COVID character

Updated: Jul 05, 2020, 10:39 IST | Ian Chappell | Sydney

Cricket will never be the same when the Test match variety resumes in England next week. The dressing rooms may need a character like Kevin Douglas Walters, a lovable pest, who would now be called a...

Doug Walters reads a congratulatory telegram in the SCG dressing room in 1969. Pic/ Getty Images
Doug Walters reads a congratulatory telegram in the SCG dressing room in 1969. Pic/ Getty Images

ianInternational cricket is finally returning after a COVID-19-induced hiatus with an England versus West Indies Test series. It won't quite be cricket as we've known it but nevertheless it'll be something to watch—at least on television—after months of lockdown and longing. For the players, it will be a case of trying to perform at their best in a bio-secure bubble without crowds.

This will require the obligatory talent and determination to prosper at the highest level, along with the odd slice of luck. However, there's another ingredient that teams may find helpful in an era of extra tension—the dressing room pest.

The guy who, despite all the pressure that builds during a five-day contest, still retains the ingenuity to drive his teammates to distraction with a series of practical jokes. Oh, and it also helps if that same guy can hold up his end of the bargain on the field. It's better his teammates are laughing with him, not at him.
In an era of lockdowns, isolation and bio-secure bubbles this type of character will be even more important to a team's success.

I had the good fortune to play with such a cricketer for the bulk of my career—Kevin Douglas Walters. First off, Walters was a match-winner. A player of exceptional skill, who scored a century in each of his first two Tests and often had the happy knack of claiming a "B-b-b-bloody beauty, one for none," when thrown the ball. A player, who despite impersonating an owl, (he did a lot of hootin' and hollerin' late at night) still managed to average 48 in his Test career.

Just for good measure, three of his 15 Test centuries were completed inside a session. He was also the first Test batsman to score a double and a single century in the same match. That's his cricketing credentials out of the way, now for another of his talents of enacting the role of dressing room pest.

On tours of the UK, his first stop was Carnaby Street; not because he sought the fashions of the day. No, he headed straight for the magic shop where he gleefully pounced on such unconventional items as itching powder and disappearing ink.

When he wasn't playing cards and smoking in the dressing room, he'd wander around patting teammates on the back of the neck. This apparent gesture of encouragement was greatly appreciated until his teammate realised they now had an itch they couldn't scratch.

Our amiable assistant manager on the 1968 tour—Les Truman—purchased a white suit, which was more appropriate for the warm climes of his hometown Perth than a grim London day in May. Les erred in proudly displaying his new purchase in the Lord's dressing room at a time when Doug was writing his daily letter home.

Suddenly, in dire need of a re-fill for his fountain pen, Doug tripped on a strategically placed cricket bag and spilled the contents of his ink bottle over Les's brand new suit.

Les was apoplectic, cursing Walters with "Who uses a fountain pen these days anyway."

Doug was apologetic and quickly grabbed a towel to mop up the stain. Despite Les's howls of "Get away from me," Doug insisted on helping and asked; "Now, where's the spot on your suit?"

When Les pointed to the area, all that remained was a small, clear wet spot. At this point, the dressing room erupted in laughter and Les, like many an Australian player before him, was forced to choose between joining the frivolity or smacking Doug on the jaw.

This was Doug Walters on a normal cricket tour. I hate to think what dastardly deeds he'd devise with the extra time on his hands provided by lockdown mode.

I sense that nothing would change my tune. I've often said, I would've hated to tour without Walters. Every team need one; a dressing room pest who keeps the team loose in times of great tension.

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