Australia v India – First Test, Day 1: From the committee lounge

 

 

 

 

 

by Bernard Whimpress

 

My mate George texted to say he was the guy wearing a panama hat five rows from the top of the northern bay of the Gavin Wanganeen Stand. I replied that I was wearing a cream linen suit, blue and white striped shirt and Cricket Lore tie. If I’d worn braces instead of a belt I could’ve passed for a Wall Street trader.

 

The reason for the clobber was I was in the Holy of Holies, the SACA Committee Lounge, not because of my fifteen years service to the organization, but owing to my more recent association with a life member.

 

Former Test great Rod Marsh was the obvious big-name guest but among others were a lot of nearly men: Ian McLachlan (12th man in the Ashes Test of 1963 and once spoken of as a future Prime Minister), two former chairs and the current chair of Cricket Australia, Leader of the State Opposition Peter Malinauskas, and former Labor numbers man Don Farrell, now a winemaker apparently.

 

Speaking of wine, glasses were raised to SA sporting great Eric Freeman who died during the week, and the question was put at my table as to whether he was the state’s greatest post-war sportsman. Hosted by SACA Board member Rod Phillips (brother of Wayne and nearly a state player himself) the distinguished company included 92-year-old SA cricketing legend Neil Dansie and his son-in-law Ian Brown – no mean sportsman, legendary curator Les Burdett and his wife Jane, and my own sponsor. Neil Hawke quickly got approval as being a slightly better all-round sportsman than Eric, a golf handicap of one adding to his illustrious deeds on the cricket and football fields although my vote went to Ken McGregor. McGregor’s accomplishments in tennis (multiple Grand Slam doubles titles, an Australian singles championships, Davis Cup wins, and play on the Jack Kramer professional circuit) outweighed Test cricket, and then he returned to enjoy a distinguished football career, as well as winning an SA squash title.

 

In between the mountains of food and fine wine a couple of people enquired whether I’d written any good books lately. ‘As a matter of fact …’, I said plunging my hand into my satchel to extract the George Giffen biography.

 

At our table the conversation certainly flowed easily, sharing golf yarns with Rod Phillips and robust discussion with Les about the legitimacy of the foundation date of the Port Adelaide Football Club. They might not have been playing Aussie Rules in the first half-dozen years after 1870 but their continuity as an organisation could not be questioned. I was also struck by Ian Brown’s Carlton FC tie. In answer to my query he confirmed that he had been the Blues’ recruiting officer in SA for twenty years, and his special coup in 1986 was securing Stephen Kernahan, Craig Bradley and Peter Motley. Those were the days!

 

I shouldn’t overlook the cricket. Our bowlers were a marvellous disciplined unit and the Indian batsmen showed incredible restraint. I thought the Indians need to put the foot on the accelerator in the second session but Virat Kohli’s run out dismissal when he looked set for a big ton may prove to be the turning point in the match.

 

George kept texting, saying he had moved into the sun and then again to shelter from the wind. ‘What wind?’ I replied from the comfort of the lounge.

 

On leaving the Oval the wind had a distinct chill, even while I was making a brief bow to the granite statue of Clem Hill on the southern plaza, a commanding figure against the night sky. It was a fine end to an absorbing day’s play and the hospitality was greatly appreciated.

 

 

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).

Comments

  1. Your discussion of an all-round sportsman begs definition. I assume you were saying someone who excelled at 2 or more different sports. Wasn’t Bradman a scratch golfer at Kooyonga?
    Made me think that era is now over due to the full time demands of professional sport. Careers have to subsequent not concurrent. Brendan Goddard in football and golf is a modern example (not SA I know – but a pennant golfer now his footy career is over). How good could Craig Bradley been at cricket with more time? Was Darren Cahill any good at footy before the pro tennis circuit took his time?
    Erin Phillips deserves a nod. Any other female all-rounders?
    Nice picture of Horace Rumpole.

  2. bernard whimpress says

    Peter
    I’d still stick McGregor as we’re talking a world-class tennis player, interstate footballer and a state champion at squash. I’d put Darrell Cahill ahead of Darren because not only because he achieved in two sports – state junior golf champion at 20 and state senior champion at 42. He was a genuine scratch player when there were only two in the state in the early Seventies. Lleyton Hewitt probably couldabeen a footballer too – he certainly had the pedigree.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Lindsay Head, John Halbert and Barrie Robran were three Magarey recipients who played first class cricket for SA. Could possibly add lawn bowls to Barrie’s repertoire now. I’m guessing, but Darren Cahill could have played cricket to a high level if not for tennis, so given that is either/or that won’t count. Hawke played league and interstate footy when living in Perth as well. Did he play first class cricket for WA?

  4. Bernard Whimpress says

    Daryl
    Lindsay Head was the most successful of that trio and Bob Simunsen (runner-up in an MM) also played state cricket among the post-war group. There are a lot of couldabeens. Barrie Robran was also a fine basketballer. I played tennis at Memorial Drive and when you saw Barrie on the court you’d say he could’ve played Davis Cup if he started and stayed with that sport. The point is about the players who did do things at interstate level (at least) in two sports. Hawke is one of only three players along with Keith Miller and Laurie Nash who played Test cricket and interstate football for two states. Hawke also played cricket for three states, adding Tasmania at the finish.

  5. Bernard, the biggest joke of all is that, according to Wikipedia, Peter Box was a champion Footscray footballer, winning the Brownlow Medal in ’56. It also states that Box represented Australia in the ’56 Melbourne Olympics playing baseball against a visiting American team. To qualify for the Olympics, he would have had to play winter baseball in the Claxton Shield side In other words he played both baseball and footy during the winter of ’56 at a really high standard at both. In actual fact the baseballer Peter Box was a champion SA southpaw pitcher who never played footy However it’s most interesting that there were 2 champion Peter Boxes around the same time, 1 a Victorian (born in 1932) whilst the other a South Aussie (born 1929). Incidentally our Peter Box won 3 Shipway Medals (Night Baseball) and 2 Capps Medals (winter baseball ) in addition he was runner up twice in Capps Medals. He was laso my friend and hero.

  6. Bernard Whimpress says

    Fisho
    Wikipedia can be good but obviously that entry needs correcting – perhaps a job for Rob Laidlaw.

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