John Dyson’s cricketing career may or may not be remembered well by future generations of the great game. But as FRASER WALKER-PEARCE writes, Dyson will not likely ever be forgotten for that one moment in the Sydney sun when he defied all the odds to take a spectacular catch, score an unbeaten century and save the day for Australia.
IT WAS 1982; Adam Gilchrist was only 11, was only watching TV, but got to see what he still rates as one of the greatest cricket moments.
The game was Australia v the West Indies.
And the calypso cricketers were dispatching the Australian attack to every corner of the SCG with gay abandon.
They were 300 runs up and the home team was desperately trying to secure a (sort of) face-saving draw.
With the pre-pubescent Gilchrist glued to the screen he watched Bruce Yardley trundling in with his hop, skip run up before sending another loopy off spinner down to destruction.
Sylvester Clarke was the appointed executioner and he duly danced out of his crease, got the delivery on the upswing and launched it into orbit.
While the commentators wondered if the ball had a stewardess it was flying so high, hardly anyone noticed a slight figure streaking across the sward, not even watching the ball, just concentrating on getting back as fast as he could.
Thousands of pairs of eyes at the ground tracked the ball as it arced towards the deep midwicket boundary – another four certain, possibly a six if Clarke had connected just right.
Suddenly the outfielder stopped running, leapt into the air, turning his body at the same time to try and see where the ball had gone and like a soccer goalie, both hands outstretched and behind his head, pulled in the what many – including Gilchrist – would call the ‘catch of the century’.
The crowd erupted as John Dyson fell back onto the ground, still hanging onto the ball.
“It’s in the air . . . it’s going out towards Dyson – he’s running back, he’s under it,” commentator Bill Lawry noted at the last moment.
“What a great catch,” he said.
“Gosh, that is one of the best outfield catches you will ever see.” He seemed as agog as the young Gilchrist, who must have been paying close attention to Clarke’s style because when he started murdering bowlers he made sure his big hits went all the way.
For Dyson ‘the catch’ would prove to be just the opening act for one of the games of his first class career.
He would go to the crease with Australia all but beaten, score 127 not out and saved the day, the game and his team.
Not a bad effort by any estimation.
It had all that bronzed Aussie battler about it – a player who may have only got his break because of the Australian Cricket Board stoush with Kerry Packer and the birth of World Series Cricket but any chance is an opportunity so he grabbed it with both hands.
A bit like ‘the catch’.
Dyson would play 30 tests in the baggy green; as well as 29 one day internationals and a total of 146 first class games at an average of a tick over 40.
That 127no would remain the high point of his batting career but he would continue taking spectacular grabs in the deep.
Now watching the game from the bleachers himself, the 64-year-old is adamant Australia’s current cricketing woes are not the end of the glory days for his beloved team.
He said Australian cricket will rise again.
The country’s once all-but-invincible team has publicly, shamefully; tumbled out of form (and favour) in recent times.
David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft’s role in the ball-tampering scandal earlier this year might have been a scandal somewhere in the realm of Bodyline, but Dyson is a far more forgiving soul.
He said when their bans have been served; all three should be allowed to wear the green and gold again.
If their form warrants their selection.
“I hope they do have a chance of getting back, once they’ve served their ban. They will be ready and deserve to be given another chance if they earn it,” Dyson said.
“Their form will come through and I really do hope to see them in the team sometime in the future,” he said.
“They are such good players that their skills will eventually shine through.
“But in saying that they will only make the squad if they can prove their form – and with that it will also depend on the form of others in the Australian side at the time too.”
Bancroft is eligible to return to professional cricket (likely to be in the Big Bash League) at the end of the month; while Smith and Warner will continue serving their bans until the end of March.
But if that Dyson moment, that catch, is the one that still resonates through the years for a cricketing legend young and impressionable mind, imagine what the cricketing veteran will be able to endow the next generation of Echuca-Moama’s budding Gillies.
As part of Shaun Brown’s Cricket Coaching Dyson is still working with the game he loves, inspiring players at the naissance of their cricketing careers with a mix of history, mystery and mastery.
The very talents that have seen him work as head coach for Sri Lanka and – ironically – the West Indies.
And now he has teamed with Shaun Brown to bring his in-depth knowledge of being a top-order batsman to Echuca-Moama.
The clinic will head to the twin towns on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 22/23, at Moama Recreation Reserve, from 9am to 3pm each day.
Dyson will lead the coaching program on the first day, focusing largely on transferring his batting skills to the next generation.
That will be followed by a bowling clinic on the second day, led by Dave Gilbert.
Gilbert played nine tests and ODIs for Australia, which included an ODI at the SCG against a strong New Zealand batting line up where he claimed 5/46.
“I’ll be there for one day, but the clinic will be running for two, and there will be a specialist there on each day.
“So I’m in on the first day as a bit of a batting expert if you will, and then on the second I think it’s Dave Gilbert there, which is the bowling part of the clinic.
“It’s quite important to have that separation I think, learning from someone whose main skill is batting and then on the next day learning from someone whose main skill is bowling.
“And when it comes to that, well Dave will be the one for them to ask,” Dyson said.
The clinic aims to provide a valuable learning experience for budding cricketers, aged six to 16.
“It is based on kids learning a whole range of fundamental skills – all the skills you really need as a beginner to take away and work on.
“They’re also aimed at getting them into good habits early so when they do take them away they’re practicing the right skills,” he said.
One of the main positives to come out of leading a clinic is seeing the rapid progression of some of the more promising young stars through the tiers of semi-pro and pro cricket.
“It’s fun to go out there and have a look at the cricket stars of tomorrow.
“I’ve seen a few over the years who have been at the Shaun Brown clinics there and have gone on to play in Sydney and onto grade cricket.
“You know, here we are at a clinic and then a few years on they’ve moved on to a far bigger stage in grade cricket,” Dyson said.
And when it comes to telling people about being on the game’s biggest stages, Dyson speaks with the voice of experience.
So if you think you have a future in the great game, make sure you catch John Dyson when he is in town.