Whilst cricket’s holy grail is currently be fought on British shores, Cricket Fiji is looking back to when one of it’s own took on the might of the English.
In early 1984, the English national side stopped over in Fiji as a part of their 1983/84 tour to New Zealand and Pakistan, and played two 50-over tour matches against the then Fiji Cricket Association’s President’s XI – one in Lautoka, and one in Suva.
Taione Batina was only 19-years-old at the time, when he was called up to the Fiji side to play England in the second tour match. Originally from Lakeba in the remote Lau group of islands, he grew up learning about cricket in Fiji’s traditional cricketing heartlands, from his father who was also a former player for Fiji.
Despite only being a part of the Fiji national team for 12-months, the change of pace he offered the bowling attack was much needed, after England unsurprisingly demolished Fiji by 198 runs at Lautoka’s Churchill Park a day earlier.
“I remember the day they told me to bowl and I was scared, “ said Batina. “There was a lot of…crowds (people watching)…(but) when they gave me the ball to bowl…I just kept bowling.”
Batina was a second-change, medium-pacer. In his second over he was facing the ruthless English right-hander, Mike Gatting. Despite Gatting being fresh off making 142 in Lautoka a day earlier, a young Batina said to himself; “I’m going to bowl him out”.
And that he did. Fifth ball of his second over, Gatting was gone for five, with a ball from Batina that went right through his middle stump.
But the carnage didn’t stop there. Next out to the crease was the big Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham.
“I was still scared,” Batina said, “and everybody knew Ian Botham. I didn’t (because) I was very young and from a village.”
“I thought it (my over) was already finished, but they said that there was one (ball) left,” Batina continued, “and I bowled him again!”
Botham gone! Batina removing his off-stump for a golden duck.
If you think his story couldn’t get even more remarkable, on his first ball of the next over, one of Batina’s teammates put down a catch, denying him a star-studded hat trick, which would have included two of the world’s most formidable cricketers at the time.
Knowing he had a skill, Batina sought to learn as much about the global game as he could, and so in 1989 he decided to move to Australia, initially setting himself up in Sydney. He played for Parramatta and Manly Cricket Clubs, before basing himself at Goulburn, near Canberra, for 13 seasons.
“A lot of people knew (about the game against England),” Batina said when reflecting on his move to Australia, “but that’s cricket. It’s good to move on (from that game) and to learn more about cricket, because it’s the only thing I could do to help my country…just like anybody when they play sport, they want to play for their own country.”
Batina reflected on this sentiment when talking to Cricket Fiji, as he had come to watch their Under-19 side compete in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) East-Asia Pacific region’s (EAP) U19 Trophy. Now based in Brisbane, it is only a short trip for him to watch the boys compete on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“I love cricket and I love my country,” Batina reflected on why he was so keen to see the new generation of Fijian cricketers in action. “It would be good if some of them could come overseas and play grades…follow my footsteps…that’s the way it can help cricket in Fiji. It’s a good experience…and they still young – there is a lot of time for them to learn.”
England won that second tour match in Suva by 18 runs, ironically almost mirroring the margin of the recent First Test against Australia at Trent Bridge. For them, it was probably considered a lucky escape. From a Fijian perspective, it was still a defeat, but by a much more respectable margin. However for Batina, he will always be up there amongst an elite group of bowlers who can say to have dismissed two of the world’s best.
For more information on England’s 1984 tour to Fiji, please visit: http://cricketarchive.com/