I was brought up to support Australia, so found it nearly impossible to like overseas players.
That was especially true of the England teams. Even during their horrendous series in 1974-75 and later when so many Aussie teams were beating them so often in the ’90s and early 2000s, I found it hard to like any one player.
The same applied to other nations. The West Indies were hard to like because they were consistently beating my Australians. I didn’t subscribe to the “Hadlee is a w****er” cries, but had no trouble not liking New Zealand, maybe because they owned us in rugby. Pakistan with Waqar and Wasim were also bad news, as were the South Africans, until they produced a spinner named Paul Adams.
Maybe it was his quirky action, maybe it was the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the game, maybe it was his infectious smile. I don’t know, but this guy really caught my attention.
He did the same to everyone in the cricket world when he came into the Proteas’ side in 1995. Mike Gatting apparently described him as a frog in a blender, having seen his bowling action. Perhaps a better description about how he delivers the ball is the contortionist.
If you look at his action at the moment of delivery, there’s no way he can be watching the batsman, though Adams claimed he could see them out of the corner of his eye.
Adams’ run-up and his action straight after he let the ball go were perfectly normal and there’s lots of energy about his bowling. It’s only in his delivery stride that things are skewed, yet somehow he managed to get the ball into some good places.
Adams, or ‘Gogga’ as he’s known to his mates (Afrikaans for insect), started his cricket life as a junior batsman, but switched to spin bowling and has used his unusual action ever since.
He copped plenty from opposition sides right the way through his cricketing career and it says a lot for his strength of character that he put up with this abuse and carved out a very successful career for his country. In first-class cricket alone, he played 141 matches and took 412 wickets, which is a fair return for a bowler of his type.
He was chosen to play his first Test at the age of 18 back in 1995 and was the youngest Test player to have been given a South African Test cap.
Adams rarely dominated opposition batting line-ups but was still good enough to take five wickets in an innings four times, all in the sub-continent. His biggest problem was a lack of variation and once good players of spin worked that out, he was treated as just another Test spinner.
South Africa had a pretty useful attack in that era, with guys like Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andrew Hall, Dwaine Pretorius and Andre Nel all part of the bowling equation during his career. This often meant his role was to keep things tidy while these guys were having a spell, although he came more into his own when the Proteas played in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The other aspect that is worth mentioning is his courage and love for the game. He’s only a little bloke, barely five foot six (167 centimetres), yet it’s hard to remember him taking a backward step when it was his turn to bat. He was far from being an all-rounder, yet it was obvious he tried his best to support his team with the blade, while wearing opposition sledging with a smile. Couple that with the obvious delight he displayed when he took a wicket and this is a guy who lives and loves cricket.
His Test career numbers make for surprisingly good reading: 45 Tests from 1995 to 2004, 134 wickets at an average of 32.87, an economy rate of 2.98 and a strike rate of 66.0.
He’s taken by far the most wickets of any left-arm spinner to have played Tests for South Africa and is streets ahead of any left-arm Australian spinner for that matter.
Not bad for a frog in a blender.