Mike Whitney AM – 40th Anniversary of his Test debut – Baggy Green 313
13th August 2021
Mike Whitney joined the Randwick Club in the summer of 1976 looking to fill in time between South Sydney football and the crashing waves of the Maroubra surf. The fast left-arm bowling talent of the brash, outgoing 17 year old was quickly recognised by club officials and he took his place in the Fourth grade line-up. Match figures of 9-26 in his fourth match was a sample of what was to come in the years ahead.
Mike’s failure to turn up for a match the following season when he sneaked up to the Gold Coast to enjoy his team’s end-of-season, earned him a one match ban and the tag “Crazy” from his cricket mates. The lesson brought a change in attitude which has stood the test of time and proved him to be one of cricket’s greatest ambassadors.
After a handful of games in Randwick’s First XI, Mike debuted for NSW at the Gabba in 1980-81, sharing the new ball with Len Pascoe and Geoff Lawson.
To gain experience, Mike went to England in the 1981 off-season joining Fleetwood in the Northern League competition. After some impressive displays, he played three matches for Gloucestershire in the County Championship taking 13 wickets. While packing his bags for the next county match, he received a dramatic call to go to Manchester instead to join the Australian Test team.
Within two days he had taken the field at Old Trafford, wearing the Baggy Green in the Fifth Test v England and becoming the 313th cricketer to receive the honour. A fairytale debut for the 21 year old whose overall First Class experience totalled just seven matches.
Few of his many fans who nervously watched their TV screens back home will forget Mike Whitney’s first over in Test cricket. After one ball it rained, and he had to wait 87 minutes to complete the over! Terrible for his nerves, but certainly a record for the longest over on Test cricket debut. Mike went on to take 2-50 and 2-74 in his first Test including the prized scalp of David Gower.
In the next Test at The Oval he had an ordinary match with the ball but, defying the suggestion that his turn with the bat was purely to satisfy convention, he managed to stay with Allan Border while they added a vital 32 runs for the last wicket. Through Mike’s grit and determination, Border was able to take his score from 80 to 106*.
Upon returning home Mike played only 6 First Class matches for the Blues before being sidelined with a back injury. He recovered to take 45 Shield wickets the following season before his left knee collapsed in 1983-84. The popular medical opinion was that this career was finished. But through resilience and perseverance he bounced back after enduring numerous operations and a gruelling fitness regime.
In total Whit represented Australia in 12 Tests claiming 39 wickets with 7-27 his best in an innings and 11-95 his best match figures. While for his beloved Blues he played 118 matches claiming 412 wickets at 26.75. In the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, “for significant service to cricket and to the broadcast media.”
On this day Randwick Petersham recognises our President’s Test debut anniversary and his capping as Australia’s 313th Test cricketer.