John Gleeson had advantage of long, strong fingers


Bipin Dani
Observer Correspondent

Mumbai—John Gleeson, the former Australian leg-break bowler who died earlier this week had very long and strong fingers, according to Bruce Frances, the former Australian opener who played with him in 70s.
Speaking exclusively from Sydney, he says, “I (also) toured England in 1972 with John (Gleeson) and fielded at first slip to him for New South Wales. I was best man at Tony Greig’s second wedding. Tony and I often discussed John’s bowling”.
The Mystery
“John Gleeson bowled with his middle finger folded back into his palm. If he didn’t flick his finger the ball came out as an ordinary off-break. It just looked like an orthodox off break to the batsman”.
“If, however, he flicked his finger it became a leg break with an off break action. The batsman could not see whether he had flicked his finger or not. Similarly, he could bowl with a leg break action and if he didn’t flick his finger it was a leg break. However, if he flicked his finger it became an off break with a leg break action”.
“I suspect that if John had been a Sri Lankan the pundits would have said he was bowling dooseras”.
“Kerry O’Keeffe occasionally bowled the odd ball like John. No one else’s finger was long enough or strong enough to emulate him”, he signed off.
. India’s Bapu Nadkarni was Gleeson’s first victim on debut (Adelaide Test, 1967-68). Interestingly, Nadkarni too has “unusual” fingers. “Nearly after 50 years, I don’t recall how Gleeson used to ball’, he had to say on Australia’s bowling.
Chandu Borde, Gleeson’s second Test victim and former India captain Ajit Wadekar,
however, do remember about Gleeson’s bowling.
“Very few people could pick John which meant they had to play him from the crease”, Borde recalls.
“Gleeson had a rare quality of bowling and he was pretty accurate and a challenging bowler”, Wadekar said.
Casting vote
In the meantime, Ajit Wadekar, one of the speakers (the other being Nari Contractor) for the Legends Club meeting (CCI) on Wednesday (Vijay Merchant birth anniversary) may recall the days when Vijay Merchant, as a chairman of the selection committee put a casting vote and replaced Tiger Patuaudi with Wadekar to lead the Indian side some 45 years ago.