ASHLEY MALLETT on the makings of The Last Invincible, the biography of his hero Neil Harvey… out soon
December 22, 1954, will always be special for me. My grandfather took me to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the final day of the second Ashes Test.
I had a new hero. Six decades later, here I am telling my hero’s story. The Last Invincible is the first full-length biography of one of Australia’s finest. I am incredibly honored to be able to tell Neil’s story.
As a Test selector Neil picked me for my first tour of England. His fellow selectors back in 1968 were Sir Donald Bradman and Jack Ryder. Years later I got to know Neil well. Along with Alan Davidson, Neil and I would venture to New Zealand to catch the Test matches, in Auckland and Wellington.
He is one of the most self-effacing celebrated cricketers I’ve ever known. He is as honest as the day and unafraid to speak his mind. Some of the modern cricketers don’t understand him but Neil tells it now as he always has told it.
Mark Nicholas places Neil alongside Ricky Ponting and Greg Chappell as the three best Australian Test batsmen in the middle order since the age of Bradman. As a leader Neil was revered by his men. He would have made an excellent Test captain, given the chance to lead Australia long-term. He was almost elected captain on the tour of South Africa in 1957-58. Ian Craig, years his junior, was given the role and by the fifth Test was ready to drop himself.
He’d hardly made a run all tour. Peter Burge was the third selector, alongside Craig and his deputy captain, Harvey. Craig was hellbent upon stepping down, but Harvey stepped in. ‘Now, Peter,’ he said addressing Burge, then almost as young as Craig.
‘I’ve been on many a Test tour with Australia and never has an Australia Test captain been dropped. I can assure you that it will not happen this time. Peter, we have just outvoted Ian 2-1.’
Burge didn’t argue.
Had Harvey become captain for that last Test at Port Elizabeth it is almost certain he would have retained the captaincy for the Ashes tour the following Australian summer.
Had fate taken that route, Harvey would have led the Australians against England and the nation’s two most astute leaders – Richie Benaud and Neil– may have continued for years, their roles reversed. I loved spending so much time with Neil and rapt that the publishers Hardie Grant made it a hardback.
Signed copies of Neil Harvey, the Last Invincible, Australian champion Test batsman, selector, record breaker and last of Bradman’s Invincibles by Ashley Mallett are available from cricketbooks.com.au, at $50 posted