bob-simpson

Born February 3, 1936, Robert Baddeley Bobby Simpson is a former captain and coach of the Australian cricket team, who represented his country for over two decades. A right-handed batsman and a leg-spinner, Simpson was an inspirational figure in the team for most part of his career. Both as the captain and the coach of Australia, he was extremely successful and took the team to unprecedented heights. He is often regarded as the saviour of Australian cricket for his act of coming out of retirement to lead a depleted side in the 1970s. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 15 facts from the life of the cricketer, who was also an infallible fielder in the slips.

1. Scottish descent: Simpson was as born in Sydney, New South Wales, in a family of Scottish descent. His father Jock was a printer and a professional soccer player with Stenhousemuir in the Scottish League, while his mother hailed from Falkirk, in Stirlingshire, from where they migrated to Australia.

2. Sports-nut: His elder brothers Bill and Jack, who played in first division Sydney Grade Cricket, encouraged Simpson to pursue cricket. But as a youngster, he was also adept at golf, baseball, soccer squash and tennis. However, it was cricket where his true calling was, as he started playing the game professionally. At 12, he was representing New South Wales in the Under-14 Competition and a week after turning 15, he was playing for Petersham’s first XI in Sydney Grade Cricket after hitting string of centuries in the under-16 competition.

3. First-Class debut: At 16 years and 354 days, Simpson made his First-Class debut for New South Wales (NSW), thus becoming the second-youngest cricketer to make his debut for the state after his team-mate Ian Craig. On his arrival to the dressing-room, legendary cricketer and the then vice-captain of the Australian team Arthur Morris had famously asked him where his nappies were.

4. Slip fielder: During his tenure for NSW, an incident occurred which went on to shape one of Simpson s finest aspects of cricket. He came out as a substitute fielder in one of the matches, and NSW captain Keith Miller told him to stand at the slips instead of the outfield, which is supposed to be the traditional territory of substitute fielders. Simpson took two outstanding catches that day, and never looked back. By the time he retired from the game for good, he had set a new world record of 110 catches.

5. Move to Western Australia: In Simpson s playing days, cricketers were not completely professional and had other primary occupations. In 1957-58, he moved to Perth from Sydney and started playing for Western Australia. He not only switched cities and state teams, but also made a career change, from accounting with the Sydney Water Board to journalism, having been given a newspaper editorial post with the Daily News in Perth. As a matter of fact, it was the lucrative job offer that forced him to make the move. Soon he was named the captain of his new team.

6. Debut: Some consistent performances for his new side earned him his maiden call-up for the 1957-58 tour of South Africa to the young Australian team that was derided as the worst to leave Australian shores. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell once famously suggested that Simpson was included “mainly for his catching. It turned out to be a rather ordinary debut, but he impressed everyone with his superlative slip fielding (he took 13 catches).

7. Opener: Another incident that had a huge impact on his career was Simpson s chance encounter with another Australian legend Neil Harvey, who famously told him after Jim Burke s retirement in 1959 to open the innings. “Why don’t you open? Opening is going to be a problem for Australia.” Simpson, who had been batting at No. 3 or 4 for Western Australia, took the suggestion and in five First-Class matches before going to New Zealand, he scored 902 in six innings at a staggering average of 300.66. In New Zealand, where he also opened in the four representative matches, Simpson scored 418 runs at an average of 69.66. Once again, as clich d as it may sound, but he never looked back.

8. Captaincy of Australia: With the retirements of Harvey and Alan Davidson and injury to Richie Benaud, Simpson found himself in the leadership role for the second Test against South Africa at Melbourne in 1963-64. At the end of the series, Benaud retired and Simpson was appointed as the captain of the team. At the time Simpson had scored only 1,246 runs at 32.78 and taken 22 wickets at 39.40 in 23 Tests and had not scored a century. He went on to lead Australia in all of his remaining 39 career-Tests.

9. Long wait for first hundred: Although he made his Test debut in 1957 against South Africa, he had to wait for another 51 innings for his maiden century. He did end the drought in style, scoring 311 against England in 1964. It is still one of the longest periods for a batsman to take to get his first Test hundred.

10. Controversy: Before Kerry Packer s World Series Cricket brought huge money into the game, Simpson had introduced new alternative ways of income for the cricketers. He got sponsors for the Australian team on board and made both Australian and West Indian cricketers to endorse products like shampoos and deodorants. In his book A Captain s Story , Simpson wrote somewhat harshly on chuckers . Ian Meckiff, whose career had ended prematurely due to the same reason, sued Simpson. There was a five-year long litigation that was finally settled by Simpson apologising to Meckiff and settling things out of court.

11. Retirement and comeback: Simpson retired from the game in 1968 after playing 52 Tests. However, after Pecker s World Series Cricket severely depleted the Australian team in the late 1970s, Simpson made a surprising comeback, almost a decade after playing his last game, as the Australian captain at the age of 42. The series against India that followed was a roller coaster ride, where Simpson led Australia to a 3-2 win. He scored 539 runs at 53.90, taking four wickets, six catches and scoring two hundreds, thus becoming the oldest Australian to score a Test hundred at home. He played another series against the West Indies, which the latter won 3-1. Simpson had a disastrous tour himself, and though he as well as his young team wanted him to lead the home Ashes next year, the Australian Cricket Board replaced him with Graham Yallop.

12. Played post-captaincy: Simpson is one of those few Australian players who played under someone else s leadership after quitting captaincy. Simpson played his farewell Tests under Bill Lawry during the 1967-68 series against India. The other such players are Benaud, who played three Tests under Simpson; Ricky Ponting, who played under Michael Clarke; Ian Chappell played under his brother Greg, who later played post-captaincy under Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop, who played under Greg Chappell and Hughes.

13. Coaching: Just like he came out of retirement to lead his team, Simpson once again took the charge of an inexperienced team led by Allan Border by becoming their coach in 1986. He transformed a demoralised team into world beaters when Australia lifted the 1987 World Cup in India. A thumping 4-0 Ashes win on the English soil soon followed, where Australia regained the urn. The final feather in his cap was when Australia finally overcame West Indies by winning the Frank Worrell Trophy. He wanted to leave on a high note by winning the 1996 World Cup, but his side lost in the final to Sri Lanka and Simpson passed on the baton to Geoff Marsh.

He also served as a consultant to the Indian cricket team in the late 1990s. In the later years, he took up coaching assignments with various teams including Leicestershire and Lancashire in English county and Netherlands. In late 2004, Simpson accepted a three-year contract to act as a cricket advisor to Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy.

14. Honours: Simpson was announced as the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1965 and inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985. He was also inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2006 and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2013. For his services to the game of cricket, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1978 and upgraded to Officer of the order in 2007. Simpson received an Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and a Centenary Medal in 2001.

15. Life beyond cricket: Simpson is married and has two daughters. Former Australian cricketer Andrew Hilditch, who played 18 Tests and 8 ODIs for his country, is Simpson s son-in-law. He also held a public relations post with the cigarette and tobacco firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills of Australia after retiring from the game.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)