The Hangover: Part 1, 2, 3…
Hitting a Test hundred sober is hard enough, Doug Walters hit 15 after whole nights spent in the hotel bar. That’s the coolest cricketer of his, or any, era. Rohit Bhaskar reports.india Updated: Jan 25, 2012 02:18 IST
There may or may not be another Bradman, but rest assured there will never be another Kevin Doug Walters either. Some cricketers are defined by numbers, some by deeds.
While Walters' numbers are brilliant, 5,357 runs at an average of 48.26, 49 wickets with his part-timers at 29.08 and 43 catches, it's his deeds that are never going to be matched in the future.
HT exclusively caught up with the legendary Australian batsman prior to the Adelaide Test and took a trip down memory lane.
To cool for school
Born in the country town of Dungog, New South Wales, Walters learnt his calling in life pretty early. "In school I used to tell my teachers, 'I don't have to do my homework because I'll play Test cricket for Australia'. My English and Math teacher at Dungog High School told me, 'You'll never make it Doug. You won't play Test cricket for Australia. You have to hand in your homework like everyone else'. So in a way they were my greatest inspiration, because they told me I couldn't do what I had dreamed of doing and I went all out to prove them wrong," recalls the 66-year-old.
At his best
Years later an Australian politician named Roger Wotton was travelling with the Australian cricket team as the manager in their Trans-Tasman tour to New Zealand. Walters' old mate Rod Marsh narrated a famous incident in his book.
Wotton was not impressed when he saw Walters empty pint after pint in the bar at the team hotel the night before the match at Christchurch. Around 5 am in the morning, Wotton was shocked to see Walters still sitting in the bar, puffing away with a pint in the other hand. He went up to Marsh's room, knocked on the door and said, “He’s still there.” Marsh didn’t even bother opening the door. “Leave Doug alone Roger, he knows what he's doing,” Marsh replied. When his turn came to bat, with a hangover and Gary Gilmour for company, Walters smashed a century.
Walters was back in pub that night. Wotton, was beside himself, but felt that a century did call for a celebration, so he left. At 5am the next morning, and the familiar sight of Walters sitting on the bar stool greeted him. Kerry O'Keeffe was the next batsman in and Wotton asked him to hit the nets early. 'Doug won't hang around for too long'.
Walters, 129 overnight, never looked like getting out and when he finally did he'd marched along to 250!
“I don't know how I can explain it,” says a puzzled Walters. "Sometimes even I think and wonder. But, thankfully for the most part I never try to figure out life, I just live it," he says.
Smoke's on me
Walters was a teetotaller through his teenage years. Then two things happened — he got a job with Rothmans, and he joined the army. “In those days Rothmans would give employees a ration of 1,500 cigarettes a month. I didn’t smoke so I used to distribute it among the other soldiers. It made me quite popular. I reckon I would've become a general in no time. Then I had a smoke. And that was that,” he says.
Soon his allowance was increased to 2,000 a month. When he would go on tour he'd have a tailor customise his suit with four jacket pockets just so he could stock his supplies.
But after 43 years and an estimated 785,300 cigarettes later, Walters stubbed out smoking close to three years ago. "It was after I underwent laser therapy. I thought I'll get a smoke the moment I leave the clinic. But, I didn't feel like it. Then I thought I'll smoke one when I go to the bus stop to take a ride back home. Didn't feel like it then, haven't smoked since.”
The great ones
In between the binges till early morning and the two packets of cigarettes (including a record 44 cans of beer on a flight from Australia to England, later broken by David Boon, who swigged 52!), Walters also played an innings of sublime skill. A century on debut, 155 against England, "Till the morning I thought I would be the twelfth man. Good thing I played. I've got great memories of that knock. You have the fondest memories of your first one," he says.
In 1968 he became the first batsman to score a hundred and a double hundred in the same match, hitting 242 and 103 at the SCG against West Indies. He hit a century in a session on a rank turner at Port-of-Spain against Lance Gibbs & Co, an innings his captain Ian Chappell still rates as the finest he's seen on a spinning track.
However, it was the WACA Ground in Perth where he played the innings of his life a magical 103 off 119 balls with 11 fours and a six. In the final session, Walters blazed to a century, reaching the three-figure mark with a six off Bob Willis off the final ball of the day. “I had Ross Edwards at the other end, he was telling me not to throw it away in the final over and said a century was there to be had the next day. I nodded, but of course I was going to go for it. I said to myself 'If he pitches it in my areas I'll go for it.' He did, and I hit it for a six.”World cricket will never see the likes of Walters again. As they say in these parts, Doug Walters you beauty!
First Published: Jan 24, 2012 23:29 IST