Frank 'The typhoon' Tyson was rated by Don Bradman as the fastest bowler. He was devastatingly fast. He played just 17 times for his country but etched his name in history and left an indelible mark as a fast bowler. He was feared and respected by all opponents. Seventy six wickets at an average of 18.56 per wicket speaks for itself. Just the thought of meeting this great sportsman was making me nervous. I wonder what the batsmen facing him would have gone through when he thundered down to bowl at them.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I met this great cricketer turned coach. No Sunday holiday for this dedicated and devoted coach! Work is his worship as the saying goes. I started nervously and politely thanked him for having helped a number of young cricketers blossom under his tutelage particularly mentioning Robin Uthappa and Vinoo Prasad.
He was very modest and said that it was the boys who worked hard and they deserve the success. This opened the conversation. He was very co-operative and answered my queries in detail. He was brilliant in speech and displayed amazing depth in his knowledge of the glorious game.
Your memories of your 7 for 27 against the mighty Aussies from 12.3 eight ball overs?
I guess I was lucky. Taking seven for 50 is good bowling. Taking seven for 27 is plain lucky and good bowling.
Your transition from a player to coach, how and when did it happen?
It is largely because by profession I am a teacher. In 1960 I was offered a job as a teacher in Kerry Baptist Grammar School in Australia. Part of the condition laid down by the school was that I would take up the coaching of the school side. This is a position I occupied from 1960 to 1975 during which period I was also associated with schools cricket coaching in Victoria under V C A. By the end of 1974 I was a part of the working committee established by Australian Cricket Board (A C B) which was drawing up the national coaching plan which has eventuated in what is called the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme in Australia and the National Cricket Academy in Adelaide.
So, in 1975 I became the inaugural director of coaching for Victoria. I left Kerry and joined the V C A as a professional coach, a position I occupied for 15 years.
Between coaching and playing what is it you enjoy more?
That's a very difficult question. The pleasure you get from playing - nothing can take its place. This is why I say the people at the present moment are continually castigating Steve Waugh and saying you must retire, I say to Steve Waugh don't retire and play as long as you possibly can because there will come a time in your life when physically you will not be able to play and then you will say why didn't I play more when I could.
The actual thrill of playing is irreplaceable I am not talking about just playing Test cricket I am talking about any level of cricket. On the other hand you must look at the sort of vicarious enjoyment you get from coaching. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that what I have learnt in cricket is going to be passed on to the future generation.
At the Kerry Grammar Baptist School, the insignia was a torch, which they handed on in a ceremony each year from the senior class to the next. This way we must pass on these traditions and ideals to the generation coming up. This way you always leave something behind you. Whether it is a good player, a good book or an idea you have implanted in somebody's mind it becomes virtually immortal because you are passing it on & sharing. That gives me tremendous satisfaction.
To your question I would say that selfishly I got more enjoyment out of playing but unselfishly I get more enjoyment out of coaching.
How do you compare bowlers of your era with the present? What about speed measures?
The methods of measurement are different. Harold Larwood in the 1920s had the speed measured by high speed photography and his speed was recorded as between 70mph and 130 mph. Statham and I were measured in the 60s and recorded between 89 mph and 91 mph but we were measured in Wellington on a wet saturated wicket, Statham in three sweaters and I had two, we didn't even change into whites, just put our cricket boots on and bowled in a howling gale.
What would it have been in ideal conditions I don't know? Though Bradman said I was the fastest I am not saying so and it does not much matter to me but comparing the bowlers then and now I would say without hesitation that bowlers of my days were far more skillful. I wouldn't say they were more successful because I think statistics have become meaningless with the introduction of various competitions and various sides.
Most of the wickets the bowlers of my age took were against, Australia, South Africa and the West Indies which were fairly tough oppositions in those days with the Three Ws, Godard, Mcglew and the strong Australian sides. You have to look at Trueman and understand the skills that went into his bowling - having to swing the ball and to control it.
Ray Lindwall was the greatest bowler I ever saw in my life. The ability he had to pitch the ball wherever he wanted it and be able to control it required immense skill which I can't see in the bowlers of today. I am not being negative but I just don't see many bowlers who swing a cricket ball. I don't see many bowlers who can put the ball automatically where they want to. Not in the same way as Jim Laker & Tony Lock did or Derek Underwood in more recent times. That seems to have gone now.
I think we are tending to look more and more at outcomes in cricket than we are at the processes. In other words, we are looking at winning One-day games by one run or we are looking at people scoring 50 or 60 by sort of rather agricultural, brutal slogging methods.
In my days you looked at Hutton playing a classic cover drive or Compton playing an exquisite late cut or hook. I think a lot of aesthetic qualities and skills have gone out of the game.
Bowlers now get a lot of support from athletic fielding and catching technique plus latest training facility. Your comments?
By their athleticism, certainly! They are far more mobile and quicker than fielders of my days. I suppose there is a parallel philosophy that if you are on the field as a fast bowler for instance you don"t expend your net energy unnecessarily and chase after the ball and dive as they do nowadays.
I often wonder whether fielders who exhibit this type of energetic pursuits in the field in One-day games how long would they be able to keep it up in a five-day Test match? The common sense thing to do is to conserve energy if you are expected to perform at a certain level in a certain skill.
A lot of stuff they do flinging themselves on the field is a) very very expensive in terms of energy and b) very very dangerous. Is it worthwhile, for instance, sliding into the boundary hoardings if you are a bowler who is expected to bowl the next over. Is it worthwhile risking a fractured ankle to save two runs? I don't know.
As regarding catching I don't think the skill of catching is any better now. In my days Colin Cowdrey was a great catcher, Bobby Simpson was a great catcher, Norman O'Neal was a great cover fielder, Neil Harvey was a great cover fieldsman - a person who could hit the stumps side on from cover point, as could Norman O'Neal.
Interesting however that Neil Harvey and Norman O'Neal played baseball for Australia and in the 40s it was not uncommon for a baseball match to be played during the winter in Australia as prelude to a football match. A lot of cricketers took up baseball as a winter sport and were skillful enough to hold their own at baseball.
When I hear stories about modern fieldsmen being better I sometimes wonder would any modern fieldsman for instance be able, like Neil Harvey, to hit one stump that he could see from cover repeatedly as did Colin Bland. I think there is a lot of showmanship in modern One-day cricket where they fling themselves around. I know there was not as much exhibitionism, Jim Laker for instance took nineteen wickets in a Test match and I don"t think he kissed one of his team mates even once.
He just merely looked at his spinning finger and got along with the job. There was no hugging and cheering, just non-exhibitionism. I have seen many great fieldsmen I cannot accept that they were any inferior.
Do you think Indian fielding is now improved?
I have not seen too much of Indian sides on the field as much as I have seen on television of course. I don"t know, I would have to see them working at practice to see how they do their work. Theoretically, taking the evidence of preparation of modern One-day games one would have to say they have to be better and fitter than their predecessors.
What are the qualities you look for while spotting an upcoming bowler?
Depends on what type of bowler. The first quality I look for is commitment, dedication and a willingness to work and do everything beyond the call of duty. If the bowlers do not have that passion they are never going to make it. When I was a kid I used to practice well into the dark hours of the evening, you could barely see when we left the nets. I look for that sort of commitment. I look for the love of the game.
I look for natural talent such as the ability to bowl quicker than most, the ability to spin the ball more than most or the ability to swing more than most. I don't look for length and control at all, the reason for that being I believe that you cannot coach passion in a bowler, you cannot coach natural talent or to do something better to a run of the mill bowler. You cannot teach a bowler to bowl extra spin or extra pace, which is natural to that particular bowler, but you can teach and coach length and line, which are controllable.