Sir Donald Bradman's role in 'disgraceful' sacking of Bill Lawry

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud, pictured here at a memorial service for Tony Greig in 2013.
Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud at a memorial service for Tony Greig in 2013. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Ian Chappell has lifted the lid on the ‘disgraceful’ sacking of Bill Lawry as Australian Test captain in 1971, with Sir Donald Bradman the man to swing the axe.

Speaking on the special feature ‘Bill Lawry, A Glorious Life’, which aired on Channel Nine on Monday night, Chappell and Lawry both opened up about the controversial affair.

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Lawry became the first and only Australian captain to be sacked in the middle of a series when he was dropped by selectors during the 1970-71 Ashes.

It followed a tumultuous 12 months in which Lawry clashed with the Cricket Australia board on a number of issues.

Sir Donald Bradman and Lindsay Hassett, pictured here in 1979.
Sir Donald Bradman and Lindsay Hassett in 1979. (Photo by John Elliot/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

Selectors and board members were said to have grown increasingly frustrated with Lawry’s slow and stubborn batting and wanted to promote a more entertaining style of play.

There were suggestions they were looking for a reason to get rid of Lawry and they found one on a tour of India in 1969.

Players were reportedly made to stay in atrocious accomodation, leading to Lawry writing a scathing letter to the board.

“As far as I am concerned, putting in that letter was the end of Lawry as captain,” Chappell told Channel Nine.

“Then it was just a matter of them getting rid of him.”

Just 12 months later the board made their move, saying the letter was effectively an “insurrection”, sacking Lawry as captain and dropping him from the team.

Bradman was chief selector at the time and was reportedly forced to make the call despite wanting Lawry to stay on.

“Fellow selectors Harvey and Loxton outvoted/coerced The Don into making the change,” iconic cricket commentator Jim Maxwell posted on Twitter Tuesday.

Ian Chappell slams Lawry’s ‘disgraceful’ treatment

Selectors didn’t even break the news to Lawry in person, who found out on the radio.

“You don't get told, you hear about it on the radio or the paper,” Lawry told Channel Nine.

“In those days, you were never advised if you were in the side or out of the side.”

Chappell, who was made captain after Lawry was sacked, described the situation as “disgraceful.”

“It's a terrible thing, it's a disgraceful thing to do,” he said.

“The service that Bill had given Australia, he deserved to hear it from one of the selectors.

“The chairman of selectors should have told him face to face, in my opinion.”

Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry, pictured here at a Test match in 2013.
Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry (far right) in 2013. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Lawry reportedly had a feeling he was being axed mid-series when he was given the cold shoulder by selectors.

“What? Have I been dropped? Well, I thought I might have been. The selectors usually come over for a word after the Test and last night they didn’t,” he reportedly said at the time.

Chappell said his first reaction to hearing of Lawry’s sacking was one of shock.

“It’s unbelievable,” Chappell said. “I feel sorry for Bill ... he’s been a good captain.”

Chappell defiantly proclaimed at the time: “The bastards will never get me like that”.