I wrote this unbylined article for the 21 January 1999 edition of email publication Cricinfo365. The complete edition is sourced from archive.org’s Wayback Machine here. This article is also available on Cricinfo at http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/story/80456.html. Continue reading “Ricky Ponting’s public humiliation”
Tuesday December 3, 1996: I visited the Sydney Cricket Ground and witnessed a great day’s cricket, but I have also witnessed the demise of a cricketing power that I have known and loved for over two decades.
After an enthralling if tight first four days of the Sydney Test between Australia and the West Indies, the visiting side needed 313 runs to win with ten wickets in hand – a huge task seeing that runs had been hard to come by, also hard for the bowlers as wickets too had been hard to take. But Australia did have one S.K.Warne in its side, so anything was possible. At one stage or another of the pre-lunch session, everything became possible.
Sherwin Campbell fell to Glenn “Millard” McGrath in the third over of the morning, leg before wicket. The following over, and Robert Samuels was out, bowled by a ripsnorter from Warne which pitched way outside the left-hander’s off stump and came back miles! When have I seen a video replay of a wicket attract such an ovation from the crowd? More about that later in the day.
Next over, and McGrath bowled a bouncer to Lara, who started a hook shot, and then pulled out… almost. The faintest of bottom edges, and into Healy’s gloves. Was it a clean catch or did it touch the ground first? David Shepherd said yes – eventually. Lara was gone, having gone only halfway to matching his 1st innings effort of two. I get the impression that Lara is not enjoying his cricket these days. 35 for 3 – some of the wags around me in the Bradman Stand are getting ready to go home before lunch!
This brought Hooper and Chanderpaul together. Chanders has the reputation of being a grafting batsman, but if this was the time to start playing for a draw, he was going for the win. After McGrath dropped a firm c&b chance, Chanders started blazing, he took to Warne’s bowling and, with solid support from Hooper, knocked up a quick century partnership, and achieved his own 50 in thirty-eight balls. Close to lunch, the Windies had seven wickets in hand and needed less than three runs an over for the rest of the day. If Hooper and Chanderpaul could keep up their blistering pace the match could be theirs.
Then… Ripsnorter Revisited. Warne gave Chanderpaul the same fierce-spinning delivery that removed Samuels earlier in the day, and with the same devastating effect. Chanderpaul bowled for 71 from 67 deliveries, and that was lunch. 152 for 4, 125 runs in the session. Could Jimmy Adams carry on after lunch where Chanders left off?
Adams came and went, having totally monopolised his five-run partnership with Hooper. Carl knew that now it was time to play for a draw, and it took him around half an hour to advance from his lunchtime 48 to 50. At 57 he edged Michael Bevan to Taylor at slip. Taylor finger-tipped the ball, and as he fell backwards kicked the ball into the air and caught it. Hooper was on his way. Time to call off the “Classic Catches” competition now. The replays on the giant screen brought gales of applause as every conceivable angle was shown. This piece of video footage is going to be replayed ad infinitum for years to come.
Six down, Ian Bishop, the late-order hero of the first innings, came in to partner Courtney Browne. Courtney must be sooo popular in the West Indies camp these days. His latest contribution to team morale was to turn back Bishop’s call for a quick single and leave him stranded, run out without scoring, second ball. Ambrose came, saw, got conquered. No addition to the score, Bevan scoring his second success of the afternoon with his slow chinamen. And to think the Australian selectors were looking to Brad Hogg as their next spin sensation.
The game is slipping away. Benjamin goes, and then Walsh provides some brief excitement, including the only six off the day, before he holes out to Millard McGrath, and the match is over, fifteen minutes before tea. Australia have won by 124 runs following on their 123 run victory in Brisbane. The series stands at West Indies 0, Australia 2, with three to play. (I could predict a 125 run victory in Melbourne but, well…) Including Sabina Park 1995, that represents three Test wins in a row over the Windies.
Where does this leave the once-mighty West Indians? They were flogged 5-1 by Australia in 1975-76 but at least that was a great side (Lloyd, Richards, Kallicharran, Roberts, Holding, Boyce, Derryck Murray, Gibbs…) These guys today seem to be in the right place at all the wrong times. Ambrose is past his best. Lara doesn’t seem to care. Adams – was he really Coopers & Lybrand’s no.1 player in the world two years ago? Courtney Browne – rhymes with clown! If I were the WI management I would be packing his bags for Barbados right now. And the fielding is a pale, even embarrassing, shadow of the Lloyd/Richards days.
Where are the spinners? Where is Dhanraj, who took 16 wickets in a Red Stripe game last season and a hat-trick in the Shells and Sandals one-day final in October? Where is Robert Haynes? Where is Nagamootoo? (Spin bowler S.Chanderpaul even.) Can Roger Harper not be trusted with more than ten overs an innings? It is time the selectors took a reality check – the twenty-year fast-bowling dynasty has disintegrated.
The plusses are in evidence: Sherwin Campbell is performing well, and may have scored another ton in this game if it weren’t for Greg “Waqar Younis” Blewett. Hooper is batting with more maturity than he is generally credited for. Maybe it’s time he gave up his bowling. If Lara has blown his chances of being the next WI captain (as I believe he has), then would Hooper rise to the responsibility? And Chanderpaul is remaining incredibly consistent, today’s cameo being his eleventh half-century of his Test career. If and when he can convert the 70’s and 80’s to hundreds and two-hundreds, then he will become one of the great West Indian batsmen. He is only 22 years of age, and can potentially take over Brian Lara’s huge mantle. As long as he doesn’t take over Lara’s huge head.
Finally, this day was a real pleasure for me, a too-rare visit to the SCG. I was privileged to see Chanderpaul at his best, and to see, before lunch, one of the great sessions of Test cricket.
Note: Posted to rec.sport.cricket and published on CricInfo Interactive.
This is a marvellous document, both of Australian cricket and of a long and successful episode in Australian broadcasting history.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, formed in 1932 as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has right from its beginnings shown a committment to the reporting of major sports to its listeners, and in 1932 there were fewer more popular sports in this country than cricket, with Bradman’s genius displaying full bloom. In 1934 the ABC produced a booklet called “International Cricket – The Australian Team In England”. As they stated in their foreword, “the Australian Broadcasting Commission will throughout the tour broadcast authentic and detailed descriptions of play… and this booklet is offered to listeners in the hope that it will assist them to understand those descriptions fully and to follow the tour with yet greater interest.”
The book was a success, and the ABC has continued to produce what is now known simply as “The ABC Cricket Book” in conjunction with every major tour both in Australia and overseas. In 1994 ABC Books published “The ABC Cricket Book – The First 60 Years” as a compilation of the highlights since 1934. ABC cricket commentator Jim Maxwell compiled and edited this work.
Each international season has its previews and its background features from some noteworthy guest writers. The evolution of not just the book itself, but the game in Australia and of the culture of the ABC can be seen in the 238 pages of this book. The excerpts from the 1934 edition take us through pen portraits of the Australian tourists, show us the field placings of Clarrie Grimmett, define no less than fifteen types of pitch conditions, and tell us about the expert commentary team of the day – including M.A.Noble (whose resemblance in later life to Babe Ruth I still find uncanny), and Mr R.H.Campbell, “the prince of cricket statisticians” who saw the very first Test in 1877.
In “Test Cricket 1938 – National Broadcasts”, as it was called, we have action shots of all the leading players of both Australia and England, and a new face on the commentary team: McGilvray, A.D. Following the War the title “ABC Broadcast Cricket Book” appears, as does a purchase price of sixpence. Keith Stackpole snr is pictured as one of the hopefuls for the Australian team of 1946-47, twenty years before his son gave the family its first baggy green cap. For the 1947-48 tour by India, we get a short lesson in how to pronounce Indian vowels. In 1948 the voices of Rex Alston and John Arlott grace our airwaves, and the ABC’s Federal Sporting Supervisor joins the crew in England, long before “Executive Producers” were invented.
In 1951-52 the first semblance of a lift-out pictorial featuring the three W’s Weekes, Worrell and Walcott. The “ABC Coronation Cricket Book” of 1953 includes the first of many guest appearances in print of Sir Donald Bradman. The 1958-59 book tells us, for the first time, when to watch the Tests on TV. (Sadly, the mighty Packer dollar slowly extinguished the ABC’s involvement in televised cricket during the 1980’s, an involvement which ended ignominiously in the middle of the 1991-92 India series due to some quirky “aggregation” rules for country TV coverage.)
Two shillings would buy you the 1960-61 ABC Cricket Book with Norman O’Neill (who, as I write, is ailing with throat cancer) on the cover. Learie Constantine writes of “Hopes for revival in W.I. aggression”. The extracts throughout the sixties show that the three series in that decade against the West Indies represented Australian cricket’s happiest moments of the era. McGilvray, A.D is now Alan McGilvray, and he is not only still commentating on the game, but is by now the ABC Cricket Book’s editor.
The 1970-71 book reminisced on the synthetic broadcasts of ABC Cricket’s early days, where commentators in Sydney called games in England by means of telegram and pencil rubber. (I do that now with the live comms from IRC. Some things don’t change that much.) The seventies saw great change in publishing style of the book as they showed change in the decorum of the ABC, and they saw irreversable changes in the game of cricket itself, courtesy of Kerry Packer and WSC. The ABC remained steadfastly loyal to the traditions of the game… after all, they were a big part of the Australian traditions of the game. Bradman wrote in the 1978-79 edition of “Cricket’s past, present and future” – a long and heartfelt essay on the great man’s views of the game.
The eighties – the book now cost a dollar, the ABC was playing second fiddle to Channel Nine as telecaster of the game, but they still had the upper hand over all comers on radio. Alan McGilvray became a reluctant star of their marketing push, but finally in 1985 he hung up the mike and moved off into a retirement which ended with his passing in July 1996. That other NSW stalwart of the thirties, Bill O’Reilly, wrote in 1988-89 of the Sydney Cricket Ground that now a bore a grandstand with his name.
Come the nineties – the book now costs $4.95, but at least the price remains unchanged since 1989. Merv Hughes is the popular hero with his passionate behaviour and his outfield aerobics – but maybe if Chuck Fleetwood-Smith was on that 1989 tour and not the ABC’s first tour of 1934, he may have indulged in the same activities. Arthur Gilligan and Vic Richardson may have been the hot radio pairing of the 1940’s, but now it’s H.G.Nelson and Rampaging Roy Slaven. H.G, in the 1990-91 book, gives us the Australian XI if it were captained by Ray Bright. Keith Stackpole (jnr) is featured in a way that both he and his dad would never have imagined. Finally, this compilation takes us to 1993, where veteran novelist Jon Cleary writes of “Nostalgia: Everyone’s Twelfth Man”, and we end the book in the new South Africa, as world cricket embarks on an exciting new era.
“The ABC Cricket Book – the First 60 Years” is a microcosm of everything great about the ABC’s committment to Australian cricket. They promote themselves as “your ABC” and, yes, I look upon them as “my ABC”. Amidst all the threats to the ABC’s viability that the present anti-public-sector Government poses, long live the ABC and long live the ABC Cricket Book. And thanks to Jim Maxwell, and Alan McGilvray before him, for making this compilation possible.
(“The ABC Cricket Book – The First 60 Years”, edited by Jim Maxwell was published by ABC Books, Sydney in 1994. ISBN 0 7333 0406 0.)
Note: First published on CricInfo Interactive and posted to rec.sport.cricket
Ray Lindwall, probably Australian cricket`s greatest fast bowler since the Second World War, died on Saturday night 22 June 1996, in Brisbane at the age of 74. Much has, and will, be written of his achievements on the cricket field, however not many people would be aware of his prowess as a rugby league player in his younger days. Continue reading “Ray Lindwall: Rugby League Champion”
When I heard that “A Current Affair”‘s Gold Logie winning anchorperson Ray Martin had obtained the rights to an exclusive interview with Sir Donald Bradman – the last interview he intends to give – I recoiled with horror. “Toupee Ray” – the former king of daytime television – the frontman of night-time tabloid journalism – the man who gave us such showbiz interview extravaganzas as “Top Blokes And Good Sorts” – allowed to share the same airspace as the man considered by most the Greatest Living Australian? Continue reading “Don Bradman 87 Not Out – A Television Review”