Kevin Douglas Walters
December 21, 1945, Marshdale, Dungog, New South Wales
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Doug Walters holds a somewhat mythical place in Australian cricket. Small, cheeky, popular and multi-skilled, he would drink all night without getting drunk then wipe sleep from his eyes to make a shot-laden century or take a crucial wicket or stunning catch - sometimes, in folklore at least, on the same day. Sometimes cricket is not even the tale's focus. Michael Clarke, who is often compared to Walters, knows him only as a great bloke instead of a great batsman. It is a shame. He was more than a person whose card games were interrupted by falls of wicket.
Walters, the country boy with the bush technique, was a knockabout who disliked training and going to bed early, and favoured drinking, smoking, solitaire and cribbage. Quick on to the back foot against the spinners, he was a fine straight-driver and hooker, and a valuable partnership breaker with his medium pace. Crowds relaxed and related to his instinctive and aggressive Test batting that three times brought up centuries in a session, the most famous arriving when he smacked the last ball of the day from Bob Willis for six at the WACA in 1974-75. He could play pressure innings as well, like the 112 against West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1972-93, when Lance Gibbs had three short-legs by 35 minutes on day one and Walters scored 100 between lunch and tea. "By any standards it was a magnificent innings," Wisden reported. The grit never stuck to his stories, forcing him to open his autobiography with a spoiler. "It rather amuses me when journalists refer to me as happy-go-lucky and unflappable. I feel the pressures and tensions as much as the next bloke."
Growing up on a Dungog dairy farm in country New South Wales, Walters stepped from the paddock into first-class cricket at 17, where he faced the great Wes Hall and reached 50. Like Clarke, he made a century on debut two years later. A second Ashes hundred came in the next match as he followed 155 with 22 and 115 in a sparkling start that was upturned in 1966 by conscription for two years' national service. He was not called up for duty in Vietnam, and smoothly swapped training greens to whites. Re-sealing his place with 699 runs in four matches against West Indies in 1968-69, he became the first player to make a double-hundred and a hundred in a Test.
Walters was a fixture of the team until 1977, his fourth Ashes tour, and he joined World Series Cricket, playing most of his matches upcountry, before a surprise recall against India in 1980-81. Missing out on a century in England remains his career's biggest hole. Using a high back-lift and a light bat, he was susceptible to the swinging ball, and retired after being overlooked for the 1981 Ashes tour. However, his highest score came in the similar conditions of New Zealand. Celebrating his first century overnight, the tour manager was called in the early hours because the hotelier wanted the bar closed. Walters backed up the following evening after reaching 250 from 342 balls and putting on 217 with the No. 8 Gary Gilmour. Another time he borrowed a spectator's bike to ride from third-man at each end after being punished by Ian Chappell for oversleeping. There are so many Walters stories that many of them must be true, and as a man of the people he was rewarded with a stand on the old SCG hill. "There will never be another like him," Dennis Lillee said. "I never saw him throw a bat, never heard him talk badly of anyone. He was so cool." He could bat, too. Peter English April 2005.
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