Sam Gannon, RIP, made an impressive Test debut against India

Sam Gannon, the Australian fast-medium bowler

By Kersi Meher-Homji

The passing away of Australia’s fast-medium bowler Sam Gannon this month aged 73 brought back memories of the fascinating tour of India under the ever popular Bishan Bedi to Australia in 1977-78. And what a series it was, one of the most topsy-turvy I have watched!

Just have a look at the results. Australia just managed to win the first two Tests; by 16 runs in Brisbane and by 2 wickets in Perth. India won the next two Tests easily, thrashing Australia by 222 runs in Melbourne and by an innings in Sydney.

The series was locked 2-all and the final outcome hung on the final Test in Adelaide. India was set a near impossible winning target of 493 and looked like winning when they were 6 for 415 with Mohinder Amarnath, Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Syed Kirmani scoring aggressive fifties. Now only 78 runs needed for an epic victory.

But they lost their last four wickets for only 30 runs and Australia won the Test by 47 runs and the series 3-2.

All the Tests were so exhilarating that they eclipsed the star-studded World Series cricket (WSC) organised by the billionaire Kerry Packer and others.

As all established Australian Test cricketers except Jeff Thomson preferred to play WSC, it gave an opportunity to lesser known cricketers to get selected in the series against India. Sam Gannon was one of them. Always a supporting actor, seldom a star, Gannon filled in when an opportunity arose.

Coming from Western Australia (WA) Gannon got few opportunities as WA had established fast bowlers like Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie. But he plugged on and played 40 first-class matches taking 117 wickets at 30.47.

He played three Tests against India in 1977-78 and impressed taking seven wicket in his Test debut (3 for 84 and 4 for 77) in the Perth Test, contributing to Australia’s 2 wicket win. He even put the dreaded Thomson in the shade.

In the next Test in Melbourne he captured four more victims which included Ashok Mankad and the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. But Gannon went wicket less in the Sydney Test, was dropped in the next Test in Adelaide and was never picked again.

But he continued playing Sheffield Shield matches for WA. His debut in Sheffield Shield in 1967-68 was equally impressive as he took 6 for 107 against South Australia. He felt more elated when WA won the Sheffield Shield that summer.

Following his career on the field, Gannon was appointed WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) Board Vice President from 2004 to 2013 and as Chairman from 2013 to 2015 before his retirement.

During his time as WACA Chairman he played a pivotal role in the development of the WACA Vision 2030 blueprint, which included cricket’s move to Optus Stadium and the improvement plans for the WACA Ground to become a modern, boutique community venue.

A philanthropist, he was also a Director on the Cricket Australia Board and received OAM in 2017.

The Perth Scorchers team wore black armbands to honour his memory in their Big Bash League Final against Sydney Sixers last week at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

WACA Chairman Tuck Waldron said, “Sam has made an outstanding contribution to cricket in WA, during his time as a player, vice President and Chairman of the Board.”

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