Jeff Hammond

'WSC was the greatest thing that ever happened to cricket'

Jeff Hammond looks back at the late '70s, and playing in the West Indies on his only Test tour with Australia

Interview by Crispin Andrews |

Jeff Hammond (first from right):

Jeff Hammond (first from right): "Ross Edwards helped build team spirit. Keith Stackpole was always brilliant supporting Ian Chappell and helping develop harmony amongst the players" © Getty Images

There was no place for the individual in the Australian side. It was all about being a team.

When I came back from the 1973 tour to the West Indies, I could hardly walk for three months.

In the early seventies cricket was morphing into different entity. The players had the sense that something was changing.

Ian Chappell knew that we had to get more bums on seats. To do that, we needed to change the type of cricket we played, become more aggressive. The public wanted to see fast bowlers, and batsmen hitting the ball to the fence and over it.

I was going for a run through Queen's Park in Trinidad and I stopped to speak to some locals who were playing cricket. The next day, when the Test was on and I was fielding at fine leg, some of these same guys were in the crowd.

I'm an engineer by trade, but I don't really think that technology has done much to make the game better.

"You would be playing somewhere like Sabina Park and there was supposed to be 18,000 people there, but somehow they managed to get 30,000 in"

I've been retired now for six years. We live on a 45-foot yacht. Lived on it for four years. We're in Cairns at the moment - before that it was the Sunshine Coast. Next, we're going to head up to Airlie Beach.

Once, Dennis Lillee had Lawrence Rowe plumb lbw. It would have hit the middle of middle stump. The umpire, Douglas Sang Hue, deliberated for a while and then gave Rowe not out. It was the best decision ever given. Rowe was the local Jamaican hero. If he'd been given out, there would have been a riot.

In the early 1990s, coaching became a major factor in the international game. It was around then that coaches started making cutting-edge contributions to players' and teams' development.

Ian Chappell was the person who invented the modern game of cricket. His style was years ahead of his time.

I injured my back in the second Sheffield Shield game of the 1973-74 season, and never played for Australia again. I had a disc displacement injury. I had an operation. Two discs were fused together.

You would be playing somewhere like Sabina Park and there was supposed to be 18,000 people there, but somehow they managed to get 30,000 in.

In the 1990s, when I was coaching, the trend was towards tall fast bowlers. People like Bruce Reid, Andy Caddick and Jason Gillespie. Bowlers who were 6 foot 5 and over. I wouldn't pick the shorter guys. I was 6 foot 1 and, sometimes, by day four, when the wicket was flat, it was tough work for me. I was just cannon fodder for the batsman. And then you'd see the taller bowlers hammering away at a spot on the wicket. And on day five, they'd be lethal.

World Series Cricket was the greatest thing that ever happened to cricket. It took the game to a new dimension.

"Ian Chappell invented the modern game of cricket. His style was years ahead of his time" © Getty Images

Most of the pitches out in the West Indies took spin. They had Lance Gibbs, on around 300 Test wickets. They also had other spinners, like Inshan Ali and Elquemedo Willett. Our best spinner, Ashley Mallett, didn't go on the West Indies tour. So, on paper, Australia weren't a great chance out there. It was a great credit to Ian Chappell that he was able to motivate that side and get us to win the series two-nil.

For the 1972 Ashes tour, Australia made a conscious effort to break with the past. Rather than picking experienced players like Bill Lawry, Ian Redpath and Graham McKenzie, the selectors brought in younger players like Bruce Francis, David Colley, Bob Massie and myself. Ross Edwards played his first Test, too, aged 30.

I remember watching the Australian team sing the national anthem at the Adelaide Oval recently, and there were more support staff and hangers-on out there than cricketers. That can't be right.

My back injury only stopped me bowling fast - it didn't affect the rest of my life. I improved my batting in club cricket during my time out injured. Topped the district averages one year. Much to the surprise of many.

Max Walker was superb. He gave us wickets when we needed them.

Ross Edwards helped build team spirit. Keith Stackpole was always brilliant supporting Ian Chappell and helping develop harmony amongst the players.

Fusarium? Is that what they called it? Don't get me started on that.

We had great banter with the West Indian crowds. You would be fielding at fine leg and someone in the crowd would offer you a bottle of rum, or even sometimes their wife. Max Walker would be down there and he would pretend to drink the rum. The crowd would love it.

"I reckon I've lived in 16 different places, usually only for a year or two. Then you don't get caught in the culture of a place"

In the fourth Test, in Guyana [1972-73], everyone thought that we would be spun out on the fifth day, batting last. In the West Indies second innings, myself and Max Walker both took four wickets and bowled West Indies out for just over 100. If they were giving out Man-of-the-Match awards back then, I'd like to think I would have been given it.

Fast bowling has changed a lot over the years. You don't see bowlers drag their back foot anymore. Nor do they leap backwards in the delivery stride, like Rodney Hogg, for instance, used to do. Fast bowlers today tend to run through the crease as fast as they can.

We won the Sheffield Shield in 1970-71 and got paid just $365 per player. We were disgusted at how the South Australia cricket authorities treated us. Both Chappells were in that South Australian side. I got paid $1800 for three months in the West Indies, which was unbelievably poor. But we weren't there for the money, nor for exposure on television. We were there to play for the baggy green and each other.

Sailing from Sydney to Darwin, once, we got caught in two mini cyclones. That was pretty scary but we got through it.

The West Indies had this new fast bowler called Uton Dowe [in 1972-73]. He was supposed to be the fastest thing this side of Dennis Lillee, but when Keith Stackpole smashed him all over the place in his first spell, some of the crowd turned against him. It was all good-humoured stuff, though. One local comedian held up a banner that said, "This is the 11th commandment. Dowe shall not bowl."

After rest and rehab, and a year out, I managed to come back [from the back injury] and play a few games for South Australia, but I couldn't get my speed back to what it had been. I became more of a medium-paced swing bowler. Tried to model myself on Bob Massie, a bit.

"You would be fielding at fine leg and someone in the crowd would offer you a bottle of rum, or even sometimes their wife" © Associated Press

I love Paris and New York, and Istanbul gave me some fascinating first insights into Muslim culture. But I don't go on cruises for the places, more for the journey and meeting people. We've made 30 or 40 good friends who we see regularly.

We got along very well with the West Indies team. We went out for meals with them, sometimes stayed in the same hotels, even swum in the same swimming pool.

Barry Richards batted all day for 325 once. I'd never been so sick of seeing so many fours hit. And Barry was on my team. Dennis Lillee, Graham McKenzie, Tony Mann and Tony Lock were in that Western Australia side, all international bowlers. Barry made the game look like a mockery. Dennis Lillee took the second new ball, Barry let four go through to the keeper. And then the last two back over Lillee's head for four.

After World Series Cricket, Ian Chappell came back to South Australia. He called me and said, "Bomber, come and bat seven for us and bowl first change." Sometimes I even got to open, into the wind.

I was coach in 1995-56, when South Australia won its first Sheffield Shield for 14 years. There was a change in mentality in that team, from the recent past. We went from a medium-pace attack to a pace attack. Jason Gillespie, Shane George and Mark Harrity frightened people out at times.

The 1973 series was Australia's last Test win in the West Indies for over 20 years. We went through the whole of that West Indies tour undefeated.

I've never settled in one place. I enjoy the adventure of going from place to place, seeing new places and meeting new people. I reckon I've lived in 16 different places, usually only for a year or two. Then you don't get caught in the culture of a place.

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