Colin McDonald: a cricket warrior tells his story
Now 80 not out, Scotch cricket hero Colin McDonald has published his memoirs.
WORDS: Mr Tim Shearer Photography: Ms Kathryn Cairney
‘In an era when the fast bowlers seemed to become faster, the spinners fewer and the lot of the opening batsman tougher, Victorian right-hander Colin McDonald took it all without fuss. He handled Trueman and Statham, Tyson, Miller and Lindwall, Hall, and the South Africans Adcock and Heine.
‘On eight occasions McDonald shared opening stands of more than 100 runs in Tests, and five times scored a Test century himself. Often at his best when the conditions were hardest, McDonald made a valuable contribution to Australia’s rise to power in the late 1950s through his ability to blunt an attack and pick up a few runs himself.’ Cricket Victoria website
Colin McDonald was a cricket warrior noted for his skill, grit, steel and honesty. Fifty years ago he was world cricket’s number one ranked batsman, having made back-to-back Ashes centuries against old enemy England.
Central to Australia’s world championship teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s, McDonald excelled in an age of no helmets and little protective gear, exhibiting bravery and considerable skill in combating the furious pace of noted internationals from Wes Hall, Peter Heine and Neil Adcock through to the English expresses ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, Brian Statham and Freddie Trueman. He also played in the wonderful tied Test, the greatest cricket match of them all.
Colin, now 80 not out, has just published his memoirs, CC – the Colin McDonald Story, and Colin was delighted and honoured to launch the book at an OSCA luncheon on 4 September.
Not only is ‘C.C.’ the behind-the-scenes story of an illustrious cricket career, it also tells of his pivotal role in building the fabulous National Tennis Centre, now so much a part of Melbourne town. His inspirational captain Richie Benaud provides the foreword. The pair made their Test match debuts together at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1952, and toured England three times, as well as the West Indies, South Africa, India and Pakistan, McDonald averaging near on 40 in 10 years, going in first for his country.
Colin McDonald attended Scotch from 1942 to 1946 and left the school with a distinguished cricketing and academic record. He was Vice-Captain of the school in 1946. He then pursued his dream and represented Australia in 47 Test matches between 1952 and 1961. Playing in the days of uncovered wickets and during an age that saw increasing use of the bouncer, Colin McDonald faced the fastest bowlers of his time with great courage.
Colin played 192 first class matches between 1947-48 and 1962-63, scoring 11,375 runs at 40.48, including 24 centuries. In his 47 Test matches, he scored 3,107 runs at 39.32, with five centuries. He played in two premierships with Melbourne Cricket Club – in 1948-49 and 1958-59 – and although he retired from cricket in 1962/63, Colin later played for Brighton in the Sub-District competition. Colin later became a respected ABC cricket commentator and, in his time as executive director of Tennis Australia, was a central figure in the establishment of Flinders Park as the new home of the Australian Open.
Colin recently returned to Scotch, where Great Scot interviewed him about his time at Scotch, his international cricket career and his take on the current Australian cricket team.
What are your first memories of Scotch College?
I came to Scotch in Remove A in 1942 after two happy years at Malvern Central. I knew a bit about the school, as my brother Ian had attended on a scholarship from 1936 to 1940. Ian was a prefect, played in the 1st XI and had a most distinguished academic record at Scotch. What was my first impression? I loved the place. There was so much on offer in terms of the teaching and facilities. I was already hooked on cricket but I also enjoyed my football, playing centre in the 1st XVIII, and the academic side of things.
Who do you remember from your schooldays?
I made many wonderful friends at school, some of who are still with us today and some of whom aren’t: Mike Fitchett, an outstanding sportsman; Jim Robison who played football for Hawthorn and Victoria; Scotty McLeish who went on to become a great surgeon of note; Berty Hoskin and Peter Gaunt sadly are no longer with us, neither is Woodsie Lloyd, who became a top judge and QC, and was a great friend.
Which staff members do you remember?
Of course I remember Colin McDonald Gilray (or ‘Tongue’ Gilray), who was a shy man. He was a strict man, probably due to his shyness, and a good headmaster; Frank Nankervis, Arthur ‘Noso’ Boyes, Alan ‘Stonk’ Ross, ‘Hoppy’ Waller, ‘FAF’ Fleming, Alec ‘Tiger’ Lyne and many other wonderful characters come to mind.
Where did your love of cricket come from?
It really started at home. My mother’s first cousin was Keith Rigg who played seven or eight Tests for Australia in the 1930s. My mother’s father was a cricket fanatic, as was my father. Many happy hours were spent at home playing in the back garden.
What was your best schoolboy innings?
I played for three years in the 1st XI against the other five APS schools of the day. The season was considerably shorter than it is today, and I was fortunate to make eight hundreds in my 15 APS matches. Seven of these came in my last two years at school.
However, my best innings was not one of these eight centuries. It was an innings of 40 to 50 against Wesley on a mudheap of a wicket to win the game. Their attack included Barry Stevens, a great bowler who went on to represent the Melbourne Cricket Club and Victoria.
Who were some of your most respected opponents at other APS schools at the time?
John ‘Jack’ Cordner at Melbourne Grammar, who went on to play at Melbourne University and Victoria was an outstanding bowler. John Chambers at Geelong College, who later played for Hawthorn and Victoria, and Jeff Hallebone at Geelong College (South Melbourne and Victoria) were also outstanding cricketers. Bruce Vauser at Melbourne Grammar was also a respected opponent.
Who coached you at Scotch?
What do you recall about your first Test match for Australia?
It was against the West Indies at Sydney from 25 to 29 January in 1952 and I was the 191st player to represent Australia. Jim Mather from the Sydney Daily Mirror reported the event as such: ‘The two underbaked undergraduates from the Melbourne University replace the overbaked Jack Moroney and Arthur Morris, who are unavailable for the fifth Test match due to start at the SCG tomorrow. It is expected that Stodge and Splodge (George Thoms) will open the innings for Australia.’
The game was also notable for being Richie Benaud’s first Test match. The West Indies were a strong team and boasted Worrell, Stollmeyer, Valentine and Goddard, among others. It was hot and humid and the uncovered wicket was sticky. We were all out for 116 and I top scored with 32. Stodge and Splodge put on 39 for the first wicket! We then bowled the West Indies out for 78, with 19 wickets falling in the first day’s play. The wicket recovered in the second innings and I made 62. Keith Miller top scored with 69 of our 377, and we won easily.
Jim Mather reflected in the following day’s Daily Mirror: ‘The only thing which came from the fifth Test match which ended at the SCG yesterday was the promising debut of young Richie Benaud.’
What was your most memorable innings?
It would have to be in the fourth Test v England at Manchester in 1956 when I made 89. Jim Laker took 19 wickets for the match on a dustbowl of a wicket designed with Laker and Lock in mind.
What were your most memorable Test match performances?
In the fourth Test against England in 1958/59 at Adelaide I made my highest score, 170. In the second Test against England in 1956 Jim Burke and I had an opening stand of 137, of which I made 78. Making 91 in front of 90,800 people at the MCG in the fifth Test against the West Indies in 1961 is also fondly recalled. Of course, the famous tied Test with the West Indies in 1960/61 will always be remembered.
Who was the best captain that you played under?
Without doubt, Richie Benaud. He was enthusiastic; he knew the game backwards. All the players loved him. Of course, he was a fine all-rounder. He was a very good cricketer who made all his own luck.
Who do you admire in today’s cricket?
Of late you can’t go past Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath. I admired Steve Waugh’s courage and the captaincy of Mark Taylor.
Why write the book?
I wanted to put my honours in English expression at school to use! It has taken years to put together, and being retired it is important to keep the brain active. It was a rewarding process, putting the thoughts of the different parts of my life together. GS