Now that I have retired I have a number of different interests. Perhaps the most enduring, and certainly the one that began as far back as I can remember, is the game of cricket.
CRICKET - the Dettmann Legacy
The Dettmanns are known to have played cricket since the 1870s, when my great grandfather John Dettmann played for the Bathurst team against the touring England team (Lord Harris' XI) in 1879. John was headmaster of the Bathurst Public School and would have learned to play cricket at Fort Street High School in Sydney, and probably in the Sydney Domain. That was over the back fence from his parents' quarters at Parliament House where his father Louis was Chief Steward and Housekeeper from 1865 until his death in 1873.
Cricket matches were played in the Domain from the 1850s, and it was the venue for interstate matches (NSW v Victoria) from 1856-1870,although the Domain was not enclosed, being grazed by cattle and used as public parkland. John's father, Louis Dettmann, was the leading chef and caterer in Sydney at the time, and he is known to have catered for the lavish parties which accompanied the interstate cricket matches.
When John Dettmann was promoted to Inspector of Schools in 1886 he moved back to Sydney and built the family home at Longueville. He had kept his interest in cricket and he and his sons became founder members of the local Lane Cove Cricket Club in 1893. The Club is still active and successful in the local district competitions and the history of the Club was written by John's grandson, John Frederick (J.F.) Dettmann to celebrate the Club's centenary in 1993. John F, or 'the Pres' as he was known in cricket circles, played for the Lane Cove Club from 1928 to 1982 and was President for many years, hence his soubriquet. He still holds the record for the most runs scored in the Sydney interdistrict competition (12.955 runs) and he also took 1011 wickets, with best figures of 8/24 in 1962/63.
The first generation of active Dettmann cricketers at Lane Cove included all four of John Dettmann's sons. For instance the 1904/05 team included H.S. (Bert) Dettmann (Capt), A.H. (Tom) Dettmann, G.R. (Paddy) Dettmann and P.J. (Percy) Dettmann. Paddy Dettmann was John F.'s father, and John F. lived in the Dettmann home at Longueville, so was able to continue the family connection with the Lane Cove Cricket Club in the next generation. Paddy and Percy of the first generation played cricket there throughout their lives and all three local Dettmanns became Life Members, Percy in 1931, Paddy in 1932 and John F. in 1952. Paddy had served in the Australian Forces in WWI and was severely wounded, but he continued to play cricket on his return. Family legend has it that he was good enough to have played for Australia as a fast bowler if it had not been for the shrapnel embedded in his bowling arm.
The tradition continued when John F.'s son John H. Dettmann played for Lane Cove in the 1970s. On several occasions the team was captained by his father John F. - the Pres - and it included John H.'s second cousin Nick Dettmann (my brother, grandson of H.S. (Bert)).
At this point I should outline the cricket history of Bert and his descendants.
Professor Herbert Stanley Dettmann was a brilliant student who won a scholarship to Sydney University, where he proceeded to collect 4 first-class honours results on the way to his Bachelor of Arts Degree. He then won a Travelling Scholarship to Oxford University where he graduated M.A., and he was about to take up an Oxford Fellowship when his father died suddenly in 1903. He returned to Sydney to help support his mother, taking a job as teacher at Sydney Grammar School, before being appointed Acting Professor of Classics at the University of Adelaide. From 1908 to 1923 he held the position of Professor of Classics at the Auckland University College, New Zealand, then he returned to Sydney to take up the position of Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, the job he had long aspired to.
Bert was a keen cricketer and a specialist wicketkeeper. He had played cricket for Oxford University, and on his return to Australia he had played a few matches for the Lane Cove Club. When he went to Auckland the University was short of keepers, and he was persuaded to play for the University Cricket Team. This was an unusual accomplishment for a university Professor, and it was originally intended to be a stopgap arrangement, but he was so successful that he captained the University team for a number of years. He was President of the University Cricket Club and Chairman of the Auckland District Cricket Assocn. during his time in New Zealand.
As Headmaster of Sydney Grammar he took a keen interest in school sport and insisted that every boy should play a sport of some kind, at whatever level he felt comfortable. As Chairman of the Association of GPS Headmasters he promoted this idea throughout the GPS schools in Sydney, and under his influence school sport became a way of life for a generation of Sydney schoolboys.
Bert had four children and they all inherited his cricket genes. My father Tim was the eldest child, and although he never played competitive cricket he had loads of ability. He could always hold his own in backyard family games, and he was an excellent coach. I played cricket with Dad, my brother and sister, and my cousins from an early age, and one of my most treasured possessions was Don Bradman's book on How to Play Cricket. I played at school, then for Sydney University, and was selected to represent NSW as a first-class cricketer in 1965/66 and 1966/67. My brother Nick also played for teams at Sydney Grammar School, and later for Lane Cove on an occasional basis.
Bert's daughter, Dixie Dettmann, was also a specialist wicketkeeper and she played for the Sydney University Women's Cricket team. She had been short-listed for selection for the 1937 tour to England by an Australian Women's team, but had to withdraw from selection when her mother decided she couldn't go. Dixie's son Peter Lovell also played cricket for his University, and was selected in an Australian Universities representative side that toured New Zealand in the 1960s. Peter Lovell's son Geoffrey carried on the family tradition, earning his Blue for cricket at Sydney University and Geoff was the inaugural winner of the Bradman Scholarship, which allowed him to study at Oxford, and play for that University in the English first-class cricket competition.
Bert's youngest son, John David Harding (J.D.H.) Dettmann, earned his Blue for cricket at Sydney University, and later played for Gordon in the local First Grade competition, just below first-class level.
CRICKET - Memories of Richie Benaud
Since the death of Australian cricket legend Richie Benaud a few days ago, there has been an outpouring of grief and reminiscence about the great man here in Australia, and around the world. I remember Richie with fondness and admiration, but unlike most people I don't remember him for his commentaries on cricket. My memories go further back, to the period when he was a young all-rounder, who played for New South Wales, and later for Australia. In fact his playing days overlapped my own, and he was one of my early cricket heroes.
He was not the first (that was his friend and colleague Keith Miller) but I watched Richie play some of his early matches for NSW at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and I thought he was marvelous. He could bat and bowl and field, and he could also think and plan. He was also very good-looking. I was never anywhere near his standard as a cricketer, but at least I could aspire to be like him.
My own days of playing cricket coincided pretty much with Richie’s time as captain of NSW and Australia, so I didn’t get to see him play nearly as often as I would have liked, but many of my memories of Test cricket in those days came courtesy of ABC radio broadcasts.
To me, Richie was a player, much more than the broadcaster he later became, and I laugh when I hear that he used to get asked “Did you ever play cricket?” I stayed up until 3am listening on the day he bowled Australia to victory to win the Ashes in 1961 – the Test when his shoulder was playing up and there was doubt about him bowling at all on the last day. That was the Benaud I remember.
I did appreciate his understated TV commentaries but his colleagues were so over-the-top that when I used to watch the cricket on TV in the early days, I would sometimes turn the sound down and listen to the ABC radio broadcast to identify players.
Tied Test, Last Over, Australia v. West Indies, 14 December 1960, Brisbane Cricket Ground (“The Gabba”) West Indies (453 and 284) tied with Australia (505 and 232).
I have long wanted to record my personal ball-by-ball description of the finish of the greatest cricket match of all time - the Tied Test between Australia and the West Indies at the Gabba in December 1960.
My parents and I listened to the end of that match on the car-radio on the way home from Dad's office and I have never forgotten it.In fact the match got so thrilling that Dad stopped the car at Pymble and we listened to the radio description without distractions for the last 15 minutes of the game.
With the help of the scorecard I can describe every ball of that last 8-ball over.No-one could possibly have scripted what actually happened. The topic came up on a cricket site recently after Richie Benaud died, as he had captained Australia in that test and his was the first wicket to fall in that famous last over, so I wanted to recreate the situation.
Australia had been in a lot of trouble in the second innings when Slasher Mackay was bowled by Sonny Ramadhin with the score at 6-92, but Davidson and Benaud had put on 134 for the 7th wicket when a direct hit from Joe Solomon ran out Alan Davidson, who had scored 80.
At 6-226 the match seemed won. Australia needed 7 runs to win with 4 wickets remaining. After Davidson's dismissal Richie Benaud was not-out on 52 when the keeper Wally Grout walked to the wicket to join him. Grout scored a single, so Australia needed 6 runs to win off 8 balls with 3 wickets remaining.
The last over would be bowled by fast bowler Wes Hall. It started about 3 minutes to 6 so there would only be time for the one over before the scheduled close of play at 6pm. It finished about 10 past 6.
Here is what happened:
Ball 1: Grout faced up to Hall, got an inside edge on a fast straight ball and the batsmen crossed for 1 run. Score 228. Oz needing 5 to win, 4 to tie.
Ball 2: Benaud faced Hall who bowled a bouncer. Benaud hooked, got a top edge, the ball went straight up in the air, and keeper Alexander took a fine catch running backwards. Benaud out for 52. Score 228, Oz needing 5 to win, 4 to tie.
Ball 3: Fast bowler Ian Meckiff to the wicket. Blocks a straight ball. No run. Score 228. Oz needing 5 to win, 4 to tie.
Ball 4: Meckiff dribbled the ball down the pitch and they took off for a suicidal run. Grout should have been run out but Hall threw at the stumps and missed. One run added. Score 229. Oz needing 4 to win, 3 to tie.
Ball 5: Wally Grout hooked to mid-wicket, should have been caught by Rohan Kanhai but Hall also went for the catch, collided with Kanhai, and the ball was dropped. They ran 1. Score 230. Oz needing 3 to win, 2 to tie.
Ball 6: Meckiff hooked to deep mid-wicket, they ran 2 and turned for the third. Conrad Hunte fielded the ball on the boundary, threw it right over the stumps and Grout was run out by about a foot. Score 232. Scores tied, 1 needed to win.
Ball 7: Last man Lindsay Kline came in. Poked the ball on the leg side and ran. Meckiff was run out at the batsman’s end, beaten by a side-on direct hit by Joe Solomon. Score 232.
Pandemonium. Commentator Clive Harburg was saying “They’ve lost, they’re one run short.” Johnnie Moyes yelled, “The West Indies has won!” But the scorer’s voice can be heard in the background, “No, the scores are level.No-one has won. It’s a tie”. And Moyes corrected himself. “It is a tie. The match is tied.”
On the field, at the end, Joe Solomon thought the West Indies had won, West Indies captain Frank Worrell thought they had lost.Only the ABC Radio scorer kept his head, and we could hear his voice on the radio in the background telling everybody that it was a tie.
The problem was that so much happened in that last over (including run-outs, when runs completed before the run-out must be added to the score) that the scoreboard could not keep up, and the ABC commentators were quoting how many runs to win. So when they thought Australia was one short, that meant one short of the win, i.e. a tie.
ABC folklore has it that that their ace cricket radio broadcaster Alan McGilvray left the Gabba at tea to catch an early flight home to Sydney. He believed the West Indies had the match in the bag. McGilvray took the regret to his grave.
Another significant story from the radio box is less well known. Because of the on-air confusion at the end of the match the archival recording of the last ball of that famous game was doctored. ABC management instructed Harburg and Moyes to mock up a commentary in which the tied result was clearly stated. This was done, most likely the next day, and I am told that, if you listen closely, the moment when the retrospective takes over from the actual is quite discernible.
In the early 1990s, McGilvray said that he still had in his possession the original recording, which apparently doesn't exist in the ABC archives. Alas, he died in 1996 and his copy has never been located.
There was another echo from the Tied Test in October 2015, on the death of Lindsay Kline, aged 81. Lindsay Kline was the last man in and he had described the situation to the CricInfo site like this:
“The previous over, I said to Colin McDonald 'I won't have to go in, will I?' He said 'No, I don't think so'. Then we lost those wickets and I'm trying to pad up, and I couldn't find my gloves, I'm looking in my bag. I was sitting on them. It got to me a bit, I got pretty nervous, that's for sure.
"I walked out and walked past Frank Worrell and he said to me 'I wouldn't be in your shoes for all the tea in China'. Then he also said 'you look a little pale'. I felt it.”
Kline told Meckiff that the plan was to run on the penultimate delivery, no matter what happened; he put bat on ball and took off, but Meckiff hesitated, and Solomon's throw found him short. Kline knew he had just been part of Test cricket's first tie, but in the rooms immediately afterwards Meckiff sat with his head in his hands thinking Australia had lost.
"I'm running for a win and he's running for a tie," Kline said. "But I can understand it, we didn't have electronic scoreboards or anything, flashing up 'one run to win' or anything like that. I thought he knew, and I thought I knew."