Max Walker, the tangle-footed and rubber-armed Australia seamer of the 1970s, has died in Melbourne after succumbing to cancer. He was 68.
A key member of the successful Australian Test teams led by Ian and Greg Chappell, Walker was also among the breakaway group of players who took part in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket from 1977 to 1979. Their stance fundamentally altered the shape of international cricket ever since.
Walker played 34 Tests for Australia, bowling into the wind opposite Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in the memorable home summers of 1974-75 and 1975-76, when England and West Indies were laid to waste.
He also stepped up notably on occasions when the aforementioned pair were injured or unavailable. Chief among these efforts were early in his career: a Test match against Pakistan in 1973 when he ran through the tourists opposite an ailing Lillee, and the West Indies tour later the same year when he led an undermanned bowling attack to one of the team’s best overseas wins.
Greg Chappell remembered Walker saying: “My two most indelible memories of Tangles would be the tour of the West Indies in 1973 when Australia lost our spearheads Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie, meaning that Jeff Hammond and Max had to shoulder the burden of the bowling. The conditions were pretty tough and they weren’t really conducive to swing bowling, which was Max’s strength, but it was one of the earliest occasions where we became aware of reverse swing, and he was able to get the older ball to go Irish, which really helped our cause.
“We won that series and he was a big contributor to that victory. The other moment that I can still recall vividly was during the Centenary Test in 1977 when England had dismissed us for 130-odd and we needed something special, and we got it from Max. Tony Greig was always a big wicket, but when he sent Greigy’s off stump cart-wheeling, the roar from Tangles was louder than that of the crowd. I was in slips and it was almost frightening as he charged down the pitch with both arms in the air, roaring his delight.”
“Max leaves an indelible signature on Australian cricket and its culture. He will be profoundly missed’.”