Balanced Sports and World Cricket Watch are inviting cricket writers from around the globe to wax lyrical on who they consider their “favourite cricketer”. This week ABC Grandstand‘s Dan Lonergan picks the accidental tourist, hero and fine cricketer Ray Bright. Dan tweets @daniellonergan.
In sport I’ve always admired the underdog. That’s probably why I follow the Western Bulldogs in the AFL, who will always be the underdogs. I will admit I do support Manchester United in the English Premier League, but I started following them in the mid 1980s when they weren’t the club they are today.
In cricket, Greg Chappell was a hero of mine growing up as my first real memory of the game was as a six and seven year old watching the 1975/76 series against the West Indies when he plundered 829 runs including 3 centuries. I loved the way he played.
I also liked left handed opener, Alan Turner, who obviously wasn’t in the same league as Chappell, but played some good innings in that series. However, a test average of 29 isn’t going to put him in the all time great category. I suppose I admired the fact he was limited, but was doing a role in a strong team that contained some of the best cricketers Australia has produced in both Chappells, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lilliee, Jeff Thomson, Doug Walters and Ian Redpath.
Victorian and Australian left arm spinner, Ray Bright from the same era though was my favourite cricketer growing up. I will admit it almost got to fanatical levels my interest in him. The reasons for it are not very clear, but again I admired the fact that he got the most out of himself and his bowling stats in my opinion are an example of statistics and numbers lying. He was from Victoria, which helped and played District Cricket with the Aussie Rules team I barracked for, Footscray as it was known then. I was happy with that.
He took over 400 first class wickets at more than 32 and played 25 tests picking up just 53 wickets at an average of over 40. The test figures are not impressive, but if you break it down and look at the number of overs he bowled and how economical he was generally conceding just over 2 runs an over, holding up an end
and managing to contain great players such as West Indian superstars in Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge and Indian Sunil Gavaskar just to name a few.
I tool a real shine to Bright in the 1976/77 season after the retirement of South Australian and Australian spinners at the same time, Ashley Mallett and Terry Jenner. Bright took 5 wickets in an innings against a powerful WA team in Perth to put himself in contention to play in the test series against Pakistan. I got really excited.
He wasn’t selected with Kerry O’keefe chosen after he had also had a fine start to that summer. Bright though was 12th man in the Third test in Sydney and went to New Zealand.
As an 8 year old, I was so impressed with him by this stage that I demanded his selection in the team for that two test series by writing a letter to one of the then selectors, Sam Loxton.
Incredibly, he replied and I still have it somewhere. He actually was candid and told me that Ray was close, but the New Zealand pitches didn’t really suit playing two spinners and that O’keefe had cemented his spot with good performances. He was right, but I was still disappointed.
Before writing this article, I looked up the scorecards of the Tour matches of that New Zealand Tour and on performances, Bright should have been selected. He regularly took wickets and was handy as usual down the order with the Bat.
Ironically, Alan Turner was out of form and should have been left out as Ian Davis and Rick McCosker could have opened and All Rounder, Gary Gilmour was capable enough to bat at number six. Anyway, it didn’t happen, but I saw my hero field as a sub in the Centenary Test after McCosker had his jaw broken, but sadly he didn’t touch the ball.
Bright finally made his test debut in that disappointing Ashes series in 1977 and played three tests before enhancing his growing reputation in World series Cricket. Unfortunately these records are generally discounted, but he was a permanent member of the Australian team during those two seasons and took the second most supertest wickets after Lilliee.
The great players that he came up against during WSC learnt to sit on him, so when he returned to the establishment fold in 1979, he had become a container more than a wicket taker. Greg Chappell always rated him highly saying his change of pace, flight and dip were impressive weapons.
“Greg Chappell always rated him highly saying his change of pace, flight and dip were impressive weapons.”
There were some moments in the sun, when he was unexpectedly chosen on numerous tours after hardly playing a test match in that Australian summer. He took seven wickets in an innings in Pakistan in 1980 and five during that famous Ian Botham Ashes domination a year later.
He was even described in some circles by fellow cricketers as being an accidental tourist after gaining his first tour as a teenager to New Zealand in 1974 after dominating at Shield level. On that tour was another of my underdog heroes, South Australian Opening Batsman, Ashley Woodcock, who played one test.
However, anyone who makes his first class debut at 18 and keeps his spot for virtually the next 16 years can play. I obviously thought he should have played more test cricket and thought his international career was over in the early 1980s, but out of nowhere he was chosen against New Zealand and India as vice captain and starred in the tied test in India in 1986 taking five wickets in India’s second Innings.
He also captained his country in a one day match in Sharjah that year. Not many players can say they achieved that honour.
After his retirement I have got to know Ray Bright. I am pleased to say he is a lovely bloke, who I am also happy to say got the most out of his career, although I believe he was one of the greats. Not many agree, but as Legendary Rugby League figure, Arthur Beetson used to say, opinions are like backsides. We all have one!!!
He still remains my favourite player, but David Boon pushed him close during his stellar career. I used to get upset when they both did poorly like the Western Bulldogs, but would bask in their glory when they had good moments, which I remember fondly. Well Played Spotty!!!!
You can follow Dan on Twitter @daniellonergan.
Previous Favourite Cricketers
Brian Lara by David Siddall
Allan Border by Ben Roberts
Douglas Jardine by David Green
Curtly Ambrose by Matthew Wood
Sachin Tendulkar by Subash Jayaraman
Ian Botham by Jonathan Kilroy
Shane Warne by Murray Middleton
Rahul Dravid by Sujith Krishnan
Wasim Akram by Blaise Murphet
Glenn McGrath by Gary Naylor
Ed Giddins by Nick Harrison
Adam Gilchrist by Will Atkins
Angus Fraser by James Marsh
Paul Allott by Jonathan Howcroft
Tim Bresnan by Yorkshire Len
Sourav Ganguly by Christopher David
David Boon by Jimi Stephens
Herschelle Gibbs by Justin Lawrence
Bob Woolmer by Nigel Henderson
Darren Lehmann by Daniel Gray
Kumar Sangakkara by Nishant Joshi
Justin Langer by Sarah C Robinson
Andy Bichel by Nicko Hancock
Chris Tavare by Gideon Haigh
Gavin Larsen by Ken Miller
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