John Gleeson (cricketer)
|Batting style||Right-hand bat|
|Bowling style||Legbreak googly|
Gleeson grew up in the country town of Tamworth. He was the son of a dairy farmer from Wiangaree in north eastern New South Wales, and attributed the finger strength required to bowl with his two-fingered grip to his childhood, which he spent milking cows.
He used a grip similar to that of the unique "bent-finger" action of Jack Iverson, using two fingers: a bent middle finger and the thumb pressing against the ball on both sides in an attempt to find a new variety of bowling tricks. He was one a small number of Australians who experimented with revolutionary bowling grips in the wake of Iverson's stay in international cricket.
Gleeson preferred to bowl downwind on a greenish surface, since pace from the wicket compensated for his not being a large spinner of the ball. His accuracy resulted in him mainly being used for defensive purposes, rather than an attacking one. Under the old LBW law, batsmen could not be given out if they were struck outside off stump, allowing batsmen to safely use their pads without offering a shot to nullify his googly.
In the 1966–67 season, he took four wickets in five balls, including a hat-trick, in a Sydney grade game, before taking 5/28 against Victoria. He was subsequently selected in an Australian "Second" Team to tour New Zealand at the end of the year. He was selected for the 1967–68 Test series against India in Australia. He made his debut in the First Test at Adelaide Oval, taking 2/36 and 2/38. He managed less success in the remaining three Tests, taking five wickets to end with nine at an average of 28.55. In 1968 he won selection for the Ashes tour of England, playing all five Tests and taking 12 wickets at 34.66.
The 1968–69 season saw a heavy workload for Gleeson, in five Tests against the West Indies cricket team. He took 15 wickets, including hauls of 5/122 and 5/61 in the first two Tests, but 842 runs, at an average of 56.13. He also peaked in his batting contributions, making his two highest scores of 42* and 45 in consecutive Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Adelaide Oval. The subsequent 1960–70 tour to India was to be Australia's last Test series win there for 35 years. He took match figures of 7/108 in the First Test at Mumbai, the leading return by an Australian in an eight wicket victory. He ended the series with ten wickets at 34.7.
In 1969–70, when Australia toured South Africa, Gleeson's value was such that he insured his right hand for A$10,000. Gleeson took 18 wickets in two first class matches against provincial team at the start of the tour and then another five in the First Test at Cape Town, and five in the second innings in the Third Test in Johannesburg. Most of the South Africans were seeing him for the first time and struggled to understand his action. It was Barry Richards, the most junior of them, who claimed to have worked him out. Not once in seven innings did Gleeson, who took 19 wickets at 38.94 in the series, dismiss Richards, as South Africa took a 4–0 series win.
Gleeson was the top Australian wicket taker in the 1970-71 Ashes series, but his 14 wickets cost 43.21 as his quest for variety resulted in loose balls and he was punished by the English batsmen who had met him in 1968. Despite being able to use their legs without danger, batsmen were still unable to overcome him during the 1971-72 domestic season when he took 45 wickets at 16.31 in eight matches, including 19 wickets in two consecutive matches. Gleeson was recalled for the 1972 Ashes tour, but was dropped after the first three Tests, in which he managed only three wickets at 52.33. He had minor skills with the bat, with one first class half century and a Test top score of 45.
He served on the inaugural governing committee of World Series Cricket. After 40 years of service with Telecom, he retired in 1995 as the New South Wales internal communications manager for the firm.
- Pollard, Jack (1969). Cricket the Australian Way. pp. 122–126.
- Cashman, Franks, Maxwell, Sainsbury, Stoddart, Weaver, Webster (1997). The A-Z of Australian cricketers. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-19-550604-9.
- John Gleeson at Statsguru
- Hartman, Rodney (January 2006). "When they were kings". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2007-04-19.
- p80, Ken Kelly and David Lemmon, Cricket Reflections: Five Decades of Cricket Photographs, Heinemann, 1985