Eddie Gilbert (cricketer)
|Full name||Edward Gilbert|
1 August 1905|
Woodford, Queensland, Australia
|Died||9 January 1978
Wacol, Queensland, Australia
|Bowling style||Right arm fast|
|Domestic team information|
|Source: CricketArchive, 12 January 2010|
Gilbert was taken from his home near Woodford at the age of three as part of a government policy on Aboriginal people and grew up on farms while living in the Barambah Aboriginal Reserve, now known as Cherbourg, north of Brisbane. He took up cricket at a young age, initially playing as a slow bowler but quickly developing pace cultivated through a flexible wrist that he said was from years of boomerang throwing.
First class career
After playing with the State Colts in 1930, came into the Queensland Sheffield Shield team in 1931. Gilbert was probably only the fourth Aboriginal Australian to play first-class cricket in Australia, after Twopenny in 1870, Johnny Mullagh in 1879 and Albert Henry in 1902. (Note that the 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England was not considered first-class.)
In his career, Gilbert played in 19 Sheffield Shield matches, taking 73 wickets at an average of 29.75. A further 14 wickets were taken off touring MCC, West Indies and South African sides. In one match against the touring West Indian team, he took 5/65. Despite his success, it is unlikely that he was ever seriously considered for the Australian Test team due to doubts about his action, his Aboriginality and the fact that he represented Queensland, then a relatively weak team.
The era of 'protection'
As an Aboriginal man living in Queensland in 1931, Eddie Gilbert was bound by the restrictions of the Protection of Aboriginals Act 1897. This meant that he needed written permission to travel from his Aboriginal settlement each time he played in a first-class match. Reference to his correspondence survives in the Queensland State Archives. (QSA A/4736, Home Secretary, Register of Letters Received, 1931, Extracts - Aborigines General).
On 6 November 1931 in a match against NSW at the recently opened Brisbane Cricket Ground (the "Gabba") in Brisbane, he dismissed opener Wendell Bill for a duck with his first ball. The incoming batsman was Don Bradman (at the time, the best batsman in the world) and the next delivery was so quick that it literally knocked the bat from his hands. Bradman was then caught behind by wicket-keeper Len Waterman for a third ball duck.
Bradman recalled years later that the six deliveries he faced from Gilbert in that match were the fastest he had experienced in his career. Bradman said The keeper took the ball over his head, and I reckon it was halfway to the boundary and that the balls from Gilbert were unhesitatingly faster than anything seen from Larwood or anyone else. Although as he added in his autobiography, Bradman thought Gilbert's action was 'decidedly suspect'.
Though he had a controversial action he was called only once for throwing and that for jerking his wrist. Importantly the straightness of his arm was never contradicted by umpires. The occasion of him being called was the match between Victoria and Queensland at the MCG in 1931. The umpire Andrew Barlow, no-balled him 13 times for his action.
Alan McGilvray said he had "absolutely no doubt" that Gilbert was "the fastest bowler I ever saw" and that "no matter how I analyse cricket down the years, I cannot imagine anybody bowling a ball faster than Eddie Gilbert". Of the legality of Gilbert's action, McGilvray commented, "It was hard to tell whether he actually chucked or not, because he let the ball go with such a fling of his right arm you got precious little sight of it."
Gilbert retired from the game in 1936 due to poor form whereupon officials in the Queensland Cricket Board and the Aboriginal Protectorate arranged for his return to an Aboriginal settlement. Gilbert died at the Wolston Park Hospital near Brisbane on 9 January 1978, aged 72 after many years of ill health due to alcoholism and mental illness.
In 2007 Queensland Cricket erected a bronze statue of Gilbert in Bogan Street, outside Allan Border Field, Albion. Designed by Pauline Clayton, the statue shows Gilbert in full flight. The monument was dedicated in November 2008.
- Twopenny - Aboriginal Australian who played for New South Wales against Victoria in 1870
- Johnny Mullagh - Aboriginal Australian who played for Victoria against the MCC in 1879
- Albert Henry - Aboriginal Australian who played for Queensland from 1902 to 1905
- Player Profile: Wendell Bill from CricInfo retrieved 18 November 2008
- Player Profile: Leonard Waterman from CricInfo retrieved 18 November 2008
- Alan McGilvray, The Game Goes On, ABC Books, Sydney, 1987, pp. 111-12.
- Eddie Gilbert - The True Story Of An Aboriginal Cricketing Legend by Mike Coleman and Ken Edwards. ABC Books (2002).
- Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090003b.htm