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22 rarely recounted-facts about Jeff Thomson

Jeff Thomson is widely regarded one of the fastest bowlers to have stepped on a field © Getty Images
Jeff Thomson is widely regarded one of the fastest bowlers to have stepped on a field © Getty Images

Jeff Thomson, born August 16, 1950, was a terror for batsmen around the world, one of the fastest bowlers of all time and one half of the fearsome Lillee-Thomson duo. Arunabha Sengupta looks at 22 rarely known factoids about this bowler who loved to see blood on the pitch.

Jeff Thomson exploded into the limelight as a fast, furious and feared paceman during the 1974-75 Ashes series. And as long as he played he was never very far from the headlines. However, here are 22 facts about him that may not be so commonly known.

1. Thomson got married to one of the prettiest models of the day, Cheryl Wilson. Within a few months, he forgot the name of the church where they had been joined in wedlock, managing to remember only that it was opposite a police station.

2. The flowers for the wedding were supplied by a Brisbane florist by the name of Ray Lindwall. Yes, he was the same fast bowler of yore.

3. Before getting married, among Thomson’s other relationships there had been a brief affair with an English girl who studied law at Oxford.

4. On his first tour – to England in 1975 – he suffered so much from homesickness that captain Ian Chappell told him that if he wanted to go home he could just pack his bags and leave.

5. Thomson was involved in a 12-day court case which decided whether he could play for Kerry Packer or his contract was binding to Australia. While the verdict was being announced, he was sitting at the back of the court, reading a fishing magazine.

6. He had his own way of responding to the cross examination during the above case. The dialogue went:

“Do you play soccer when not playing cricket?”

“Yes, sometimes I do.”

“In a team?”

“A bit hard not to.”

“Your style of bowling attracts tremendous spectator interest does it not?”

“Whatever turns them on, yes.”

“Frequently bowling at the batsmen?”

“I don’t bowl at the fieldsmen.”

7. When the radio station 4IP employed Thomson, they insisted that he keep a top class car to maintain his image.

8. As a kid Thomson went to Condell Park Primary School where he first took up cricket. One of his chums in school was Len Pascoe. The latter’s name in those days was Durtanovich.

9. During his formative years, Thomson was equally good at soccer and cricket. He chose cricket because soccer involved far more rigorous training sessions.

10. During a friendly soccer competition called Protestant Churches League, Thomson was unhappy with several decisions by the referee and ended up punching him. He was banned.

11. The first time he came across Dennis Lillee, Thomson bounced him – even though teammate Doug Walters had specifically told him not to do anything of the sort. When he sledged Lillee after bowling him a snorter, Walters, standing at covers, went white as a sheet.

12. Thomson worked for a year and a half in the Commonwealth Bank, Willey Park Branch. During his tenure, he faced a hold up by two men with sawn off shotguns.

13. When Colin Cowdrey was brought in at the age of 42 as reinforcement for the battered England side, Thomson reacted with the words, “He’ll cop it as quick as anyone.”

14. During the 1975 World Cup match against Sri Lanka, Thomson maimed Duleep Mendis and Sunil Wettimuny. After the match, at the Lord’s Tavern, Ian Chappell introduced him as ‘The Ambassador to Sri Lanka’

15. In the 1975 World Cup final, with Australia nine down, the crowd rushed in after a catch off a no ball thinking the game was over. The throw went awry and Lillee and Thomson ran as many as they could with the crowd on the pitch. When umpire Tom Spencer said they would get two, Thomson’s reaction was, “Pig’s arse! We’ve been running up and down here all afternoon.” Eventually they got three.

16. When grey haired and bespectacled David Steele came in to bat for England in 1975 at Lord’s, Thomson asked, “Who’s this? Bloody Father Christmas?”

17. Artist Rosemary Taylor used a dramatic side view of Thomson for one of her impressionist canvases, and rear view for another.

18. Ian Woolridge of Daily Mail created the fictional Pom-hating fast bowler TerrorTomkins based on Thomson

19. When he coached youngsters, Thomson told them to use the width of the crease. However, he did not bother with that himself. “I’m lucky. I can do all that with the flick of a wrist.”

20. Struck down by severe injury that was almost career ending, Thomson spent painful days in the hospital. Whenever wife Cheryl visited him, he used to cry out, “Where’s the double bed?”

21. In the last line of Thomson’s biography Thommo David Frith wrote, “Thommo bowling medium pace .. is like Ned Kelly playing with a  popgun.”

22. Thomson’s binding advice to cricketers ran, “Never refuse a young boy an autograph for he might have an older sister.”

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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