Club cricket no longer makes the Grade
Australia will need Michael Clarke to have a big series to have any chance of winning back the Ashes. AP Photo/Rob Griffith
Michael Clarke will be the first Test captain since Steve Waugh nine years ago to play club cricket in Sydney. Clarke will turn out for Western Suburbs this weekend.
Waugh played for Canterbury-Bankstown in 2003.
It’s rare now, but that was far from the case years ago.
When I was playing first grade for Mosman in the 60s and 70s, we had Ian Craig, still Australia’s youngest Test captain, Test quicks Gordon Rorke and David Colley, with NSW keeper Doug Ford, the best gloveman never to play for Australia in the era of Wally Grout, Gil Langley, and Len Maddocks.
We played against Test and NSW reps every week, making the first grade competition very strong, with good crowds.
St George was all-powerful, with Test batsmen Billy Watson, Norm O’Neill, and Brian Booth, plus NSW batsman Warren Saunders and all-rounder Ray Flockton.
Then came leggie Kerry O’Keeffe, with pacemen Peter Leslie and John Martin.
Wests had Bobby Simpson, the great all-rounder Alan Davidson, and Gary Gilmour.
When I became Mosman captain in 1961, my first toss was against Richie Benaud, who had taken over as Test captain from Craig.
In that Cumberland side were Doug Walters and John Benaud.
Petersham-Marrickville had Test left-arm spinner Johnny Martin and NSW batsmen David Martin and Col Blackman, with pacemen Dave Chardon.
Northern Districts had Test batsmen Neil Harvey and Jimmy Burke, plus NSW left-handed brothers, Neil and Lyn Marks.
Gordon had Test keeper Brian Taber, and NSW reps Sid Carroll, Dick Guy, and Marshall Rosen.
Balmain had Test fast bowler Dave Rennberg, and NSW reps Tony Steele, Ross Collins and Tim Grosser.
Canterbury-Bankstown had Test batsmen Grahame Thomas, and arguably the fastest opening attack ever in grade cricket with Jeff Thomson and Len Pascoe, with NSW batsman Dion Bourne.
Glebe became Sydney with Test men Frank Misson and Rick McCosker, with NSW offie George Griffiths,
Manly had Burke towards the end of his career, with NSW captain Barry Rothwell, and spinners Terry Lee and Mick Pawley.
North Sydney had Walters for a period and NSW opening batsman Allen Anderson who also played rugby for NSW as a fullback.
My apologies if I’ve overlooked anyone, it’s really stretching the memory.
The point is, in those days, the very best regulary played grade cricket, so the transition from grade to NSW was just about automatic.
Now it’s a major leap because they have no-one to learn from on a weekly basis.
The second point is, we learned more about cricket over a few beers by talking to the very best. RBT has since dented that and the best players are missing anyway.
All those major plus points are long gone, and grade cricket these days hardly rates a mention, nor a crowd. Two men and a dog max.
More’s the pity, and grade cricket’s the poorer.
The era I played in never had it so good.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.
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