This week we bring you a "You might remember / In the sheds..." mash-up in conjunction with launch of our virtual Hall of Fame at the Blue and Gold Lunch.
Today (Fri 20th Nov), at the Blue and Gold lunch, IAN FISHER was one of the first four legendary Club players/members to be inducted into the Club’s ‘Hall of Fame’.
His story is worth recalling and retelling.
As an Engineering undergraduate in 1957, Ian Fisher attended University’s pre-season cricket training. He turned up armed with an imposing record in junior cricket in Grafton, and abundant natural athletic ability. The University selectors were unimpressed. Not only was he not graded, he was told that he would not be required by the club.
And so, for over a decade, his cricket career blossomed elsewhere—in the country and at the Glebe and Sydney clubs (where he captained First Grade for three seasons). He came to be respected in the Grade competition as a combative, aggressive left handed batsman who could flay the best attacks. Then, when University was searching for a First Grade captain for the 1969-70 season, the approach was made to him to come back as a graduate captain. So this player, unwanted earlier, had now been given the most influential onfield position in the Club. As captain, he immediately brought a renewed sense of purpose and direction to University cricket, always leading from the front.
In addition to leading First Grade forcefully, he took an abiding interest in the other Grades and influenced other captains with his infectious optimism. At one stage, Ian Foulsham, Rob Thomas and Bruce Druery led 2nds, 3rds and 4ths with the same sense of purpose and the lower grades were blessed with captains of the highest calibre and integrity: Peter Gannon, John Malicki and John Spence.
In successive seasons on uncovered pitches—and in circumstances where he had to hold together a fragile batting line-up, Fisher hit 851, 713, 537 and 539 runs. He became (for a time) the Club’s greatest run-scorer in First Grade, and for his three clubs, he scored 6731 First Grade runs at 31.16, with 13 centuries. His hundreds for University often came when they were most needed—his 120 against a strong St George attack in 1972 was made while the ten other batsmen dribbled out only 94 runs. Against Randwick in 1973, on a soft and grassy pitch, his 119 not out included 97 after lunch in even time. And his 100 not out in 1974, against a Northern District attack that included three State players, was made in even time—his second fifty was plundered from only 17 balls of destructive mayhem at the SCG No2 ground. “When one looks for an outstanding player at University”, John Benaud wrote that season, “invariably it is Fisher. Ever since he transferred from Sydney he has been an inspiration.”
Yet the New South Wales selectors never called on him, despite the fact that these were lean years for New South Wales cricket, and this seemed a mystifying denial of his talent and potential. It was ironic, then, that he served as a New South Wales selector for five years (1979-84) after his retirement from playing, contributing forcefully to the strengthening of the State side.
The umpires seemed to regard his talents more highly, and in 1970-71, he was runner-up in the Sydney Morning Herald player of the year competition—voted on by the umpires. In the next season, he finished third.
Whether as a captain or an administrator, Fisher was often opinionated but always worth listening to. He had a strength of purpose, certainty of conviction and indefatigable enthusiasm that endeared him to many. As a batsman, he often eschewed style for substance. When overs contained eight balls, his method was to “block six, hit the other two for four.” The results were often devastatingly successful. One leg-spinner, a New South Wales Colts player, never recovered from the mauling he received at University Oval one Saturday as Fisher pulled and cut anything short and drove the increasingly overpitched deliveries towards the distant boundaries on his way to 136.
Over 70 years ago, Sir Neville Cardus wrote of the great England batsman Patsy Hendren, “it is the cross bat shot that is the sign of a cricketer beloved by the multitude… no cricketer is able to make great strokes with the straight bat… the cut and the hook cannot be performed save by a cross bat and no batsman is great if he is not master of these two strokes.” When Fisher was set, bowlers suffered: length and accuracy vanished.
On rare occasions, not even Fisher’s captaincy was equal to the tasks his team faced. Early in the 1972-73 season, University confronted Central Cumberland and Doug Walters. One of the unfortunate bowlers recalled:
Walters had just been dropped from the Australian team on the tour of England, and he was so determined to get back that he was scoring heaps of runs in every game he played. We caught him in that mood, and although I thought we were bowling OK there was nothing we could do about him. Fish got more and more frustrated as the ball kept disappearing around the ground, and finally he decided that none of us could do the job he wanted, so he took the ball himself. Fish bowled off-breaks, I suppose, except they didn’t turn. It took plenty of self-belief for a bowler like that to take on one of the best players of slow bowling in the world. But Walters still murdered him.
It would have been fitting if he had led University’s First Grade into the semi-finals. Twice he came close, claiming fifth place, but—Fisher apart—the team’s batting was seldom strong enough to capitalise on the good work done by a talented and varied attack.
A genial raconteur, he usually indulged in bewildering hyperbole to add spice to his entertaining stories: “I had scored only 50 runs by Christmas in 1969”, or “No batsman except Walters scored 100 on No1 Oval against us for nine seasons”. But when the Club was threatened with demotion from the Grade competition in 1997, Fisher was at his uncompromising best. When the Club most needed him, he returned to play a dominant part in its retention in the Grade competition and then in the resurgence of the Club’s achievements. He led the Club’s operations vigorously, and with a practised eye for players’ talents, as Chairman of Selectors. He took on the coaching of the Club’s first Green Shield sides and taught his 15 year old charges how to play cricket effectively, how to be mentally strong and scrupulously fair. They had to earn his praise but, once given, it was never grudging.
In 1999, he was elected the Club’s eleventh Life Member and, in 2004, he became the Club’s twenty-first President. Ian Fisher will be remembered for the runs he scored, the catches he took and the visionary decisions that he made. Perhaps, even more, he will be honoured for his unstinting service, his unswerving loyalty and his continuing energy in the service of the Club.
Ian Ellis Fisher was born on 25 May 1939 in Albury. His record in First Grade for University was:
Seasons Inns NO HS Runs Av W Runs Av
1969-78 155 19 136 4406 32.39 15 493 32.86
The Club congratulates and thanks Ian, as well as his fellow inductees, Tom Garrett, Alan Crompton OAM and Mick O'Sullivan on such a momentous achievement.