Updated: January 23, 2015 8:31:01 pm
You walk into Len Pascoe’s plush beach-side house in Sydney’s Oyster Bay and the first thing he does is show you a video of him knocking down Sandeep Patil with a bouncer at the SCG. He’s in his home office, and surrounded by a number of laptops. No place for a former fast bowler who in his time was considered an avenging angel with ball in hand. Though he played only 14 Tests, Pascoe was considered the meanest of the triumvirate that also starred Dennis Lilllee and Jeff Thomson. Since retiring, the 64-year-old has turned into an entertainment magnate, running his own website which offers performers and celebrities including magicians, musicians, cover bands, hypnotists and former cricketers. The list also includes an upcoming soprano, who was mentored by Pascoe, the same man who coached Glenn McGrath in his early days. Here he speaks about growing up with Thommo, a fast bowlers’ trauma of hitting a batsman, his unique take on sledging and the importance of familial background in the making of a fast bowler. Excerpts:
Didn’t just want batsman to be scared, also those in dressing room
All the coaches and everybody they miss the point. The psychology of a fast bowler is like World Championship Wrestling. Like The Rock. He’s my hero. You see, a fast bowler what he’s got to do is to create an image to the batsman but he’s got to stay focused on his plan.
Try and convince him that you’re something that you’re not and then you can be who you want to be. It’s a mask. So you come in roaring, “I am going to bowl bouncers. I’m going to be in his face, growl and snarl.” It’s all just WWE. But all the time, you’re thinking “On the seam, on off-stump. Little bit here, little bit there.” As soon as you got comfortable, in comes the wrestler again.
I couldn’t see myself in an office 9-5. I was too free-spirited. I said, I wanted a house. I wanted a weekender., I wanted to get married. How was I going to get there? And the only way I could get it was by being a fast bowler. And the person stopping me was the guy 22 yards away. But I didn’t hate him. But the more I got rid of them, the closer I got to everything I wanted out of life.
You look at the base of off-stump. Your main man’s at mid-off or mid-on, helping you play with the batsman’s footwork. I don’t want him comfortable in any one position.
I smelt fear. I just didn’t want that bloke to be scared. I wanted the guys in the dressing-room to be scared. If you got him scared that’s it. Often when I took wickets, I would get them in batches. You are young and your ego gets the better of you. The bravado. You run around in fast cars. You are getting girlfriends. Your testosterone is running high.
As subtle as a sledgehammer
A sledge is no more than a one-liner. A funny one. Like I told a batsman one day that he had more edges on his bat than a Gillette razor. I remember Greg Chappell asking me to ‘go back, go back’ in the field during an ODI. I told him, “I come here to play, not watch it.”
That was just before this girl jumped on my back dressed in a Playboy-bunny outfit. She’s jumped on my back and I am coming in with the bowler and Greg’s saying concentrate. How can I concentrate?
Sledging can be motivational. I am bowling to Western Australia. Doug Walters is captain. He says to me, “Well bowled Eileen.” That’s my wife’s name. He made his point. I had to crank up. Then there’s the sledge of frustration. We are in the West Indies, playing in Trinidad in a World Series match for Packer. We have already had three really good riots. Brilliant riots. Finally we almost got them all out and Albert Padmore is batting and all he’s doing is padding up, and padding up.
And with that I have come down the wicket after he’s padded one more. Ian Chappell’s wondering “Oh what’s he going to say? No not another riot.”
And I said, to him, “Albert Padmore, when you were born they named you right. Pad-More.” And then Ian Chappell and all burst out laughing.
They had a Thomson-Pascoe ward at Bankstown Hospital
Jeff Thomson and I opened the bowling in Bankstown. We were only 16-17 and were playing first grade cricket. At Bankstown Oval, the curator would deliberately prepare really flat decks because we had such a dangerous bowling attack. But as flat as they were, Jeff and I still gave them a real hurry-up. In fact, they reckon they had a ward at Bankstown Hospital named after us.
The Thomson-Pascoe ward. Because on a Saturday, inevitably it would be used for broken fingers, broken hands, broken ribs, courtesy the two of us. We went to the same school too, Punchbowl Boys High. I used to sit next to Thommo in class. Not that we got much done. He would get into more trouble though.
My father was a brick-carter. We used to put 2,000 bricks on to the truck by hand and 2000 bricks off the truck. We would do four loads a day. When I was a kid, I used to put sort of 20. Just reach the top of the truck with the bricks. And then my father used to say, “You have a great future in brick-carting.”
More I went brick-carting, more I wanted to play cricket. Bill O’Reilly was the director of Lion Tile Brick Company. One day, I am on the wagon. My father is yelling at me because I can’t chip the face-bricks. And Bill O’Reilly says, “Keep working on that back son. You are going to need it one day.” He was right.
By this stage, I am 17 years of age. I have left school. And, you take the shirt off there was muscles on top of the muscles. I didn’t need to go to a gym.
Whilst that was happening, Thommo’s father was a plasterer. He used to make the big plaster sheets. It was extremely heavy and plaster. Here I am on the brick-truck. And here he is with the fibrous plaster. And we both come from very physical growing up. It’s all about the genetics.
One summer I had shot off to Crescent Head in Western Australia to surf. I had telegrams come to me for being picked for NSW. But I didn’t bother. Around that time, Jeff Thomson went to Queensland and he made the Australian team. And I thought if Jeff could do it, why can’t I do it?
I remember one time, two of our teammates, aptly nickmaned Stench and Lunch challenged us for a duel in the nets after a stand-off over snooker. Stench, or Mike Stevenson, was in first. By the time he came out, he had bruises on bruises. And as he walked out sad, sore and sorry, he said Righto Lunch it’s your turn, and Dion Bourne said, “Bullshit, I’ve just declared.”
After I hit Sandeep Patil, I had had enough
I retired soon after Sandeep Patil was struck by that bouncer at the SCG. Not because I couldn’t play anymore. After Patil, they all built up. And, I did not bowl another bouncer to Sandeep Patil. He came into the dressing-room and said, “Lenny, I am so sorry for putting my head in the way of your ball.” And I go “Whatt?” And he’s got this big bandage on his head. The thing is that it did shake me up quite a lot. It was an accumulation of all these other blows.
The first guy I hit was George Griffith, who later played for South Australia and he was playing for Balmaine at the time. He hit me for two boundaries of bouncers.
Then I bowled a third one, and down he went. But what scared me is what he said next. He said, “Only a matter of half an inch either way from where he got hit, he wouldn’t be here today.”
No.2 was Glen Bailey, who was a very good all-rounder. He was on about 70. I banged one in and I hit him in the chest. And he started vomiting blood and I go, “Oh no”. And he was taken off the field.
No.3, I am playing for Bankstown and we are playing Penrith and John Benaud is making a lot of statements on the first week. And I just said to my captain Dion Bourne, who’s the uncle of the Waugh brothers, “Let him talk about how we should have played the game. Next week, I’ll close his mouth.”
Benaud comes to the crease. First ball straight in the throat. He could not talk. We won outright. And then we are all having drinks, and I looked at Dion and said, “Not much to say now.” That too could have gone badly as well.
I spoke to Ian Chappell after the Patil incident and said I want to retire. I was 32 years of age. And I said, the game’s not worth dying over. I was worried about what I was becoming. It wasn’t me. Probably the bravado of the fast bowler was stripped.
I just quietly packed my bag, and after a NSW-Victoria match. There was no newspaper, nothing. We are used to see batsmen get hit but they always get up. Bit like a movie. And then you see what’s happen to Phil.
Sandeep was hit not far from where Phil Hughes was batting. And I was bowling from the same end when I hit him. So I had a lot of mixed feelings and I feared for Sean Abbott.
I could never hit Viv
The only batsman I ever wanted to hit was Viv Richards. He made me angry a lot. So this one time in Adelaide, he came out to bat, and I bowled him two bouncers. The first he top-edged for four, and now he’s looking at me chewing his gum. I bowled him another. Guess what happened? He hit it for four again. The umpire comes down and says, “That’s it you’ve bowled your two.” And Viv’s going, “No let him bowl more”. Greg Chappell from behind the stumps goes “Slippery, if you bowl one more, I will send you off the field.”
When Glenn McGrath came to me he bowled around 20-mile-an hour. And would start huffing and panting after six deliveries. I took him and Stuart Clark under my wing. One day we were playing against Bankstown, had what we called the World XI. They had Steve Waugh, and nine of them playing for NSW and half of them playing for Australia. I said to Glenn, “You could take four wickets this afternoon and nobody’s going to know you. But you helmet one of the Waugh boys, there’s going to be 2SM Radio, and everyone will be talking about you.” McGrath is bowling, Mark Waugh’s in. “Bang”, off the helmet.
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