Alan Davidson Biography
Alan Davidson’s role in reshaping Australian cricket makes remarkable reading. After he became the frontline pace bowler of Australia from the South African tour of 1957-58, he missed just one game for the country.
Of the 32 Tests he played in this period Australia won 16 and lost just four. In the 33 Tests played from 1957-58 till the 1962-63 Ashes, Davidson (170 wickets) and Richie Benaud (163) combined to pick up as many as 333 wickets between them. The figures are especially remarkable if one considers that in the first four years of Davidson’s career, Australia won none and lost seven of the 12 matches he played in.
The contribution of Davidson takes on even more striking proportions when one remembers that after his retirement, Australia won six and lost eight of the next 30 Tests.
Davidson was a master of pace, swing and cut, and yet controlled and accurate enough to end with an economy of less than two. According to the analysis of Ted Dexter, “Unlike the moderns who rush through the crease, ‘Davo’ made a full turn, getting his front foot close to the stumps and then making a full body rotation. Swing and cut were a natural result. So he had good control, which accounts for his excellent career stats.”
One of the main reasons of his rather ordinary figures during the initial part of his career was perhaps limited opportunity to swing the new ball with the likes of Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall around.
According to Dexter, Davidson could have been a frontline Test batsman as well, possessing all the strokes and a good technique. “Not the man you wanted to see coming in at No. 8 when the bowlers are tired.”
Finally, his incredible reflexes and agility made him an acrobatic and dangerous close-in fielder. It was Miller who gave him the nickname ‘Claw’, when he dived from the second slip to pluck a catch off his boot even as Miller was on his way down from the first slip. Legend has it that as a boy on the farm, Davidson used to throw green oranges as high as he could before running after it and catching it. If the orange hit the ground it would have squished and burst — and the desperation to prevent that is supposed to have made him into a superlative catcher.
Benaud did not have any doubt that Davidson was one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the game. Neither did too many others. Along with Wasim Akram, he is the greatest of all left-arm pace bowlers who have graced the game of cricket.
While the world has perhaps not rejoiced in Davidson as much as his feats deserved, he remains an icon in his own state. Davidson has lent his name to grounds across New South Wales which host cricket, Australian football and rugby. The schools in New South Wales compete for the Alan Davidson Shield. He was inducted into the International Cricket Council Hall of Fame in 2011.
It was Don Bradman who perhaps paid him the finest compliment. In the foreword to Davidson’s autobiography Fifteen Paces Bradman wrote, “Great players are either performers or entertainers. Davidson was both.”