Player Profile - Philip Melville

Over the next few weeks, leading up to the 2020 Over-50s World Cup, we’ll be featuring the key new players (that is, those who did not participate in the 2018 World Cup) in each of the 12 sides.

These aren’t necessarily the most famous players, but they are cricketers who I’m picking to play a decisive role for their side.

This week’s profile is Australia’s Philip Melville.

At his club, Northern District Cricket Club in Sydney, Melville is considered the elder statesman of his side, playing grade cricket against players half his age. Having recently turned 50 and been picked for the Australian Over-50s, he’ll now have to get used to being the ‘youngster’ of the team.

Melville brings a big reputation with him into the Australian side. He continues to nick out good grade cricketers Saturday after Saturday with his medium-pacers, just as he’s been doing for decades. Over the last 30 years he has taken over 665 wickets in grade cricket, and is now aiming for 700. His 225 wickets for the Northern Districts CC puts him second on their all-time list.

After a long first-grade career, mainly at Mosman Cricket Club, Melville has mainly played third grade at Northern Districts, where he continues to dismiss batsmen by the bucketful. He started the 2019/20 season with 4/12 and 5/26 in the first match. His career-best of 8/18 came in 2016 and his bowling average has never exceeded 20 for any of the last 10 seasons. All this suggests that age is not having any negative effects on his bowling.

At the recent Australian National Over-50s Championships in Perth - his first foray into organised Over-50s cricket - Melville grabbed 10 wickets for the New South Wales Blues, ending as the second-highest wicket-taker of the tournament at an average of just 9.00.

Melville played in Wales for a few years and represented their national side, opening the bowling against Ireland and South Africa A in 1996, and also played for Glamorgan Cricket 2nd XI.

Over his career he has bowled against some good batsmen, as you would imagine. Among the best he considers to be is Jacques Kallis, Steve and Mark Waugh, Michael Slater and, more recently, Moises Henriques.

It is through his Welsh connections that Melville first became aware of the Over-50s World Cup.

“A couple of mates of mine from Wales [Adam Glaznieks and Mike Haswell] were coming out to play for Wales Cricket Over-50s World Cup and South Africa, respectively, so I made the effort to go and watch them,” Melville said. “I was very impressed by the standard.”

One of the interesting aspects of Australian Over-50s cricket is that it has been successful without big-name ex-internationals, or even ex-first-class players. In fact, the only member of its 2020 squad with first-class experience is the captain, Pete Solway, who played 18 List-A matches for ACT.

Melville says the key is not what you have done in your youth, but what you are doing now: “We still have five or six guys playing grade cricket [high-level club cricket] and the others are playing regular masters competitions or week-in week-out for their clubs. Playing and training regularly and trying to better yourself really helps raise standards.”

Melville believes the level of cricket at the World Cup will be high, saying: “You would be a fool to leave your ‘A game’ at home and treat the trip as a holiday.”

Unlike many of the teams, Australia will not have any training camps or warm-up games before leaving for South Africa, but they do play a warm-up match in Johannesburg against an Oppenheimer XI and then a couple of net sessions before their first World Cup match, against Zimbabwe.

Impact: Australia’s pace bowling attack is likely to be as good as any team in the tournament. Melville’s combination with another Sydney grade legend in Tony Clark will be a feature of the Australian side. Teams hoping to tip over the defending champions will have to get past those two, plus 2018 veterans Bill Blair, Darren Smith and Tim Sargent, as well as the other newcomers that are yet to show what they can do on the international stage.

By Jim Morrison