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John Brian Iverson (1915–1973)

by Peter Pierce

This article was published:

John Brian Iverson (1915-1973), cricketer, was born on 27 July 1915 at St Kilda, Melbourne, second child of Henry William Iverson, an accountant and estate agent from New South Wales, and his Victorian-born wife Edith Joyce, née White. Educated at Geelong College, where he was a fast bowler in the second XI, Iverson turned to golf after leaving school and won the Maldon club championship in 1936. He went jackerooing and then worked in his father's real estate agency in Melbourne. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 30 May 1940, Iverson served in the Middle East (1941-43) and in New Guinea (1943-44). He was with the 2nd/4th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment from January 1942 and rose to lance sergeant before his discharge on 5 September 1945. At St John's Anglican Church, Toorak, on 1 July 1944 he had married Dorothy Jean de Tracy, a typiste.

During his years in New Guinea, Iverson developed his legendary method of bowling, practising with a table-tennis ball that he gripped between his right thumb and bent middle finger, with which the ball was propelled. As a slow bowler, his variety of deliveries proved virtually undetectable. Essentially an off-spinner, he had a quick top-spinner and a well-disguised leg-break. He played sub-district cricket with Brighton. His belated entry into first-class cricket occurred in the 1949-50 season. Always awkward in the field and incompetent with the bat (his highest Test score was 1, his average 0.75), Iverson was 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall and weighed 15 stone (95 kg). While the Australian Test team was in South Africa, he took 46 wickets at 16.6 for Victoria. In the same season he captured 75 wickets at 7 apiece on a tour of New Zealand with an Australian B team.

Iverson's single and remarkable Test series came in the 1950-51 season against England, which Australia won by four matches to one. He did not bowl in the first innings at Brisbane, but took 4 for 43 in the second. In the second Test (played in Melbourne) he took 6 for 73. In the third, in Sydney, Iverson began his second-innings spell with the wickets of (Sir) Leonard Hutton and R. T. Simpson at no cost, and finished with his best Test figures of 6 for 27. After taking 3 for 68, he was injured in the Adelaide Test. He captured 2 for 84 in Melbourne and completed the series with a return of 21 wickets at 15.24. 'Even the great Hutton could not fathom him', Keith Miller wrote, but added 'the miracle man had feet of clay'.

Miller helped to destroy Iverson's 'direction, his confidence, and his late flowering career'. Believing that the Australian and Victorian captain Lindsay Hassett had stopped Iverson from bowling in the nets at New South Wales players in the Australian team to prevent interstate rivals from 'picking' his deliveries, Miller and Arthur Morris disrupted Iverson's line and punished him in an early Sheffield Shield match of the 1951-52 season. Soon afterwards Iverson declared himself unavailable for Victoria, though he toured India with a Commonwealth team in 1953-54 and headed the bowling averages. Miller believed that 'one of the greatest mistakes made by Australia since the war was in not bringing Jack Iverson to England in 1953'. By then, age and lack of confidence, apart from the likelihood of unsuitably slow wickets, were against this one-series wonder—to Miller 'a freak', to the English journalist E. M. Wellings 'the Fabulous Jack Iverson'.

Following a stint as a cricket commentator on radio, Iverson immersed himself in his family's real-estate business until he sold it in 1972. On 23 October 1973 at his Brighton home he shot himself in the head. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • E. M. Wellings, No Ashes for England (Lond, 1951)
  • K. Miller, Cricket Crossfire (Lond, 1956)
  • A. Wrigley, The Book of Test Cricket (Lond, 1965)
  • C. Martin-Jenkins, The Complete Who's Who of Test Cricketers (Adel, 1980)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • D. Frith, By His Own Hand (Syd, 1990)
  • Canberra Times, 26 Oct 1973.

Citation details

Peter Pierce, 'Iverson, John Brian (1915–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 29 September 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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