January 4, 2001

A man for all seasons

You always hear about how there are many characters in cricket. Often you read about the little eccentricities of the players - Steve Waugh's lucky red towel, Colin 'Funky' Miller's inclination for bright blue hair. But rarely do you read much about the people behind the play, people like the umpires, coaches, or scorers.

Well, during this Centenary of Federation Test match here at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the primary flavours have been about recognition and celebration, it is perhaps apt to meet one of cricket's more low-key characters - scorer Malcolm Gorham.

Gorham first began at the age of thirteen, while still playing junior cricket. Early on, he realised that his scoring abilities were much better than his cricketing abilities and the best way to get ahead in the sport would be through his knack for numbers. The realisation coincided with the unfortunate death of the Western Suburbs' official first grade scorer in 1972 and the sixteen year old Gorham started scoring regularly.

"I got the opportunity in that first season to do my first second XI match - a minor representative match and had to very humbly go to my headmaster to ask for time off from school to score a cricket match," he recalls with a smile.

"From there I scored the next twenty-six consecutive seasons at Western Suburbs."

Today, the forty-four year old is scoring his fourth Test match, with over four hundred grade games under his belt. He scored his first One-Day International match in 1985 and says he has difficulty watching a game when he is not scoring.

"I now find it very hard to watch a cricket match because I've got that level of mental activity that's there whenever I'm scoring. Sometimes, if the match is slow, I'll even pull out a newspaper and be reading the paper while I'm scoring in an attempt to keep a very high level of concentration. When you get to the one-dayers, you do need that because it does get very hectic, particularly in the last ten overs of an innings," he says.

A Human Resources Officer at the Sydney Adventist Hospital, Gorham relishes his scoring and says one of the best things about his weekend job has been the joy of being able to watch history in the making.

"I've seen some good cricket. I've had the very good fortune to have scored both the Waughs' hundredth Test matches, Darren Gough's hat-trick for England, Glenn McGrath's two hundredth wicket, Shane Warne's three hundredth wicket. It would've been nice to get Courtney Walsh's five hundredth here at this match, but it's not to be. I've seen Bruce Reid's one-day hat-trick. It has been great!" he enthuses.

When asked to pick the best moment of his scoring career, Gorham is quick to nominate Warne's three hundredth wicket.

"That was against South Africa in January 1998. Just Shane Warne and the tactics and strategies he was using to bamboozle the South Africans. I very clearly remember at about twenty to seven one night - we were playing extra time because of rain delays - him bowling Jacques Kallis for his three hundredth wicket and I've got a picture of that at home. That'll stick because I quite enjoy good quality spin bowling and seeing how batsmen can get tied up in knots rather than the brutality of quick bowling as good as the practitioners are in that field," he says.

But as well as being able to watch some of the more important moments in Australian cricket history, Gorham has also had the chance to work with some of cricket's more prominent scorers.

"It has given me the opportunity to score with some very illustrious scorers. We had a presentation here yesterday for a plaque for Ernie Cosgrove. Ernie scored twenty Tests out here and was very influential in getting me where I was. David Sherwood, who has also been recognised with a plaque in the press box, scored fifty-two consecutive seasons," he says.

However Gorham doesn't see himself scoring for fifty-two years, saying he will be pleased with being half as good as the legendary Sherwood.

But does all this time spent at the cricket ever make him regret his decision to choose scoring over playing? Wouldn't he rather be in the middle making the hundreds and taking the wickets than watch from the sidelines?

"No, I'm quite comfortable where I am in cricket. It gets very hot out there for six hours in the field and I've often thought about umpires because we have a close liaison with umpires. I'd rather be sitting here in areas that are sometimes air-conditioned rather than standing out there for six hours in the sun."