walters

Kevin Douglas Walters, born December 21, 1945, is a former Australian cricketer who represented his country in 74 Tests and 28 ODIs between 1965 and 1981. A right-handed batsman and a handy medium-pace bowler, Walters was quite a character both on and off the field. A fans’ favourite and a crowd-pleaser, Walters was invariably cool and composed in his behaviour. He played a big part in many Australian wins during his career with his quick scoring, crucial breakthroughs and brilliant fielding. On his 70th birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 25 facts from the life of the cricketer, who his best known for his infectious personality and indomitable spirit.

1. Early days

Walters was born at Marshdale, Dungog, a tiny town 250 kms north of Sydney in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The standard of cricket there was a akin to England’s village green. The quality of turfs was not even remotely close to the ones at SCG or Lord’s. But Walters learnt his cricket there and still made it to the Australian team.

2. Cricketing family

Everybody in the Walters family played cricket. Doug’s father too was quite keen on his cricket. Both his brothers pursued cricket and one of them — Terry — played for the NSW Colts. Even his mother and sister played cricket in the local women’s league in Dungog.

3. Fearless First-Class debut

Fans got an early taste of the Dungog-born all-rounder Walters when he debuted for NSW against Queensland in Sheffield Shield 1962-63. At a tender age of 17, Walters, batting at No. 7, scored a fearless 50 in the second innings against an attack that included Wes Hall.

4. Memorable Test debut

Walters made his debut at the age of 19 during the first Test of Ashes 1965. Coming in to bat at No. 6 with score reading 4 for 125, Walters scored 155, thus becoming only the ninth Australian to score a century on his debut. He added 187 runs with Bill Lawry for the fifth wicket and added another 119 with Tom Veivers for the sixth wicket. In particularly testing circumstances, Walters confirmed his class by his mature batting. In the next Test, he scored 115 and announced his arrival in style. Walters, thus, became the second batsman to score hundreds in his first two Tests, after Bill Ponsford.

5. Army

Walters was being conscripted to the Army in his youthful prime. He was denied an opportunity to tour South Africa in 1966-67 when he was ordered two years of National Service training, although effectively being exempted from Vietnam service in order to pursue his professional, cricketing career in Australia. It wasn’t until 1968 that he returned to the Test arena. He never had any grudges of missing out on cricket due to Army commitments, as he once said, “As for my conscription into the army, I don’t think it had any great effect on me — I was playing some of my best cricket as soon as I came out”.

6. Double-ton and a century in the same Test

Walters became the first player to score a double hundred and a century in the same Test. The feat came in the year 1969 when he scored a superb 242 and 103 against the West Indies at the SCG.

7. Hundred in one session

With his instinctive and aggressive batting, Walters brought up centuries in a session thrice in Test cricket; Most famously once when he smacked the last ball of the day from Bob Willis for six at the WACA in 1974-75.

8. Test average better than the First-Class average

Walters played 258 First-Class matches and scored over 16,000 runs at 43.84. He had a better Test average though, as he got 5,357 runs from 74 Tests at 48.26.

9. Bowler

Also a decent bowler, Walters ended his Test-career with 49 wickets; just one short of 50 wickets-5,000 run double. He would often deliver breakthroughs at crucial junctures in a match, when his team needed him the most.

10. Statistical enigma

Walters’ record in England is a statistical enigma; this despite him scoring an accomplished 81 and 86 on his debut in England at Manchester. In 17 further Tests on English soil, he averaged 21.4. However, in every other country round the world — Australia, West Indies, India, South Africa — he averaged 56.24. Walters toured England four times but never got a Test hundred.

11. World Series Cricket

Walters was a regular member of the Australian team until 1977, when he joined Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket and was subsequently out of international cricket due to suspension. A surprise recall against India in 1980-81 got him back to the international fold.

12. Card games

Walters used to indulge in card games with the matches being played simultaneously. It is famously said of him that his card games were often interrupted by fall of wickets. In fact, Walters believed that it was his late-night socialising over a beer or two, not training too hard and enjoying a card game and a smoke that enabled him to average 48.26 in Test cricket.

13. Deadpan humour

Walters was also renowned for his deadpan humour. There are famous incidents of his serious humour, one of them from Ian Chappell’s book Passing Tests goes like this: During one of Australia’s West Indies tours, Walters announced before a game in Guyana that he needed some practice. Players expressed shock and some quick glances were exchanged. A nonchalant Walters proceeded to pick up a dart and throw it at a board on the dressing room wall. “I’m loose,’’ he said, deadpan.

14. Anecdote I

During the Australia and World XI Test in Perth in 1971, Walters’ friend and former Test wicketkeeper Brian Taber was in town. Taber planned to take Walters to a dinner — a quiet meal and a few beers. Ian Chappell got wind of the plan and told Taber, “Now Tabsy, look after our little mate. He might have to bat tomorrow.” Well, Tabsy forgot all about taking care of Walters and left the party round 3 am. Walters was still there, enjoying a cold one or two. When the host decided it was time to wind up, he accompanied the diminutive batsman outside. They were greeted by bright sunlight.

“Gee, it’s still light. I guess I’d better get back to the pub and some sleep, I’ve got to bat tomorrow.”

“No, Doug,” the host corrected him. “You’ve got to bat today!”

Doug got back to his hotel around 8am. He sidled up to the receptionist and said, “Can I have an early call for 8.30, please?”

“Oh, that will be 8.30 tonight, sir?”

“No, young lady, I mean 8.30 this morning. I have to play cricket later today and you don’t want me to turn up to the game without having had any sleep, do you?”

15. Anecdote II

Walters was always late to bed and late to rise. He would stay up late in the night and involve himself into his favourite pastimes but sleep. Once Chappell reprimanded him for oversleeping and made him stand at the third-man fielding position all day. The skipper made him change ends around the ground after every over. Walters came out with a rather surprising way to avoid getting tired. Out of nowhere, he borrowed a spectator’s bike to ride from third-man at each end after every over. This left his team-mates in splits and his captain speechless.

Note: The same is said about English County legend Keith Pont, who bicycled across the ground while fielding for Essex during a match against Derbyshire in 1972.

16. Richie Benaud

Benaud was a father-figure to Walters and had a profound impact on him. “My father died during my first Test series, and he was only 50. So Richie became a second father. I miss him, and I’m sure everybody misses Richie,” he once told to Sunshine Coast Daily in an interview.

17. Comparisons

Just like Ian Craig and Norman O’Neill before him, Walters was compared to Bradman early in his career. He piled up huge runs and probably that earned him the comparison with the great man. However, he was not perturbed at being heralded as “another Bradman”. Comparisons were also being drawn between former skipper Michael Clarke and Walters, probably because both had a short frame, similar back-lift and perhaps because both scored hundreds on their respective Test debuts.

18. Cigarettes

Walters would puff on more than 50 cigarettes during his playing days. It didn’t matter whether he scored a hundred or a duck, he would get back to the dressing room, remove his baggy green and gloves and light a cigarette. Later on in life, his good friend Jack Newton suggested him a laser treatment that helped him get rid of the habit, which according to him turned out to be one of his greatest achievements. He once said, “For a lot of my life if I slept in and went to bed very early I was down to 50 (cigarettes a day), I climbed up a little bit higher than 50 on most occasions. I am still alive so I must feel better for giving up smoking.’’ He later estimated that he had smoked 785,300 cigarettes in his life.

19. Doug Walters stand

Cricket Australia honoured him by naming a stand at the SCG after him. The Doug Walters Stand (opened 1985, demolished 2007) was named after him. There is currently a bar in the Victor Trumper Stand named after him.

20. The Doug Walters World XI

In 2014, Walters named his World XI of players he’d ever played against. His XI had no player from India or Pakistan, though Bishan Bedi was 12th man of his team. Walters’ World XI: Geoff Boycott, Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd (c), Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Richard Hadlee, Andy Roberts, Derek Underwood, Bishan Bedi (12th man).

21. What Dennis Lillee had to say about him

“There will never be another like him. I never saw him throw a bat, never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He was so cool.”

22. Anecdote III

On one occasion, Walters’ famous humour backfired. A few days before the Brisbane Test against West Indies in November 1968, Walters had to undergo a fitness test. He had strained a hamstring in a lead-up match for NSW, but as it was only a slight strain he was confident he’d be right for the big game. For the fitness test, he spent at least three hours on the track, batting, bowling and fielding. When a doctor came up to him after training and asked how things were going, he felt really good, but he made the fatal mistake of saying, ‘Well, so long as I don’t have to open the bowling for Australia I’ll be right for the Test match.’ The old doctor smiled. Next thing Walters heard the doctor had rung the NSW Cricket Association and told them that Walters indicated that he was not fit enough to open the bowling. “I cannot pass him fit to play.”

As a result, Walters had to miss the first Test. In the second Test, he hit 76 at MCG and went on to score a Bradmanesque 699 runs at 116.50 in the four games he played in the series, including the 242 and 103 in the final Test.

23. MBE and other accolades

Walters received an MBE for his service to the game of cricket.In 2011, he was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame along with 33 other cricket legends.

24. Stuff beyond cricket

Walters was a Channel Nine cricket commentator in the 1987-88 season. In 1988, he wrote One for the Road, a combination of stories and anecdotes from his early and later cricketing days. He later co-wrote a book, The Entertainers, with Mark Waugh in 1999.

25. Personal life

After retirement, Walters settled in Sydney. He currently resides in the same city with his wife Caroline.

(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)