Arthur Morris May 17, 2010

'Even today, if somebody throws a ball, I want to chase it'

Arthur Morris was one of Bradman's Invincibles. Here he looks back to the pre-deodorant days: meeting the Don, getting bounced by Keith Miller, the baggy green, and more

Arthur Morris scored a hundred in each innings of his first-class debut when 18, and he never looked back. One of Bradman's Invincibles, he outscored even his captain in 1948. That series included his 182 at Headingley, when he and the Don chased down 404. He followed it up with 196 at The Oval, watching from the other end as Bradman fell for a duck in his final innings.

Did you always open the batting?
The highest I batted in my early days at [Sydney Grade side] St George District Club was five or six, and bowling chinamen a bit. Then, one day, Bill O'Reilly, who had won the toss, saw me relaxing and told me I was opening. I was like "Oh, no, Mr O'Reilly. Truly?" I was 16 or 17 then and continued opening for the rest of my life.

Who was your hero when you were growing up?
Don Bradman, who was every boy's hero. When I was about eight years of age I met him. I put my little hand out and said, "How do you do, Mr Bradman?" I was not groomed and didn't have any shoes on, and to think that I would be playing under his captaincy was just ridiculous.

Why did you look up to him?
He was so great. He just came in and took the game over. You can talk about lots of people getting runs, but he got them quickly - he could get to 300 in a day! After the war, a boss of mine, a fellow called Smith, bowled to Bradman in the nets after he came up from Bowral. Alan Fairfax, who played for Australia pre-war, bowled at him for 10 minutes. Fairfax turned to Smith and said, "This fella is crude, isn't he?" Smith said, "But we haven't beaten his bat yet."

How important is concentration for a batsman?
It is very important. I was talking to Bradman one day when somebody got out on 60. He said, "I can't understand how anyone can get to 60 and not get a hundred." He just went on and on and on. We had some big partnerships but we never really went up and talked to each other because both of us focused on what each one was doing.

Did you really think you could get 404 to win on that final day at Headingley in 1948?
No, no, I didn't. Don wrote in his book that he thought we would get beaten. And I thought we would. But when Don joined me after [Lindsay] Hassett got out, we just regrouped and started hitting. I got some 20 fours in my first hundred because [Norman] Yardley had the field up all the time and I took advantage. After lunch Don had some problems with Denis Compton and seemed confused about playing the Englishman's spin. So I took charge against Compton and went after him for two or three overs. The next day EW Swanton, the cricket writer, wrote that if Compton had kept bowling, they would have won the match. I reckoned we would have won an hour early because Compton was not used to bowling.

Did you initiate the aggressive charge?
It was really after lunch that I got into that mode. Don was marvellous. He let me go. It was during the second session, between lunch and tea, that we grew confident. In the first session we thought we could possibly get a draw. At about half-past three we thought we could win and then we just kept on going.

Do you require a different temperament as an opener?
I suppose you are picked as an opener because you play the new ball well, which means playing off the back foot and not on the forward. Because I grew up in the country, with hard, concrete wickets, I would be cutting and hooking and pulling. That hooking helped me a lot in one instance, when I took 23 runs off Keith Miller's first over in a Sheffield Shield game between New South Wales and Victoria.

"I was having a conversation with a bloke who didn't know anything about cricket and the topic came to Don's duck. He asked me if I was aware of it and I said I was there. So he asked if I was there because I was in England on business. I told him I was at the other end"

Was that when he bowled eight bouncers?
Right. You know where the field was placed - six behind square and a wicketkeeper, so I knew what was coming. I have never seen anyone spitting chips like Miller was. He was really ripping them down.

What did wearing the baggy green mean to you?
Right from my first cap at St George, wearing a cap always gave me a terrific thrill. When I played for New South Wales, it gave me a great thrill. Then I got picked for Australia and that scared the hell out of me.

What did you learn from cricket?
Cricket to me was discipline, loyalty and enjoyment. Even today, if somebody throws a ball somewhere, I want to go and chase it. I just have the natural ball sense, that feeling.

What is the best change on the cricket field you have witnessed?
One of the most sensible things the administrators did was to get rid of leg-side fieldsmen, because it was killing the game. It brought about so much defensive cricket, which I found ridiculous. Len Hutton, who was a great bloke, never got tired of his defensive tactics. So when I took guard against Alec Bedser, I would yell at the umpire, "Six inches outside the leg stump".

Who are the greatest cricketers you have seen?
I saw only two great players in my time: Bradman was the best batsman and O'Reilly was the best bowler.

You made 196 in Bradman's final Test at The Oval. You were standing at the other end. What did you think when he fell for a duck?
He got a couple of very good balls. The wicket was a bit wet and Eric Hollies bowled a beautiful legspinner. Then he bowled another in the same spot, Don went to play the same shot and it was a wrong'un. I was surprised Don came out fairly late in the day instead of sending somebody else in. Nobody knew that his average was so close to 100. I'm sure if Alec [Bedser] knew that, he would have given him one. I'm sure Eric didn't know.

But nobody remembers that you made 196?
I was on a business trip once. I was having a conversation with a bloke who didn't know anything about cricket and the topic came to Don's duck. He asked me if I was aware of it and I said I was there. So he asked if I was there because I was in England on business. I told him I was at the other end.

Did the lack of recognition ever bother you?
It never worried me. I was never in the show-pony class. There was so much modesty in the game then, the cricket culture was completely different. Think of this: the greatest batsman you have seen gets out for a duck. What would the bowler have done today? He would do a couple of cartwheels and the whole team would chase him around the ground and give him a hug. But what happened [in 1948]? Dead silence. The crowds had not come to see me bat, they had come to see Bradman bat.

Has modesty always been a strong point?
It's a strong point of everybody I played with. Modesty has disappeared through American influence in the country and the colour television. We didn't rush into a huddle; if I was fielding on the fence, the huddle would be over by the time I got there. We didn't have deodorants in our days, so can you imagine hugging each other with all of our dirty socks and smelly things?

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This article was first published in the May 2010 issue of the Wisden Cricketer. Subscribe here