Aussie cricket legend Ian Chappell has recalled the “disgraceful” moment former Test captain and television commentary icon Bill Lawry was axed by Sir Donald Bradman.
Speaking on Channel 9’s special feature Bill Lawry, A Glorious Life which aired on Monday night, Lawry and Chappell both revisited one of the darkest episodes in Australian cricketing history that saw Lawry sacked as captain in a sensational coup that went all the way to the top.
By the late 60’s Lawry had established himself as one of the most stubborn batsmen in the game, and his defensive-minded tactics had begun to flow through to the rest of the Aussie dressing room.
Many claim it was the reason the cricket board and selectors of the time wanted Lawry gone, in a bid to promote a more entertaining game, but rumours of more sinister motives have since surfaced.
In Australia’s 1969-70 Tour of India, Lawry and his teammates were reportedly forced to stay in shocking accommodation. Having had enough, the captain wrote a letter to the board demanding better for the squad and chose to post it with the signatures of every player in the team.
“As far as I am concerned, putting in that letter was the end of Lawry as captain,” Chappell said.
“Then it was just a matter of them getting rid of him.”
A year later, the board made their move, claiming Lawry’s letter was essentially an “insurrection”.
The 1970-71 Ashes series in Australia will be forever remembered as the first time an Australian captain was ever dumped in the middle of a series. Lawry wasn’t even told the news, claiming he had found only found out while listening to the radio.
At the time, the official decision came from the panel of selectors chaired by Bradman. But according to ABC Grandstand commentator Jim Maxwell, the cricketing icon was forced to sack Lawry after fellow selectors Sam Loxton and Neil Harvey ganged up on him.
“Fellow selectors Harvey and Loxton outvoted/coerced The Don into making the change,” Maxwell posted on Twitter Tuesday.
Chappell was then handed the captaincy, becoming the unbeknown beneficiary of a brutal powerplay from behind the scenes.
“You don’t get told, you hear about it on the radio or the paper. In those days, you were never advised if you were in the side or out of the side,” Lawry told Channel 9.
Chappell said the incident still doesn’t sit well with him.
“It’s a terrible thing, it’s a disgraceful thing to do,” he said.
“The service that Bill had given Australia, he deserved to hear it from one of the selectors. The chairman of selectors should have told him face to face, in my opinion.”