The talented Turners of cricket

Updated: Mar 14, 2019, 05:38 IST | Clayton Murzello

Aussie Ashton, who was the scourge of the Indians at Mohali on Sunday, could well become as prominent as his many namesakes

The talented Turners of cricket
Ashton Turner plays a shot during the fourth ODI between India and Australia at Mohali on March 10. Pic/AFP

Clayton MurzelloThe pundits branded Australia's Sunday 359-run pursuit against India as their greatest run chase in the history of one-day cricket. Few will argue with that. For, Ashton Turner just barged into India's confectionary store in Mohali like a bully and took all the sweets away.

Ashton's surname rang a bell and immediately I thought of another A Turner who played for Australia – Alan, the left-handed opening batsman — under Ian and Greg Chappell. The New South Welshman made his Test debut in the 1975 series in England without making a significant contribution, but scored a hundred against Sri Lanka at the first World Cup in the same year. The game is better known for Jeff Thomson sending two Sri Lankan batsmen – Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis – to hospital.

In the final against West Indies at Lord's, Alan was first of the three Australian batsmen to be run out by the quicksilver Viv Richards for 40 off 54 balls.

The next time he faced the West Indies, he scored a vital 81 in the first innings of the 1975-76 opening Test at Brisbane, where Australia kicked off their 5-1 annihilation of Clive Lloyd's tourists. Turner's hundred in the fifth Test came in handy for Australia to set the West Indies a near-impossible 490 to win at Adelaide.

Later that year, in a Test against Pakistan at the same venue, he collided with Jeff Thomson while taking a run and the injury busted Jeff Thomson's shoulder. Keen followers of Australian cricket reckon that the injury had a permanent effect on Thomson's fearsome pace. Turner played the last of his 14 Tests in 1977. It is believed he was invited to be part of Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket, but decided to stay with the establishment because the company he worked for sponsored Test cricket in Australia. Some employee-loyalty that!

Of course, the most famous Turner in cricket will always be New Zealander Glenn. Before Martin Crowe came along in the early 1980s, Glenn was the big batting star. He was also an accomplished county cricketer with Worcestershire and scored a hundred first-class centuries. According to Pat Murphy, the author of a book on batsmen who scored a century of centuries, Turner developed into a free-flowing player only in 1973 and he relished chasing runs in county cricket. Glenn made two Test tours to India (1969-70 and 1976-77) and married an Indian girl Sukhi, who he met on the first trip.

When a trial was organised for him at Warwickshire in the late 1960s, he had no money to make the trip.

For his one-way ticket, according to Murphy, Turner worked the night shift at a bakery in New Zealand for 18 months. But a few days before his departure to Birmingham, Warwickshire informed him that they had filled up their overseas vacancies. Despite this, Turner travelled to the county and had a net with the Warwickshire 'A' team who were not impressed by his constant blocking at deliveries. Turner then succeeded in earning a place in the Worcestershire team who he played for from 1967 to 1982 and enriched county cricket through the 1970s and early 1980s just like his namesake Cyril did at Yorkshire in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Cyril didn't play Test cricket but made a contribution to international cricket by the mentoring of Fred Trueman from a very young age. When Cyril wanted the teenaged raw fast bowler to play for his Sheffield United club, Trueman's father protested, saying he is too young, only 15. But, as Trueman wrote later, "There was no arguing with him (Cyril)." Trueman emerged a pace terror who critics said ate batsmen for breakfast.

On the subject of terrorising fast bowlers, there was Charlie Turner, who was known as 'The Terror.' Charlie played 17 Tests for Australia from 1886-87 to 1894-95 and claimed 101 wickets at 16.53. The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket describes him as, "A quiet thoughtful gentleman."

Stuart was a key player for Essex in the 1970s. There is a fascinating story about how Stuart volunteered over the phone to make the journey all the way from the Westcliffe ground on the morning of a July 18, 1973 match against Northamptonshire, to pick up Graham Gooch and John Lever whose vehicle had broken down en route to Essex.

Before Stuart landed up, Gooch and Lever managed help from the Essex scoresheet-seller, who was on his way to the ground. Obviously, Stuart was livid when he didn't find his colleagues at the place where their car broke down and arrived just in time to take the field. Gooch's fears over being dropped for his debut game didn't come true and Turner got the first wicket of the game – future England player and umpire Peter Willey – leg before for 4.

Young Ashton, who scored a 20-ball 20 in New Delhi yesterday, has a rich Turner legacy to live up to. What's in a name, they ask often. In this case, an abundance of runs, wickets and cricketing history.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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