In January 1940, Davidson was sitting in the old Brewongle booth, watching NSW take on
“Stan McCabe got 49 before being played by Barry Scott,” he says. – Hit him six on Paddington Hill. Sid Barnes arrived and was stuck in the ravine for 17 years. I was 10 years old.
“Then I stirred up school to watch Bradman beat in the test match here in 1946. The thing I couldn’t get over was his footwork. Only Bradman had better footwork than Neil Harvey. Neil was something to watch out for at a bad wicket. No batsman has played out of his crease more on the spin than Neil Harvey, but he’s never been stumped in a test. The best drummer I have ever played with.
Davidson waves a finger towards the back of the locker room.
“See those two massage tables in there?” ” he says. “Richie and I would sit there and listen when we were the youngest players on the team. There was [Keith] Miller, [Ray] Lindwall, [Arthur] Morris … they were talking all day and we learned more in those times than in the middle.
Davidson can see Arthur Morris getting bowling bouncers one day at SCG.
“He put the three on the Hill,” he said. “The fans loved it up there under the dash. It was before the 1980s, when people were clapping and shouting. You felt they were in the game as much as you were. They came to watch cricket.
Those who have seen Davidson bowl will tell you that it was poetry in motion during fast-medium bowling. If he was cranky, however, he could be as fast as any other bowler in the world at the time.
“I’ve never been faster than Jeff Thomson,” Davidson says, referring to the Australian fast pitcher widely regarded as the fastest of them all. “But who was it?” “
Davidson’s first five-wicket transport in an SCG test came nearly a decade after his test debut, in the third test against Frank Worrell’s West Indies team in 1960-61. He had already been involved in the Gabba’s frenzied scenes in Brisbane earlier in the series when the test was tied with Davidson scoring 80, with a broken finger, before being exhausted late on day five. In Sydney he
took 5-80 in the opening innings, including Garry Sobers’ prized wicket, but Australia were still crushed by 222 points.
Until this point, Davidson had never won a test at his beloved SCG. He finally did it two years later, in the third test against England, and he scored it with a second five-wicket performance. He retired at the end of that Ashes series, having played 44 tests, taking 186 wickets and scoring 1,328 runs.
Today, the locker room is one of the few parts of the SCG that hasn’t changed, except for a lick of paint and a flat-screen TV in the corner. When time dictated that the hill was replaced with seating, the old dashboard where thousands of people gathered at the bar below was removed.
The names of the teams and players written on calico are hidden in the SCG Museum, but two have been framed. The name “BRADMAN” is displayed in the Members Bar, an essential reminder of the history of the field every time you enter. Inside the dressing room of the house, you will find “DAVIDSON”.
Not bad for a kid who grew up with nothing, who came to SCG as a kid to watch Bradman and Barnes, who played a rugby league match here as a schoolboy and said on the spot that his next match would be a game of cricket.
“Memories live longer than dreams,” he says. “This is the most important thing about coming back to this place. I remember every game I played, every incident, every shot.
This is an edited excerpt from If These Walls Could Talk: A Celebration of the Sydney Cricket Ground by Andrew Webster, published by Stoke Hill Press. Outside now.