Sir Donald Bradman’s not so hidden role in Gabba’s Meckiff saga

Meckiff also dined at Bradman’s house and watched movie clips of various bowling moves, including Harold Larwood’s inversion that looks like a left arm. But there was no accompanying lecture on illegal bowling practices. “He never really said anything like ‘You have to change your moves or you can’t play,’ no,” Mekoff told Margaret Geddes on “Remembering Bradman.”

During Bradman’s 40 years as head of the Australian cricket administration, he regularly corresponded extensively with English cricket officials, who were closely following the 1963-64 season as the team, led by Benoy and Bob Simpson, would be in the north. Tour England for the summer.

Australia captain Richie Benaud (left) with Keith Slater (centre) and Ian Meckiff (right).

Australia captain Richie Benaud (left) with Keith Slater (centre) and Ian Meckiff (right).Credit:Times Archives

Indeed, Bradman’s attitude has been largely shaped by exchanges with British executives, including his former opponent “Gubby” Allen and MCC president Harry Altham. Largely due to British anger at what they considered to be an illegal Australian bowling practice, an understanding was reached that no bowler would be asked to bowl before the first Test at the 1961 Ashes tour, but would be bowled privately. Conveying the umpire’s opinion on the action. In fact, none of the bowlers who bowled in question made the trip, as neither Meckiff nor Gordon Rorke were considered. But two years later, things have changed.

Team balance shows that selectors recognize the possibility that not all bowlers are available. Five were picked, forcing Benaud to hit No. 6, who had captained just three of his previous 27 Tests.

If more circumstantial evidence was needed, Bradman and Egar shared part of the journey from Adelaide to Brisbane in the first Test of the 1963-64 series, with plenty of opportunity for further discussion The undocumented issue of throwing and Cricket Australia’s strong belief that umpires must “stand up and be counted”.


Egar became infamous for his strong refereeing in the memorable Australia-West Indies series in 1960-61, by which time he had risen through the game’s senior ranks.

Mekif was asked to throw four times in a gameforcing Benaud to immediately remove him from the bowling attack and not recall him for the remainder of what would become his last over.

Egar then worked his way up the board of the South Australian Cricket Association ACB, eventually taking on the chairmanship from 1989 to 1992. He was also manager of the team during an ugly tour of Pakistan in 1988, where Egar was as unhappy with the referee’s decisions as any player.

In multiple interviews, Mekif always described his shock at the episode, but at the same time made it clear that on a day off from testing, Bradman sat him down for a long conversation, essentially telling him his Career is over.


After Egar and Benaud had fulfilled the responsibilities Bradman had given them, the higher-ups worked to ensure that Meckiff exited gracefully—accepting the referee’s decision. At the same time, global cricketing authorities are sitting comfortably about how the looming threat to the sport, perceived or otherwise, is being publicly struck down.

Whether Bradman’s prescription for illegal bowling was deemed appropriate in the moment, or was too harsh, ruthless and calculated, will continue to be debated as long as the game is played. Of course, in a post-Muttiah Muralitharan world, it is considered most fitting that bowlers have the opportunity to practice their method in private without the rigors of “being asked to bowl” in front of the world.

But the characters lining up around Meckiff are too kind, if not downright disingenuous, to suggest that there is a “mystery” about how and why he exited the game in such an ignominious way in 1963. If Meckiff had been explicitly advised that those who were looking for the answer to the so-called riddle they had been looking for, the whole ugly scene of Gabba would never have happened.

These days, however, many of those conversations don’t happen. Bill Lawry, a young member of the Test squad at the time, was sacked as captain and eliminated as a player in 1971, and Bradman’s group didn’t even make a cursory phone call to tell him He’s out. The reporter was the first to discover. Mekif certainly had no illusions.

“It was a premeditated thing, but until someone turned around and told me it was, I still wouldn’t say Richie Benaud designed it, or Bradman designed it,” he told Geddes. “I think it’s going to come out eventually. I’m pretty sure it’s an agreement with the English Cricket Board and Gubby Allen because the tour is coming and most of the so-called questionable action players like myself have retired.”

And to claim that there was – or was needed – any more formal collusion between Bradman, Benaud and Egar than is already evident in the pages of published history would mean that anyone in Australian cricket in 1963 needed more than is a subtle hint as to what Bradman thinks and expects.

The idea is as disregarding history as the idea two weeks ago that killing JFK would have required a vast, documented plot to carry it out.

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