the pitch to have a tap or two with his bat. Then he took guard again.

Once again Kerr started his run-up. Once again Bacher, from mid-off, signalled him to stop.He first apologised to the umpire, then changed the field again — without a noise, as usual.

When Kerr finally bowled, Carlstein somehow kept his cool and pushed the ball to Bacher at mid-off. At this point Lee Irvine, standing up to the stumps to Kerr, could not resist himself any longer. “Another glorious stroke-player here, boys,” Irvine blurted out.

That single statement broke the camel’s back. Carlstein held his bat by the blade and thrust the handle into Irvine’s chest. Irvine fell to the ground, obviously in pain, and the umpires had to intervene to keep Carlstein away from causing subsequent damage.

What would today’s match referees have done?


The tactic did not work in the long run. Carlstein recovered quite well, hitting 16 fours in his 95. In fact, he top-scored in Rhodesia’s total of 311. Then Jackie du Preez came to the party, bowling out Transvaal for 243. Rhodesia were in trouble at 97 for 6 before captain Mike Procter and wicketkeeper Howard Gardiner added 108.

Transvaal got to a decent start in pursuit of 311, even reaching 103 for 1. Then Procter blew them away for 197 with a career-best haul of 9 for 71. He might have had all ten, had Richard Kaschula not played spoilsport by dismissing Bacher.

Brief scores:

Rhodesia 311 (Peter Carlstein 95, Jackie du Preez 53; Donald Mackay-Coghill 4 for 86)and 242 for 8 decl. (Mike Procter 65, Howard Gardiner 64; Douglas Neilson 4 for 74) beat Eastern Province 243 (Brian Bath 50; Jackie du Preez 4 for 58) and 197 (Ali Bacher 62; Mike Procter 9 for 71) by 113 runs.