The Cricketer / Features

June 1980

Whatever happened to Bob Massie?

Eight summers ago a 25-year-old Western Australia bowler, Bob Massie, was front page news on both sides of the world after dismissing 16 England batsmen for 137 at Lord's in his first appearance in Test cricket. Today he plays his cricket in comparative o

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Eight summers ago a 25-year-old Western Australia bowler, Bob Massie, was front page news on both sides of the world after dismissing 16 England batsmen for 137 at Lord's in his first appearance in Test cricket. Today he plays his cricket in comparative obscurity. Ray Robinson answers the question



Bob Massie bowls John Snow during England's first innings at Lord's in 1972 © The Cricketer
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The rise and fall of Bob Massie is one of the stranger stories of Test cricket in the Seven-ties, a sharp reminder of the cruel twists of fortune that can overtake any player in the most competitive era of the game.

Viewers in Australia were reminded of his meteoric career when he was flown from Perth to Sydney to appear in a television show on the life of Dennis Lillee, who took the other four wickets at the time Massie was decimating England's batting at Lord's in 1972.

Now 32, Massie completed his first season for Bentley CC in Perth's suburban turf competition where, in 10 games, he took only 29 wickets. Yet such was his natural aptitude as a swing bowler in his formative years that Western Australia chose him when he was 19. He confirmed early impressions of his talent with successes against Sir Garfield Sobers' World XI and these earned him his eventful tour to England.

This season Massie has transferred to Bassendean-Bayswater where sometimes he does not get a chance of using the new ball. He is in the same side as fast-medium bowler Wayne Clark who took 44 wickets in 10 Tests against India, West Indies and Pakistan, and club captain, Tom Mullooly, a former inter-state medium pace bowler.

The story of his rich haul in the second Test of that series - "Massie's Match" as it had become known - is part of the game's folklore and his feat has been exceeded in a Test only by Jim Laker's 19 wickets at Old Trafford in 1956 and SF Barnes' 17 on Johannesburg matting during the 1913-14 series.

Soon, however, a Test debut so remarkable that it could have sprung straight from the pages of a Boys' Own annual brought its own pressures. Massie discovered he could no longer reproduce that baffling mixture of outswing and inswing which had exposed hesitant batsmen and he admits that, before his last match for Western Australia, he was unable to sleep. His state, in fact, selected him only five times more after that tour of England.

Crucial tour
Unquestionably, the turning point came on the 1973 tour of the West Indies. When I reminded him that, even after an illness put him out of the Test side in the Caribbean, he was still able to show his successor, Max Walker, how to bowl the outswinger, he agreed but explained:

"It was on that tour that the outswinger deserted me. I found that pounding the ball into the slow tracks impaired my action and I was never the same bowler again. A lot of people gave time trying to help me but it was too late. I used to be able to bowl the `outie' at will. Now I'm lucky if I produce a couple each afternoon.' "You cannot expect park cricketers to bring off slip catches like the Chappells or Brearley. You have to hit the stumps."

Massie is a Commonwealth Bank officer. He and his wife, Nancy, from Kilmarnock, have two young children, Julie Anne and Bradley. "I have no regrets," he says. "I enjoyed my success while I had it." He took 179 wickets in 52 first-class matches.

Massie has a particular reason for remembering his last Test appearance. Australia were collapsing against Pakistan in Sydney in January, 1973, and he said: "I must get some runs." A friend, umpire Ron Harris, commented, "If you make 20, I'll buy you a schooner for each other run you make." Massie made his highest score, 42, in a ninth-wicket stand of 83, which created the chance for Australia to win. Harris bought him two schooners. The last time he was in Perth, Bob Massie reminded him he still had 21 schooners to come.

© The Cricketer

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