Alan David McGilvray
December 06, 1909, Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales
July 17, 1996, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, (aged 86y 224d)
Left hand Bat
Right arm Fast medium
Sydney Grammar School
Alan David McGilvray, Australia's premier cricket commentator for nearly half-a-century, died in a Sydney hospital on 16 July 1996 aged 86. Born at Paddington on 6 December 1909, McGilvray attended Sydney Grammar School, and then worked in his family's shoe-manufacturing business whilst playing grade cricket with Waverley and later Paddington as a left-hand batsman and right-arm medium-paced bowler. He made his debut for New South Wales against Victoria at the MCG in December 1933, scoring 11 and taking 0/65 and 1/51 (BA Barnett). He had the unusual distinction later in his debut season of captaining NSW against Western Australia in only his third first-class match.
McGilvray only played two matches in 1934-35, batting in promising style but failing to take a wicket. Nevertheless, he was entrusted with the captaincy of NSW in the 1935-36 season when regular captain WAS Oldfield was away with the Australian team in South Africa. McGilvray scored 68 in his first innings with this new responsibility against Queensland, and twice more reached 60 in the season, the only time in his career he passed 50. He ended his most productive season with 322 runs at 24.77 and 14 wickets at 42.50, guiding his State to second place on the Shield ladder. Stan McCabe resumed the captaincy in 1936-37, but McGilvray was provided by McCabe's Test representation with five more opportunities to lead the side; he was captain in what transpired to be his last first-class match in January 1937, when he scored 45 against Victoria at the SCG. He captained NSW on 13 occasions altogether, ending with a 4/4 win/loss record. He played only 20 first-class matches in total (18 for NSW), scoring 684 runs at 24.42 and taking 20 wickets at 56.75. His most memorable batting experience was sharing a partnership of 177 with Don Bradman in a benefit match in October, 1936. McGilvray, virtually a spectator as Bradman demolished the attack, was eventually dismissed for 42; one run later, Bradman was out for 212.
The end of McGilvray's first-class playing career coincided with the start of his new life as a cricket commentator. Commencing with daily reports at the conclusion of play in Shield matches, he was a pioneer in the description of play of Test matches in England in 1938; relying on ball-by-ball cables from the other side of the world, McGilvray would embellish the details with artificial sound and commentary that gave the impression he was at the game. After the war, McGilvray's career behind the microphone continued with the Test series against England in 1946-47, and he embarked on his first overseas tour in 1948, alongside Bradman's invincibles. He soon developed into an impressive broadcaster; possessed of an impressive timbre and a fluent delivery, he made his first priority to describe the action on the field, and his performance was often noticeably different from the more conversationalist methods of his English counterparts. As well as regular visits to England on Ashes tours, McGilvray also worked on tours of South Africa and the West Indies, and developed such a reputation that he was accorded a standing ovation from the crowd when he commentated for the last time on a Test match in Australia. He was appointed MBE in 1974, and won his AM in 1980. Towards the end of this career, he turned his attention to documenting his many experiences and views on paper through a series of entertaining books. Even in old age, he maintained an active interest in the game, and an abiding memory of this writer is his performance at a pre-Test match dinner in Hobart in 1993, at the age of 84. With the formalities of the evening over, and armed with a scotch and a cigarette, he laughed and joked with the other diners until the wee small hours of the morning.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding