Fifty Years on: Reminiscences of The 1965 Caribbean Tour
by Laurie Mayne
The 1960-61 West Indian tour of Australia reinvigorated Test cricket as no other international series before or since. Scintillating and tense cricket combined with great sportsmanship and huge crowds helped to create an epic competition between two evenly-matched teams. The illustrious happenings of that series captured the public’s imagination and placed cricket firmly on the front and back pages of the daily newspapers. However, with dour and lacklustre international cricket returning even as the West Indians were leaving Australian shores, season 1960-61 is now recognised as something of an Indian summer.
Yet for an aggressive young fast bowler from the Western Australian wheat belt region of Westonia, the 1960-61 series was inspirational in motivating him to achieve his goals of playing first-class and international cricket. For the first time in written form, Laurie Mayne comments on his initial selection as an Australian cricketer and on his inaugural tour of the West Indies in 1965. Only a few short years after the sensational events of the Tied Test series, Laurie was competing on the field against many of the same exciting Caribbean players who had bedazzled Australian crowds. While not reaching the heights of the previous contest, the 1965 tour proved controversial on many fronts and personally rewarding for the young Test noviciate as the following evocative account reveals.
That telephone call is still clearly and indelibly imprinted on my brain, even 50 years after my initial selection in the Australian touring party in January 1965, just a few days before my 23rd birthday. Why wouldn’t I remember it? After all, you don’t often receive a congratulatory telephone call from Richie Benaud.
There was no official phone call from the ACB, just the radio announcement at 11am Perth time on the national broadcasting station 6WF (as it was known then). I was over at the unit of Sheffield Shield team-mate Peter Kelly when the news bulletin was broadcast. My name was the second last one mentioned. Naturally, I raced home in my black 1956 model VW (small rear window) to my parents’ place at Claremont Teachers’ College where Dad was Caretaker at the time. Later in the day television reporters from the metropolitan stations turned up for the usual interviews that occur following announcements of local ‘heroes’ making good. Barry Shepherd, five years older than me but also a country boy (from Donnybrook) and who was by then captaining Western Australia, was the other new local face in the 17-man party. ‘Veteran’ team-mate Graham ‘Garth’ McKenzie, now well entrenched as leader of the bowling attack, was the third Western Australian in the group.
Richie’s call from Sydney came next morning after a fairly sleepless night. I can remember him asking me what it was like to go from Westonia to the West Indies in such a short space of time. Westonia, for the non-geographically minded, is a small mining town halfway between Perth and Kalgoorlie and just six miles off the Great Eastern Highway at the Carrabin turn-off. The Indian Pacific train passes through there on its journey east and west. I spent my first six years in that small town where I began to take an avid interest in cricket with my uncles and relatives all offering help, enthusiasm and advice.
Richie had recently retired from active duty on the field as player and Australian captain. For the first time, he was to report on an overseas tour on a daily/semi- regular basis as well as preparing the groundwork for what turned out to be the only post-tour book for the series. When published later in the year The New Champions, as Richie’s book was titled, was well received, being described by Rowland Bowen as “one of the best tour books to have appeared for years”. Not surprisingly, as a young 23-year-old, I was largely unaware of Richie’s journalistic activities other than that he was covering the 1965 series, the first between the two countries since that fabulous ‘Calypso Summer of Cricket’ with the Tied Test in Brisbane in the 1960-61 season.
Underlying the significance of this celebrated tour was the fact that Australia’s immigration rules had been somewhat flouted by letting into the country a band of swashbuckling, predominantly black cricketers, and importantly, with a black leader, to entertain the cricket lovers of this colonial outpost. It went against the then current White Australia Policy. We all know what a brilliant tonic those players were – under Sir Frank Worrell’s captaincy – for cricket in the world, let alone just for Australia. Now, in 1965, the Aussies were going back to the Caribbean for the first time since 1955. Would this tour extend the tumultuous scenes of goodwill generated around Australia in 1960-61, or would the whole scene change – under Sir Garfield Sobers’ leadership – because of the presence of Charlie Griffith in the Windies team? I was about to find out in person.
Charlie Griffith was the single most dominating factor in that Windies team. His opening bowling partner was the magnificent Wes Hall. What a contrast. Wes was sheer poetry in motion when watching him coming in to bowl (except of course if you were facing). From side-on, you could gauge whether the ball from Wes was going to be just quick or super-quick because three-quarters of the way through his run-up to the wicket, he would either ‘hit his straps’ and be in perfect harmony (the super-quick ball) or he ‘struggled’ with the rhythm and only generated a quick delivery.
Whatever the resulting speed, it was a legitimate delivery. The same cannot be said for Charlie. Ironically, I followed Charlie to Burnley as ‘pro’ in 1968 to play in the Lancashire League competition and, would you believe it, stayed in the same house and slept in the same bedroom in which Charlie had slept the season before. What a coincidence in many ways.
So here I am, never having been to a Test match in my life and, after bowling first at Sabina Park, helping Australia to dismiss the Windies for 239. I finished with figures of 4 for 46. At the changeover, I quickly washed the face, removed the Hope Sweeney boots, picked up a soft drink and settled down in the wooden seats at the front of the change rooms to watch the first over of our innings. It was Wes kicking off from the proverbial sightscreen who bowled the first over. The crowd in seats and in the palm trees were all going wild of course. Come the second over, bowled by Charlie Griffith, a strange feeling came over me. This fellow chucks, pure and simple, I thought. I turned around to my team-mates and asked, “Did you see that?”
I was told in no uncertain manner to face the front and shut up. Physically and anatomically, it was impossible for Charlie to deliver the ball legitimately. His left foot pointed to point for the right-hand batsman and square leg for the left-hander. Naturally, with that mode of contact with the pitch, his chest opened full out with the result that his right bowling arm was bent at the elbow with his wrist at right angles to it. He physically could not do anything else.
The resultant delivery was one of two things – a searing yorker or a bouncer. The bouncer took off like a jumbo jet. On average there were two yorkers and three bouncers per over. All you had to do was work out the sequence at which they came at you. The sixth delivery of any over was an innocuous ‘nothing’ ball. With Wes, the bouncer did exactly that … bounce over the top part of your body and you played it like any batsman plays any bouncer from any fast bowler. You either ducked, swayed back like Bob Simpson or hooked like Graeme Thomas was prone to do so successfully. Incidentally, ‘Tonker’ Thomas was also making his Test debut with Peter Philpott and myself at Sabina Park.
With Charlie, you did not have these options. The yorker seemed to come up at your throat as if it was a plane taking off. It was aimed at your head and came with such velocity and venom that you really had only one option – get out of the way asap. On many occasions, there was little grace in the batsman’s evasive performance but that did not seem to be a worry. The important consideration was simply to save yourself from this fiery red cherry on a collision course with your head. And remember, there weren’t helmets or other sophisticated protective devices in those days.
Enter Richie Benaud, the journalist. Richie stayed at the same hotel, The Courtleigh Manor, as the Australian team. However, I never saw him ‘colluding’ with any of our players. Mind you, being a novice in the Test cricket arena meant that there were so many things of which I was unaware. It may well have been that, with the rumours about Charlie’s action circulating in cricket circles, Richie had primed captain Bob Simpson that he was going to expose the illegitimacy of his action. But how?
The morning after the Australians had begun their first dig, the front page of Kingston’s daily Gleaner carried photos of Charlie’s bent right elbow and a caption which roughly translated as “look at this, elbow at right angles, not legal”. I haven’t a copy of the clipping itself and can’t remember the exact words used, but it was infinitely clear what Richie was implying. Uproar resulted. Out the door went the
goodwill of the 1960-61 tour Down Under.
There were immediate counter-accusations in the paper that Graham McKenzie and I chucked. “Right,” said Richie. “Let’s have a bowl-off between Charlie, ‘Garth’ McKenzie and Laurie Mayne and I’ll photograph their actions at 64 frames per second.”
Nothing more was heard on the subject. What happened at the ‘top’ I have no idea so it was never proved one way or another whether Charlie chucked. All I venture to say is that if bowlers today are suspect even within the 15-degree rule, there is no possibility that Charlie could have passed that biomechanical test in any sophisticated laboratory, let alone at Sabina Park with patriotic followers falling out of the palm trees to get a glimpse of him and Wes destroying the Aussies. We lost that First Test by 187 runs. I claimed another four wickets in the second innings to finish with what I thought were pretty good figures of 8 for 99. If this is what Test cricket was all about, I liked it. But I had some strange premonition even at this stage about my longer-term cricketing career.
Because Peter Allan had not recovered from a throat infection in time for the Second Test at Port-of-Spain in Trinidad in mid-April, I was given another game. I cannot remember anyone on the selection panel, or other team members for that matter, saying anything to me before the game. In fact, after my initial Test I cannot remember anyone coming up to me and congratulating me on my performance with suggestions for future games. They may well have done so and I have forgotten after 50 years. On the other hand, other things happened to me on that tour and I can remember them very clearly.
One classic instance of ‘something happening’ to me occurred in the Second Test. We lost the toss and were in the field. As it turned out, the pitch was like nothing I have ever seen or felt before or after. You could actually push the surface of the pitch down with the palm of your hand. This phenomenon translated into ‘no bounce for the quicks’. After about four or five overs, Bob Simpson took Garth off and threw the ball to me. With it came the words: “Get stuck into them.” Now why would I clearly remember these words and still do? I always had the feeling that ‘Simmo’ never really thought too much of my bowling ability. Nevertheless, I had a job to do for the boss and so I tried to do it. I could see that Garth (who was an
infinitely superior bowler) had struggled to get the ball much above waist-high in his early overs. So I endeavoured to do what I was told to do – get stuck into them. If that meant bowling bouncers, so be it. And that’s what I did. Of course on that wicket Rohan Kanhai and Conrad Hunte did not have the same trouble as they did when I bowled the short one on the more conducive pitch at Sabina Park three weeks earlier. Thank you very much, they must have thought and boundaries were easy to come by. I was on a big learning curve.
An even bigger learning curve came by way of the drinks break an over later. I had just finished my second over and was heading towards the trolley (a converted wheelbarrow) as it came onto the ground. A senior and much-vaunted Test player who had been fielding at fine leg for my bowling jogged over as I was gleefully anticipating my first refreshing drink of fresh orange juice. I was astounded when he began berating me for all he was worth because I was bowling bouncers. Apart from nearly choking on the juice, I just stood there stunned and flabbergasted. What could I say? What did I say? Absolutely nothing! Here I was, the youngest player in the team being ferociously criticised on the field by a star player in the midst of our peers. Great game, this Test cricket.
The happy ending to this entry to Test cricket came when one of nature’s gentlemen and a true champion of Australian cricket, Brian Booth, came to my rescue. Brian explained to my much older disgruntled colleague that we were all going to be ‘bounced’ regardless of what I bowled at the Windies batsmen.
The enduring memory of that Test in Trinidad (apart from the above) was of the time spent fielding on the boundary either at fine leg or third man. Fast bowlers invariably hang out at these places, or they did in my day. Apart from having to continually ward off the invitation to partake of the contents of the bottles of rum poked through the wire netting around the boundary, I was asked constantly to give my opinion as to “who de bes’ batsman in de world, man”? Before having time to think, you were given no choice: “Sobers, man! Garry ‘God’.”
Of course, to stir the pot, I would reply, “Norm O’Neill, man.” “No man, no man.” I would throw in the names of Bill Lawry or Bob Simpson (depending on where I was fielding) just to add some fire to the conversation but was always howled down with, “Sobers, man, Garry Sobers … he de bes’ player in de world, man.” They love their cricket in that part of the world and they just think Sir Garfield is God.
With just the solitary wicket in Trinidad, I never expected a game in British Guiana (now Guyana). Georgetown was a sprawling, dirty place with open drains on either side of the roads. A brick sea wall surrounded the city perimeter to prevent the Atlantic Ocean from flooding the city. Hence the dirty drains. Some fine, architecturally-designed buildings of colonial influence were dotted around the city. Making our day, in the only ‘modern’ retail department store, the front window had been adorned with a cricket scene and there it was – a batsman wearing a helmet. An omen?
The Third Test match wicket was prepared to last eight days because the game corresponded with the Easter break and with the still-operative rest day. You can imagine what the quality of the pitch was like. The spinners did well. At least, the West Indian spinners did well for it was here that Lance Gibbs carved a niche for himself as an emerging spinner of great promise. I did not get a wicket and knew the axe would fall in Bridgetown, Barbados, for the Fourth Test.
From a security point of view, we were told never to go out at night except in pairs or in a bigger group. Speaking of security, it was just before the Test in Guiana that the authorities warned the local population to “stop your fighting or the cricket is off, full stop, not negotiable”. Sure enough, the two main ethnic groups, the Chinese and the Indians, decided that cricket was more important and there was relatively civil calm for the duration of the Test, which finished nearly two days early. Rooming with Garth, we had planned, as the last-wicket pair, to defy the power of the West Indian bowlers for two days. All we had to do was score 38 runs per session for six sessions. This equated to 1.6 runs per over for the remaining two days. Garth’s hearing – or his mathematical skills – deserted him however and two overs into the seventh day, he was caught behind. I was genuinely upset about that.
The cricket in the middle was absorbing enough but with stones landing on the field near our fieldsmen, it became a more interesting experience. The cricket authorities had erected a six-foot high wire fence around the entire playing arena to prevent crowds from running onto the pitch. Not to be outdone, the crowd took to throwing missiles up and over the wire fence with such a trajectory that it wasn’t long before these began landing perilously close to the fieldsmen, some near the wicket itself. A few troublemakers were rounded up and escorted away.
For me, again fielding at fine leg, one of the ‘highlights’ of being on the ground was observing the local custom of the iceblock sellers dispensing their wares on the boundary fence. The process began with a solid block of ice and a serrated scraper. Nearby were bottles of coloured cordial. The system went like this: for a penny or whatever the currency was, five scrapes on the block produced enough ice crystals to be considered legal and fair value. Those crystals were then funnelled into a piece of white paper which had been ceremoniously twirled around the fingers to make a conical shape similar to the proverbial ice-cream cone. Onto the ice in the cone was now poured the cordial. Hey presto, an iceblock to satisfy any child’s thirst. In some ways, this custom was no big deal when compared with the problematic lifestyles of people in underdeveloped countries. However, what made it more confronting was the fact that right alongside the iceblock lady, little children were going to the toilet on a very regular basis, doing ‘number ones’ into the three-inch deep cement drain which circled the ground on the outside of the wire fence.
After the Test, we caught the plane to Barbados and on arrival were greeted with reports that the Chinese and Indians were at each other’s throats again.
The next Test, the Fourth, is memorable for the 362-run opening partnership between Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson. We drew the match. The Bridgetown wicket was the closest thing to the WACA wicket you will ever get. Perhaps surprisingly, Charlie and Wes were tamed on this wicket.
The Fifth and Final Test at Port-of-Spain again provided the most humorous spectacle I have seen in a long while on the cricket field. It was during our first innings. I was sitting in the stand – not playing this game – and Charlie was bowling. As he came in to deliver this particular ball, the strangest thing happened. As if pricked by his conscience, and for one ball only, he tried to bowl a genuine delivery. He put his leading foot down the wicket, as most bowlers do, and prepared to swing his right arm up and over the shoulder, as most bowlers do. You will never guess what happened next. Poor Charlie went sprawling all over the wicket. Where the ball finished up I have no idea. But the image of Charlie prone on the wicket as a result of trying to bowl properly/legally still haunts me to this day. He did chuck, after all. The next ball was more of the normal ‘thrown’ yorker or bouncer.
On a positive developmental note, the squad went to Robinson Crusoe’s island (Tobago) and played a regional game there. Antiquated equipment but genuine
goodwill helped to prepare a wicket for the game and the lasting impression of this final game of a most memorable tour was the giving of our surplus gear to the young locals in the town. I have a photo of one such young budding Brian Lara all dressed up in pads that reached his chest, gloves that would have done Muhammad Ali proud and a bat which, when able to be positioned and held correctly in the batting pose, stretched from toes to tonsils on this grinning little champion. It made his day. And ours too.
Some of the Australian players on this tour were sources of great merriment. Barry Jarman was one who loved his hot foods – spices and chillies. Normie O’Neill and Wally Grout were always on the lookout for the chance to go fishing and did so successfully a number of times on rest days and days between matches. In Georgetown, because there was really nothing to do after cricket hours, Peter Philpott, Graeme Thomas and Barry Shepherd initiated a suntan competition around the pool using coconut oil as the main embalming agent. The jury was still out at the end of our stay there. Suffice to say they all looked decidedly darker on the beautiful beaches of Barbados.
A brief interlude on the way down to Kingston from JFK airport in New York (where I saw snow for the first time) is worthy of mention. The flight called into San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico and so the team hierarchy decided that a night at the casino was called for. Who was I to suggest otherwise? As luck would have it, the boys from Oz won over US$1300 on the pokies and so we all feasted on a magnificent meal before heading off to the hotel and bed and then resuming the journey next morning.
Before we left Australia, each player had been given a light blue jacket, three white shirts from Woolworths and a pair of silver grey pants for official occasions. They did look smart. The strangest thing for me was to see my photo (with GD McKenzie and BK Shepherd) hanging up in Woolworths stores in Perth before we left for Jamaica. A far cry from today’s splurging of the Test players on the media in every corner of the universe. For all the glamour, glitz, razzamatazz and yes, cricket, we were paid the princely sum of 640 Australian pounds or about AU$1280 some 12 months later with decimal currency introduced in February 1966. As a young single man I thought that was brilliant but the married players weren’t so thrilled about the whole contract. Some were not being paid by their employer while on tour and
the $1280 did not represent a lucrative deal by any means as bills had to be paid while they were away.
On many occasions both cricket squads travelled together on the same plane and stayed at the same bigger hotels. It was also common for players of both teams to enjoy each other’s company at the many public functions such as the Lord Mayors’ cocktail parties and the Prime Ministers’ Civic Receptions. We had been to so many by the time the tour finished that it would have been possible to write a short biography of any of the opposition players, so well did we get to know them. In my case I struck up a very friendly relationship with Seymour Nurse and admired Conrad Hunte for his poise and dignity both on and off the field.
Harking back to British Guiana, the real highlight, apart from the helmet in the shop window and the suntan competition, was one awesome journey undertaken by all the squad in the days leading up to the Test match. Somebody at the top had arranged for the most experienced pilot in the country to fly us all in a gutted DC3 aircraft out to the famous Kaieteur Falls some hundreds of miles inland from the coast. We had to stop at Lethem to drop off cargo and Annai in the middle of nowhere to pick up a sick patient. A woman had a broken leg and spent the return trip to Georgetown slung up in a hammock between two pivots in the roof. Her children, equally as terrified as their mother, cuddled just under the hammock and dared not make a move the whole journey. All seats had been removed from the plane and all we had to sit on was a ledge down both sides of the plane. It resembled a parachutist training aircraft. Fortunately, there was an ample supply of brown paper bags on hand. I’m not sure what happened to the woman and her children when we landed back in Georgetown.
Many readers may be interested to know that we had on board our adopted ‘Pom’, Tony Baer. Tony was, in many respects, a cricket tragic who made it his business to go to countries anywhere in the world where Test cricket was being played. He was a stockbroker by trade and made his money in that profession. From the first days in Kingston, Jamaica, Tony began to follow our team in any way he could but without becoming a nuisance. So friendly was he and so polite in all circumstances, that in a sense he became our mascot. We ‘adopted’ him and gave him a ‘blank cheque’ to be with us any time he liked. We knew he wasn’t going to be a hindrance in any way.
And so here we were, having landed on a sloping runway in Lethem, and after surveying the unusual animals in the zoo, including a long-nosed anteater, adjacent to the airport ‘office’, we decided to set off down the runway to go to the Orinduik Falls approximately one kilometre way. It was the dry season but the water was still flowing fairly briskly and I managed some artistic photos. However, it wasn’t the water that captured the imagination of the boys as we sauntered down the runway in the sun. No, it was stockbroker Tony calling the London Stock Exchange. The five or six of us in the front group turned around to see the cause of the commotion in the wilderness and there he was, holding forth with all the calls the way the pros belt out the prices in the hallowed halls of the exchange in London. Tony had certainly paid his way with that entertainment.1
Once airborne again, we set off for our next destination of Kaieteur Falls, deep in the jungle. In retrospect, this experience would have to rate, with me anyway, as the undoubted highlight of the whole tour. With the wings of the DC3 seemingly clipping the vegetation on either side of the valley as we zoomed up the Potaro River, I was in the co-pilot’s seat in the cockpit and taking photographs (with my first flashy camera, a Yashica J5 bought in Hawaii on the way to the Windies) of the water just ten feet below us. I was clicking as fast as I could and then, in one magical moment, I was left staring down into an abyss as the plane ‘left’ the water. There below was this cascading waterfall seven hundred feet high crashing into the floor of the jungle. As if expecting the plane to drop with the water itself, I just gasped. Unbelievable! A quick glance to the rear of the plane showed a couple of the squad using the brown bags. The poor woman in the hammock nearly passed out as well. Because of fuel and time restrictions, there was no action-replay of the event and so reluctantly we headed back to the ‘thriving metropolis’ of Georgetown and the coast.
After the tour had finished and I had returned to Perth, my slide show and graphic explanation of the Kaieteur Falls ‘show’ was in constant demand with cricket clubs. Of course, the danger became more acute with each new showing. Sadly, my prized slides of the ‘dam-buster DC3’ screaming up the river at an altitude of 10 feet and then the nothingness of the abyss below, was lost. A well-known local television channel put the pictures to air on a sports program segment. Somehow they were never seen again. You will just have to believe my story, although you might like to verify its authenticity by asking those members of the touring party still with us.
When compiling this article for publication I took time out to google said Falls and found its exact height. It is five times that of Niagara Falls and twice the height of Victoria Falls. But then again, I have never been over either of those falls in a low- flying DC3.
While Tony Baer’s stockbroker call was music to my ears, it could never replace the steel band music that accompanied us every day we were on tour. On most occasions when disembarking from planes and heading into airport terminals, a steel band of some notoriety and description would be there to greet us. Brilliant! Being a music lover from way back, the tour was worth it just for that aspect alone. Even after 50 years, while I have discarded most other LPs in garage sales, I still have all my steel band records, including the signed album of Emile Straker and the Merrymen. I saw that famous group in concert in Barbados. Synonymous with the scintillating music that emanated from the curved, ‘manicured’ drums, came the flashing smiles of the performers. How could you feel down or homesick when in the company of those fellows? At many an official function – and unofficial for that matter – I would just sit and gaze at the feet of the dancers on the floor. I was totally mesmerised by the intricate steps, swirling skirts and grinning faces.
In my experience, cricket tours are not all about the big matches. Sure, Tests are the pinnacle from a competitive perspective and generally occur in the major centres. Equally memorable however are the smaller lead-up games played in the regional towns. In the West Indies, some of these towns are quite a reasonable size while others remind me of places like Halls Creek in the Western Australian Kimberleys. Our first game in Jamaica before the Test match at Sabina Park was on the north coast. Thousands of Canadian and North American tourists spend their northern winter vacations along that coastline in the magnificent touristy hotels that line the beaches. One such hard to take cricket venue was at Runaway Bay. Everything was tropical green, just as it appears in the glossy magazines that entice you to book for the next holiday overseas, swaying palms, blue lagoons, etc. The oval we played on was of a similar quality. As it turned out, the wicket was quite acceptable but the interesting feature of this ground was the wildlife that had set up ‘home’ on the hallowed turf regardless of what was happening on the day. Hens and roosters went about their scratching and crowing all day and apart from the obligatory dogs and their small owners, there were many, many pigs snorkelling and feralling about … if that is what pigs do. On numerous occasions, play was held up for the animals. Not bad light. The boundary line was just about 30 metres from the sandy beach and, of course, there was the inevitable competition among our big hitters in the team to land the ball in the Caribbean Sea as often as possible.
The oval on the island of St Kitts was of interest also, particularly to prisoners of the island. The prison compound was an imposing one in that it was directly in line with the centre wicket. Media commentators and newspaper journalists the world over would have killed for the view that the prisoners had of the Australian Test touring team out in the middle. Talking of killing, the history of the island is fascinating in that over the centuries the French and British have belted each other up countless times in an attempt to secure the vantage point that Mt Misery afforded the incumbent of the day. This strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea made it worth fighting for, so it seems. As for the prisoners in 1965, I have no idea what they thought about their living quarters and their strategic positioning!
Perhaps the most intriguing person I met on the entire tour was a man called Manny Alves. He was a native of the island, going on 50-ish and a most pleasant person all round. He was in Kingston while we were there and was obviously contracted by the Jamaican Board of Control for Cricket to be the official masseuse for the Australian team during our stay in Kingston. The manipulative skills that man possessed were unbelievable. Although all the players on the tour had to pass fitness tests in their own city before we left Australia, some had longer-term injuries which, while bothersome, did not impede their ability to give 100 per cent on the field. Fast bowlers seem to sustain and have to carry more injuries than other players, simply because of the nature of their craft. While my left knee did not prevent my bowling at full pace, at the end of the day on that hard, shiny, renowned Sabina Park wicket, the soreness in the joint and surrounds was severe. Manny changed all that. His system of operation was unusual in that he made you lie down under a metal/perspex cover which had a system of fluorescent lights attached to the underside of a curved dome. The generated heat warmed up the body, making it perspire profusely. Manny then used his strong thumbs and fingers to trace out the muscles, tendons and ligaments to the peripheries. Essentially, he realigned the entire skeletal system so that blood flowed uninterruptedly as it was intended.
After Manny had finished with me I was bowling so much faster and with less stiffness than ever before. Sadly, he did not come with us for the rest of the tour and my muscles and bones began the inevitable seize up as a natural progression after three months of playing and practising combined with cramped flying conditions, sometimes in very small planes. I can well remember taking off on one such flight from a small island and it was touch and go as to whether we lifted off or crashed because we had the entire team’s cricket baggage on board this very light plane. The fact that you are reading this story suggests that we made it but emotions were running high and those who knew the Ave Maria had busy conversations with those up above.
Team dinners the night before the first day of a Test match were especially important occasions for team building. Such meals were sprinkled with humour and were followed by serious ‘cricket talk’. Probably the reason why I remembered the very first team dinner in the Courtleigh Manor was the fact that it was a culinary first for me in two respects. First, the locally-grown roasted sweet corn, smothered in butter and topped with pepper and salt, was something I had never enjoyed. Second, even though I did not drink beer at all, I did enjoy the delightful rosé accompanying the meal. The Australian steaks were also well received by the team. Cricket talk focused on opposition players and techniques as we knew them. Very little television coverage in those days was available in the West Indies and so most of the factual content centring on opposing players’ techniques came by way of senior players’ first-hand knowledge. I listened intently.
Upon reflection after 50 years, I ponder over many things that took place, words spoken, press reports in the papers and now the forgotten facts on computer. Funnily, in the latter part of my teaching career in secondary school I was asked by a Year 9 student if I was the Laurie Mayne on the computer. Not having any idea what he was on about, he offered to bring me a printout of the scoreboard of my first Test match in Jamaica. This he subsequently did along with the scoresheets of all my Test matches in India in 1969 and South Africa in 1970 (the last tour before apartheid stopped the South Africans in their Test cricket tracks, as it were).
My only regret of this fantastic West Indies tour was not having had some member of the squad who was prepared to mentor me by taking me under their wing and helping in mapping out a strategic plan of how usefully my Test cricket journey
might unfold over the next few years. Today, of course, that future for young cricketing aspirants is clearly delineated right from the Under 17 carnivals in the various capital cities through to playing Test cricket and learning how to cope with the rigours of the lifestyle before and after the pinnacle is reached. Regardless, in Albert Facey’s words, I have had a fortunate cricketing life and am very grateful indeed to all those who supported me in my sporting career.
- Some years later, Tony came to live in Melbourne. He had a great affinity for our blokes on the team and endeared himself to us. He just wanted to be with the good friends he had made on the tour and we all respected him for his demeanour and integrity so we were more than happy to accept him as one of us. When he died, he left a substantial sum of money to every player on our tour and in some cases, a little extra to those who helped him settle in the country with legal matters, etc. He was ever so grateful for our friendship. Rather than waste the money he gave me, I bought a sit-on sea kayak. Every time I’m on the Swan River, I think of Tony on the dry, parched runway at Lethem on the South American continent.