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During IPL, remembering the first six in history

Before there was Ishan Kishan, there was Joe Darling.

September 29, 2020 / 04:12 PM IST
Joe Darling (Image copyright: National Portrait Gallery 2020)

Joe Darling (Image copyright: National Portrait Gallery 2020)

Kishan hit nine sixes during his responsibly insane 99 for Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bangalore on September 28. At times his feet positioning, follow through, elbow symmetry and tilt of the head were so pleasing to the eye he actually looked like Krishna playing the flute.

As sixes went up in the Dubai night like fireworks, curiosity lobbed a question in the head, coincidentally on the day KBC 12 started. Who was the first man to hit a six in international cricket, hain?

It was Joseph ‘Joe’ Darling of Australia, a contemporary of Ranjitsinhji, the Indian who played for England.

Like Kishan, Darling was a left-hander. Darling entered the history books during a Test against England at the Adelaide Oval in the 1897-98 season. The South Australian Register wrote that Darling jumped from 98 to 104 with "a hit to square leg which sent the ball sailing out of the Oval". Left-arm spinner Johnny Briggs was the bowler. At that time, the ball had to be hit out of the ground to be considered a six.

A strong, compact man with a handlebar moustache, Darling was a man of firsts. This was partly due to his ability, and partly due to Test cricket being a relatively new sport then, just about 20 years old. In the same series that he hit the first six, Darling became the first player to score 500 runs and three centuries. He was also the first left-hander to score a Test century. He was a respected captain and player, which helped him become the first Australian cricketer to have a wax statue at Madame Tussauds.


Darling was also a part of a fascinating coincidence. In the 1905 Ashes series, he and England captain Stanley Jackson shared their birthdays - November 21, 1870.

Joe Darling (Image copyright: National Portrait Gallery 2020) Joe Darling (Image copyright: National Portrait Gallery 2020)

Along with leading Australia to consecutive series wins over arch rivals England, Darling is credited for selecting a young Victor Trumper in the side. Trumper went on to become a legend, who some rate higher than Bradman.

Darling started as a prodigy. Barely 15-years-old, he scored 252 in a school game at the Adelaide Oval. But his father was not fond of cricket and nudged the boy towards Aussie Rules Football. Darling Jr excelled there too. He also got busy studying agriculture and helping his father in their farming business.

With time, Darling Sr warmed up to cricket and let his son follow his dreams. He played 34 Tests for Australia and scored three centuries. Importantly, he is known to have been a captain with values and discipline, an ambassador for Australian cricket.

Post playing career, Darling lived a full life. He and his wife Alice had 15 children. Clearly, Alice never said, ‘Not now, Darling’. He played club cricket into his 50s, ran a farming business and was politically active. His introduction on the jacket of a biography, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man, says, “During the latter part of his life, farming and politics in Tasmania took him to prominence as he applied the same personal attributes which had brought him cricketing success.”

Also Read: Five lines for five sixes: What Sheldon Cooper might say to Sheldon Cottrell
Akshay Sawai
first published: Sep 29, 2020 03:52 pm
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