Former Australia test cricketer Max Walker dies at 68 of cancer

Known for his awkward bowling action, ‘Tangles’ was underestimated because he played in the shadows of great fast bowlers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in the 1970s; he went on to be a commentator, raconteur and best-selling author

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 4:39pm

Former Australia cricketer Max Walker, whose awkward and unorthodox bowling action earned him the nickname “Tangles”, has died. He was 68.

Cricket Australia on Wednesday said Walker died after a battle with cancer.

Walker played 34 test matches between 1972 and 1977, taking 138 wickets at an average of 27.47, including six five-wicket hauls. He also took 20 wickets in 17 one-day internationals from 1974-81.

Walker was a useful batsman who scored 586 runs at 19.53 including an unbeaten 78 in his final test against England at the Oval.

After retiring from cricket he became a commentator, a popular raconteur and a best-selling author whose humorous books included How To Hypnotise Chooks And Other Great Yarns.

WATCH: Max Walker’s lethal bowling

In 2011, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to cricket and for his social work.

Keith Stackpole, who played with Walker in 13 tests, said Walker was underestimated because he played in the shadow of the great fast bowlers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

“He was loved around the world by teammates and opponents alike and to my mind seriously underestimated,” Stackpole said. “You think of Thommo and Lillee as the tearaways, whereas ‘Tang’ was a medium pacer with the biggest heart I have come across on the cricket field. Once he realised he wasn’t a fast bowler, as distinct from a medium fast bowler, he became a very, very good player.”

Greg Chappell, who played with Walker in 34 tests, recalled the unusual, wrong-footed action surprised batsmen.

“The right arm over left earhole is how he described his bowling,” Chappell said. “Maybe Mike Proctor and Lance Cairns were similar but part of Max’s distinguishing feature was his unusual action, meaning batsmen were never always sure where the ball was coming.”

Walker was a successful Australian Rules football player in Melbourne before concentrating on cricket. He started as a batsman but soon realised his strength lay as a bowler.