Former South Australia batsman Alan 'Sheffield' Shiell is not remembered for scoring a first-class double hundred against a strong English team in 1965. Instead, he is known as the journalist, who on May 9, 1977, broke the news of the emergence of World Series Cricket. He is also the journalist who informed Ian Chappell that he was Australia's new captain in 1970.
When he finished playing 23 first-class matches, he was confronted with a choice: Continue persuing the Baggy Green, or take up the job of a full-time cricket correspondent. "I was starting to love the life of a journo more than that of a cricketer," Shiell told MiD DAY at Strathmore Hotel here where a host of South Australian cricketers gather.
"Though I scored good runs in the first two seasons in Sheffield Shield cricket, I started to struggle a little in the third season. I joined Adelaide Advertiser by then. I was becoming more of a journalist, and less of a cricketer. Between 22 and 24, I still played club. At 24, I completely stopped playing," he said.
A few years later, Shiell broke the captaincy news to Chappell. "Australia hadn't had a successful few years. We were losing a lot. South Africa thrashed us. The Board was starting to lose patience with Bill Lawry (captain at the time). They saw Chappell as a more enterprising captain, one for the future, a bit like Michael Clarke now. But, there were some in the Board who weren't in favour of Chappell because he rallied around the players in South Africa, refusing to play an additional Test. Chappell was a very forthright character. That didn't sit well with some," he said.
Recalling the day of the captaincy announcement, Shiell continued: "A telex had just come through early afternoon. I immediately called Ian's office (HD Wills). They told me that he had gone out for lunch. I called up a restaurant where he always went for lunch. I luckily found him there. I said to him 'Ian, congratulations, you are the new Australian captain'.
"The first thing he asked me was 'what happened to Bill'? He wasn't happy or anything. He was distraught that Lawry was treated so poorly by the administrators. I told him that Bill was dropped. He was angry with the way the whole thing was handled. The Board had not communicated with Bill or Ian," said Shiell.
"There was talk that John Inverarity (current chief selector) would become captain because of his school master-like persona. As it turned out, he was named vice-captain to Ian for the 1972 Ashes," he added.
Shiell recalled the time when Sir Donald Bradman, who was Adelaide based at the time, asked him to change his batting grip. "Greg Chappell loves telling that story. Greg and I were roommates when he first came into the South Australia side in the mid 60s. Sir Don had a similar piece of advice for Greg. That's why Greg kept telling me, 'I better take the advice, because the last bloke (Shiell) who didn't take Sir Don's advice isn't playing cricket anymore.'
"This one time I met Bradman outside the Committee Room at Adelaide Oval. He came up to me and said 'Alan, heard your wife has given birth to a son. What have you named him?' I replied: 'Bradley'. He turned around said, 'Well at least, you got it half right.' Those were my encounters with Don."
Shiell recalled the time when he broke the news of World Series Cricket during the 1977 Ashes. "I heard something before leaving for England. I told the editor and the chairman of the newspaper here in Adelaide. The chairman said 'Kerry wouldn't do anything like that'. The night before I left to England, I met Peter McFarline (journalist) and told him about what was brewing. He didn't say much. Later, I heard that the Daily Mail (in England) were on to something. We had to do it over the weekend - to publish before them.
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