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ICC World Cup: Mick Malone, whose 1978 delivery 'inspired' Greg Chappell to order underarm in 1981

Perth-based former paceman, who also featured in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket in Australia, says India won't have any problems at the WACA ground in their next two World Cup fixtures at the pace-famous ground

Perth: Fast bowler Mick Malone made his Test debut for Australia - against England at the Oval in 1977 - and came away with a fifer (5-63) in his first innings. But he never donned his whites to bowl for Australia in Test cricket again. He still loves white and yesterday, the 64-year-old was in a crisp white shirt when mid-day caught up with him at Mick Malone Real Estate company on Scarborough Beach Road here.

Former Australia fast bowler Mick Malone at his real estate agency on Scarborough Road, Perth yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro
Former Australia fast bowler Mick Malone at his real estate agency on Scarborough Road, Perth yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro  

In an interview, the tall, strapping former Western Australian pacer hailed India's chances of doing well at Perth against not just UAE (February 28) but also against West Indies (March 6) given the track had changed considerably - from the speedy strip it used to be in his heydays to a dry, brown wicket. Malone had an indirect, innocent role to play in one of the most ugly incidents in cricket – the underarm delivery bowled by Trevor Chappell on instructions from his elder brother Greg.

Read on...

Not many have taken a fifer in the first innings on Test debut Test and never played a Test again. How does that feel?
It was a bit of a surprise, but I was excited to do it. I remember, I didn't take a wicket till the 20th over and thought that I going to get taken off and would never been heard of again having gone wicketless. Then all of a sudden, I got a wicket in the 20th over and Greg Chappell (captain) kept throwing me the ball and I got four more.

Do you feel you would have got more opportunities had you not joined Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket?
Not really, because that was the last Test in England and World Series Cricket was the very next game, so it was almost two years before I would've had the next opportunity to play a Test. I would've probably got only one or maybe two Tests thereafter. I was 12th man for a Test against the West Indies in 1981 and I did go to Pakistan in 1980 but didn't get a game there. So, while I would've liked the opportunity, on the positive side, I now have a fine bowling average of 12.83, which will stay forever.

How was it to bowl with Dennis Lillee for Western Australia?
I was very fortunate to have had Dennis bowl from the other end at the WACA for almost 70 per cent of my games there. He was at his peak in those days and Rod Marsh, our captain, said that I was the perfect foil for Dennis because by the time Dennis had finished from one end, Marsh was pretty happy to see my slow outswingers from the other. So, it was a great advantage to play with Dennis. After my career, he gave me a photo of the Centenary Test with a big signature on it saying "thanks for all the times together." I treasure that.

Former Australia fast bowler Mick Malone's real estate agency on Scarborough Road, Perth. Pic/Ashwin Ferro
Former Australia fast bowler Mick Malone's real estate agency on Scarborough Road, Perth. Pic/Ashwin Ferro 

What was it like to play under Marsh?
Rod Marsh was the best captain I played under, and I've been lucky to play under Greg, Kim Hughes and even Ian Chappell (in World Series Cricket). But Rod was tough and uncompromising. You knew where you stood with Rod. He never minced words. He would straightaway tell you that what you're doing was right or wrong. He was brutally honest, but he was very sincere too and had a great cricket brain. He is a wonderful choice for Chairman of selectors for the Australian team. He's the most astute man I've met in cricket.

How quick was the Perth wicket in your heyday?
I'm very glad that I'm not playing at Perth today because the wicket now is a lot drier, the ball doesn't stay shiny for long and with the Grand Stand built, the breeze is not as significant as it used to be. Back then, the strip was green, juicy and the ball swung a lot. It was very much in favour of the bowlers and that's why Western Australia kept producing good bowlers like Graham McKenzie, Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman, Bob Massie. But the swing is not there anymore and the conditions are nowhere near conducive to fast bowling as in those days. That's one of the main factors why Western Australia has not produced too many fast bowlers in the recent past. India are playing two games at Perth and though they don't have a good pace attack, in the present Perth conditions, I still see them doing well there with both bat and ball. The way they dominated and beat Pakistan and South Africa was very impressive. Perth should not be a problem for MS Dhoni and his men.

Kim Hughes is highly respected in India. How good was he in your book?
Kim was an absolute superstar when he was a young man of 16 or 17 and playing Grade cricket at Perth. He was as good at 17 as he ever was. He was the most talented batsman to ever play for Western Australia. But I don't think captaincy did him any favours because if he hadn't captained and was only a player, his record would have been far more significant.

How did you get into this real estate business?
I was a teacher after my cricket career and didn't see that going anywhere. So, a friend who owned a real estate business, asked me if I was interested in joining him. I did, and in some years, I started my own business (early 1980s.) In fact, I'm proud to say that I did sell some property to Dennis Lillee a few years ago. There was a World Series Cricket game on January 24, 1978 when West Indies required five to win off the last two balls. You had to bowl them with the last WI pair of Wayne Daniel and Joel Garner out there.

The WACA ground. Pic/Getty Images
The WACA ground. Pic/Getty Images 

Do you recall that game?
I remember them very clearly. I asked my captain Ian (Chappell) 'where do you think I should bowl,' and he said 'bounce Daniel off.' But I told him that I couldn't bounce it that high up because the pitch wasn't conducive for it. So he said, 'ok, then do not bowl it anywhere near his legs' but that is exactly what I did. In those days, the umpires weren't so harsh and if a delivery went down the leg side, it was not automatically a wide. But then, Daniel took a step out to square leg, got into the perfect position, got it on the half-volley and it for six. I was booed off the ground by the public. I felt terrible. Then, when I went into the dressing room, one of our players came up to me and said that it's simply cricket and was a case of bad luck. But when I looked up and saw the disappointed faces of my teammates, I knew that it was a load of rubbish.

Rod Marsh in a documentary later said that you called your wife in Perth hoping to get some sympathy but she wouldn't listen to you completely. Is that true?
In those days, there was no live telecast of matches and we didn't have mobile phones. So I called her just to feel good, but as soon as I said 'hello', she said to me 'please don't tell me the score. There are two overs to go and it's very exciting,' and hung up. I simply walked back to my room.

How much did that ball change things in terms of your future in that WSC Australia team?
It didn't actually change things professionally. But on a personal level, it's been a lot of fun because every now and then someone brings it up. I've never felt hard done by it or felt bad about it. In fact, I'm the butt of many jokes because of it and I enjoy it. I see it as a highlight of my cricket life.

You played under Greg for Australia and under Ian in World Series Cricket. How different were they as skippers?
Both are quite different. Greg was a bit more distant as a captain and because he was so talented. He expected everyone else to be the same. But he was a very good and astute captain. Ian, on the other hand, was very much like a mate. If you've played for Australia or if you were good enough to play for Australia, Ian always encouraged you a lot. But if you stepped out of line with Ian, he was very hard on you too.

Greg Chappell said he thought of that 1978 match before he asked brother Trevor to bowl underarm to Brian McKechnie on February 1, 1981 and feared McKechnie would do what Daniel did to you. What did you feel when you heard this?
I actually agreed with Greg's thoughts because as a captain he was worried that you can get hit for a six off the last ball. I could see what went through his mind and why and wasn't surprised that he recalled me just before the underarm moment. But I do not agree with the underarm delivery.

Your views on the World Cup. Is there a case for swing bowling?
There is a massive case for swing as was shown by New Zealand's Tim Southee, who took seven wickets (against England at Wellington). But that may not be the case in Perth. I see Australia as the favourites definitely. And now, having watched New Zealand and India do well too, I think they also have a good chance to win it.

Malone, who 'caused' the 1981 underarm delivery

Q. There was a World Series Cricket game on January 24, 1978 when West Indies required five to win off the last two balls. You had to bowl them with the last WI pair of Wayne Daniel and Joel Garner out there. Can you recall that game at VFL Park, Melbourne?
A. I remember them very clearly. I asked my captain Ian (Chappell) 'where do you think I should bowl,' and he said 'bounce Daniel off.' But I told him that I couldn't bounce it that high up because the pitch wasn't conducive for it. So he said, 'ok, then do not bowl it anywhere near his legs' but that is exactly what I did. In those days, the umpires weren't so harsh and if a delivery went down the leg side, it was not automatically a wide. But then, Daniel took a step out to square leg, got into the perfect position, got it on the half-volley and hit it for six. I was booed off the ground by the public. I felt terrible. Then, when I went into the dressing room, one of our players came up to me and said that it's simply cricket and was a case of bad luck. But when I looked up and saw the disappointed faces of my teammates, I knew that it was a load of rubbish.

Mick Malone during the Oval Test of 1977. Pic/Patrick Eagar
Mick Malone during the Oval Test of 1977. Pic/Patrick Eagar 

Q. How much did that ball change things in terms of your future in that WSC Australia team?
A. It didn't actually change things professionally. But on a personal level, it's been a lot of fun because every now and then someone brings it up. I've never felt hard done by it or felt bad about it. In fact, I'm the butt of many jokes because of it and I enjoy it. I see it as a highlight of my cricket life.

Q. Greg Chappell said he thought of that 1978 match before he asked brother Trevor to bowl underarm to Brian McKechnie on February 1, 1981 and feared McKechnie would do what Daniel did to you. What did you feel when you heard this?
A. I actually agreed with Greg's thoughts because as a captain he was worried that you can get hit for a six off the last ball. I could see what went through his mind and why and wasn't surprised that he recalled me just before the underarm moment. But I do not agree with the underarm delivery.

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