Greg Dyer, the wicket-keeper of the 1987 World Cup-winning Australia team, was born on March 16, 1959. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a career that met an abrupt end due to an unethical on-field act.
For a man who had played six Tests and 23 ODIs with rather ordinary records (131 runs at 21.83, 22 catches, and two stumpings in Tests, and 174 runs at 15.81, 24 catches, and 4 stumpings in ODIs), Greg Dyer has managed to etch his name in the history of Australian cricket almost permanently.
Australian cricket underwent a significant transition in the 1980s, especially since the departure of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee, and Rodney Marsh. With time, they did find out champion batsmen like David Boon, Dean Jones, Mark Taylor, and Steve Waugh (they already had Allan Border), and quality bowlers like Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, and Bruce Reid.
The wicket-keeper’s slot, however, was something to worry about: since Rod Marsh put down his gloves, they had tried out people like Wayne Phillips, Tim Zoehrer, and Steve Rixon. There were also talks to bring back the Tasmanian Roger Woolley.
It was under these circumstances that Dyer made it to the Australian side. He was a member of the New South Wales side that won consecutive Sheffield Shield titles, and had led the state side on a trip to Zimbabwe. He found a spot in the Australian tour of India as a deputy to Zoehrer. He made his debut in the shorter format, replacing Zoehrer against India at Hyderabad. He did not get a chance to bat on his debut.
In his second ODI at Delhi, though, he came out to join Steve Waugh with the score at 136 for six. Waugh and Dyer went on to go past Gary Cosier and Rixon’s 73 against West Indies at St John’s in 1977-78, and set a new seventh-wicket partnership record for Australia. They added an unbeaten 102 in 55 minutes, with Dyer scoring 45 in 43 balls. The record stood till 2005-06 when Michael Hussey and Brett Lee added 123.
After being kept out by Zoehrer for the Test series, Dyer finished the tour on a high, scoring his only First-Class hundred (106) in a tour match against Delhi, adding 175 for the seventh wicket with Dave Gilbert.
His aggressive style of batting and lithe movements behind the stumps made him the second-wicket-keeper of Australia, and won him a Test cap later that season at Adelaide during the Ashes, once again at the cost of Zoehrer, who was nursing a shoulder injury. In a high-scoring Test, Australia declared both their innings closed, and just like his ODI debut, Dyer did not get a chance to bat. Zoehrer was back for the next Test.
World Cup 1987
Dyer was selected for the 1987 World Cup. With Phillips out of contention now, it was a two-way battle between Zoehrer and Dyer, which the latter managed to win. The Australians were at most outside contenders, but they made it to final through some intelligent bowling, supreme running-between-the-wickets, superlative fielding, and inspired leadership from Border and Bobby Simpson. Dyer did not score a lot of runs, but kept wickets soundly throughout the World Cup, including four catches in the semi-final against Pakistan.
In the final at Eden Gardens, Australia had managed to put up 253 for five in their stipulated 50 overs, thanks to a resolute 75 from Boon and a late-order blitz by Mike Veletta. In response, England were cruising along at 135 for two, with both Bill Athey and Mike Gatting looking set, and determined to see England to victory.
Border had brought himself on to bowl. In a moment’s folly that had later gone on to become the subject of ridicule for cricket fans all over the world, Gatting — possibly the most unfit player in the England camp – knelt and attempted a reverse-sweep in a momentary lapse of concentration.
The ball pitched on the off-stump; it took Gatting’s top edge, hit his shoulder, and ballooned up in the air, only to land safely in a running Dyer’s gloves. England never recovered, and ended up losing the final by seven runs. It remains one of the most iconic dismissals in the history of the tournament, and eventually went on to shape Australian cricket over the next quarter of a century.
Dyer returned to Australia as a hero, and was immediately selected ahead of Zoehrer for the Test series against New Zealand. He began well, taking six catches at Brisbane, and scoring a career-best 87-ball 60 against Richard Hadlee at Adelaide. It was in the third and final Test of the series at Melbourne, though, that he made it to the headlines.
After Tony Dodemaide had removed Phil Horne early, John Wright and Andrew Jones settled down, adding 87 for the second wicket. Then, McDermott steamed in, Jones shuffled towards the off-stump, and seemed to leg-glance. Dyer dived to his left, and came up with what seemed like an excellent catch down the leg-side.
Tony Crafter walked up to Dick Hughes, and between them, they ruled Jones out. Television replays, however, revealed that Dyer had spilled the ball, let it hit the ground, and had then used his gloves to scoop it out of the ground before he had gone on to appeal. For once Bill Lawry and Tony Greig seemed to agree on air.
The end of a career
The fraudulent claim of the caught-behind went on to mar Dyer’s reputation to a severe extent. He was in and out of the side for the rest of the season, playing more ODIs and Tests, and the final nail in the coffin was dug when Ian Healy appeared on the scenario, sealing Dyer’s chances for good.
It seemed that Australia were really keen on replacing Dyer when Healy made his debut after only six First-Class matches. Dyer had scored 38 and had taken six catches in his last Test against Sri Lanka, but his it wasn’t enough for redemption. Within a year the board managed to ostracise him even from First-Class Cricket at the age of 29 while still leading New South Wales.
He later played Masters’ Cricket, playing two matches against West Indies Masters and England Masters. He was younger than most players in the tournament, and was only 36 — and the matches were played when Border was still playing domestic cricket.
Once his cricket career was over, Dyer shifted to the corporate sector and worked in a wide assortment of industries. He held key positions in companies spread over three continents.
In 2011 Dyer replaced Michael Kasprowicz as the President of the Australia Cricketers’ Association, leading a panel comprising of George Bailey, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Darren Lehmann, Marcus North, and Lisa Sthalekar. Upon his appointment, Dyer has proposed and executed several significant changes for ACA.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/