Doug Walters — the first man in history to score a double century and a century in the same Test © Getty Images
Doug Walters — the first man in history to score a double-century and a century in the same Test © Getty Images

Doug Walters, born December 21, 1945, was one of the most talented batsmen of all time. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the greatest characters to have played the sport.

Perth, 1974. The Australian fast bowlers had already reduced England to 208. When Doug Walters came out to bat, the Australians were 192 for 4. Walters, who had walked in to bat just before tea, was unbeaten on 3 at break. In the final session, he launched himself with a vengeance on the hapless English bowling attack in a display of batting at its exhilarating best. He had reached 97 with one ball to go for stumps. Bob Willis bounced, Walters hooked and the ball soared over square-leg for a six. Walters had managed to score a hundred in a session!


Walters was a man of such stature: diminutive, cheeky and amazingly versatile as a batsman, he always accepted any challenge thrown at him. Additionally, he was a voracious smoker (he has eventually quit after an estimated 785,300 cigarettes — he claimed he maintained a count), drinker and gambler, and was known for breaking all sorts of bedtime rules set by the team management, always making it up on the field the next day.

He was no ordinary cricketer. A total of 5,357 Test runs at 48.26 (significantly higher than his First-Class average of 43.84) from 74 Tests did not come easily. Furthermore, he was a genuine partnership-breaker with his medium-paced bowling, picking up 49 wickets at 29.08. But sheer numbers do not reflect the charisma, the charm Walters brought to the sport. And yet, he was never seen misbehaving on or off the field, or throw the bat after a dubious umpiring decision.

His Test career took off to a spectacular start. Making his debut in an Ashes Test at Brisbane, Walters smashed 155 (thereby invoking comparisons to Bradman) and followed it with 115 at MCG, thereby becoming only the first batsman since Bill Ponsford to score hundreds in his first 2 Tests. He became such an instant star that when David Sincock walked out as night-watchman at Sydney ahead of Walters, he was greeted with a thunderous applause: a perplexed Sincock saw Walters’ name being up on the official scoreboard.

He followed these shortly with a run of 6 fifties in 7 innings, including 81 and 86 at Old Trafford in his first Test on English soil. However, his subsequent English adventures were not as fruitful: in his four tours to the antipodean arch rivals Walters managed only 745 runs from 18 Tests at a rather pedestrian 25.68 without a single hundred. The South African tour of 1969-70 also saw him batting helplessly against the pace and bounce of Peter Pollock and Mike Procter, often ducking with his bat held upright, eyes averted. John Snow found him equally helpless in the 1970-71 Ashes.

However, other than these glitches, Walters was a success everywhere, especially against West Indies. In the home series against them he had 4 hundreds in 4 Tests, scoring 699 runs at 116.50. This included 242 and 103 at Sydney, where he became the first cricketer ever to score a double-hundred and a hundred in the same Test.

Later, in the West Indian tour of 1972-73 he continued his supreme form. He scored 2 two hundreds and 2 fifties; this included his famous 112 at Port-of-Spain, where Lance Gibbs attacked him on a turning track with three short-legs. Walters responded with a hundred between lunch and tea, cutting and pulling with tremendous power. He finished the tour with 497 runs at 71. He also took 5 for 66 at Georgetown for good measure. With a restriction of 1,000 runs, his overall career average of 92 was the best by anyone against West Indies in the 20th century.

In other words, Walters was indomitable. You simply could not put him down. He was once reprimanded by Ian Chappell for oversleeping. Chappell had ordered him to field at third man all day, making him run to the opposite corners of the ground after every over. Only Walters knows from how he had procured a bicycle from the spectators all day to make his travels easy.

When there were rumours that Walters’ career had come to an end, he fought back with a spectacular unbeaten 250 — still the highest score by an Australian in New Zealand and the highest score by anyone batting at No. 6 — at Christchurch, adding a phenomenal 217 for the seventh wicket with Gary Gilmour.

His dry sense of humour was also well-known. When dropped from the side for poor batting at The Oval in 1972 (which, incidentally, meant that Australia were fielding a side without a New South Wales player for the first time), he retaliated in typical Doug Walters fashion: “Beauty! I won’t have to be up early for nets!”

He once ended a typical whirlwind innings with a horrible stroke. When cornered by the manager Ray Steele, Walters retorted with the words “it was an attempted lofted drive forced on me by the ball dropping quickly in flight”.

He was heckled and bombarded with stones and bottles in both Bombay and Calcutta for the simple reason that he was scheduled to fight against Vietnam; in reality he went only up to Queensland. He once hooked a no-ball, got caught off a no-ball and found that the umpire had withdrawn his call. But his humour remained unflappable. There was not a single outburst.

To come back to where the article had started: Returning to the dressing room after reaching a hundred in a session, Walters found it completely vacant. Then Ian Chappell strode out of the showers and criticised him for getting out in the last ball attempting a risky shot for a personal milestone. Walters was dumbfounded when everyone walked out and broke into an infectious laughter.

You can almost see him; for once on the receiving end of the joke, breaking into a shy smile for once, the quintessential cigarette dangling from his lips, preparing for a long, long night of many rounds of beer and cribbage ahead of him.

Walters was unperturbed, as always. Even when he retired after being dropped from the 1981 Ashes; he was not designed to react in any other way.

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in.)