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Rowdy Remembers

Gleeson the enforcer

When the former offspinner adopted unconventional tactics to help the Australians save a tour game in Bangalore

Ashley Mallett
Ashley Mallett
Satish Acharya

Satish Acharya

John Gleeson, Australia's finger-flick spin bowler of the 1970s, was none too happy with the umpiring one day against South Zone in Bangalore during Bill Lawry's 1969-70 Australian tour of India.
Just before tea on the last day of our match against South Zone, our score stood at a precarious 7 for 53. Then disaster. A ball from Erapalli Prasanna dipped and turned and found its way to short leg via Ray Jordon's bat and pad. Jordon was given out, and he was fuming. He complained in the dressing room, and one of the blokes suggested he might visit the umpires during the break.
"Hey, umpy," Jordon said as he entered the umpires' room, "there's no way I hit that ball…"
Umpire BN Nagaraja Rao rose from his seat, cup of tea in his left hand, "Ah, Mr Jordon, if you didn't hit it you were very much lbw."
Not out batsman Bill Lawry and Cho (Gleeson's nickname, short for "cricket hours only") took the field after tea, and the rest of us in the stand all thought the end was nigh.
At 53 for 8 chasing 200 runs for a win, we reckoned we were in a bit of trouble. We noticed that Cho didn't bother taking guard, but spoke to the umpire at the bowler's end. He then walked to square leg and had a long chat with the other umpire. Then he proceeded to pad everything away from the bowlers, including the magnificent offerings from Prasanna, who had already claimed six cheap wickets.
As time passed, Lawry defended stoically and Cho stopped all offerings from Prasanna, who bowled 14 overs for a return of 6 for 11, with his front pad. Lawry batted for 52 overs to finish 10 not out and Cho made an unconquered 18.
The crowd got restless and the game was eventually abandoned when the spectators began throwing stones.
So Australia dodged a bullet. The players were delighted. Naturally there were those among us who wanted to know what Cho said when he first got to the wicket.
"Oh, not much," he smiled and said. "I simply said to both umpires, 'Mr Umpire, if you give me out lbw I will wrap my bat around your head.' "

Ashley Mallett took 132 wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. He has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson, Ian Chappell, and most recently of Dr Donald Beard, The Diggers' Doctor