"GOT HIM! – the last ball of the day can you believe that”. It is a piece of cricket commentary that will remain embodied in the Australian cricketing history forever. The five-second audio clip will feature as part of the Channel Nine’s introductory footage for the next 23 years.
It was the voice of Bill Lawry. The commentary doyen in his high pitched enthusiastic voice describing Shane Warne bowling Pakistan’s Basit Ali’s around his legs off the final delivery of the day at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1995.
Arguably, no other cricket commentator in the last 40 years could express his excitement for the game or the situation as Lawry. Even during the most docile moments of a long enduring day of cricket, Lawry had the ability to suddenly capture the attention of the audience with a sense of humour, a cricketing tale or simply his voice.
Earlier this week Lawry, 81, announced he had pulled down the curtains on his commentating career. For last few years, he had sat behind the microphone only for the Boxing Day Test match, but with Channel Nine’s broadcasting era drawing to a close last month, Lawry decided the time had come to finally hang up his boots.
Lawry’s bubbling passion for the cricketing action was ever present in that unique voice. But no two words will remain as synonymous with his voice as ‘Got Him’ or as Lawry would say ‘Gooot heem’, with his high pitched tone reaching its peak on the ‘e’.
Whether it was children celebrating a wicket in the backyard to grown men hitting the bull’s eye in a friendly game of darts, the imitation of Lawry’s words ‘Got Him’ could be heard all across Australia.
But perhaps it was his evergreen partnership with his friend Tony Grieg that elevated Lawry to another level. Apart from their distinctive differences in their voices, it was the banter and the contrasting views about cricket and life that made them one of greatest commentary partnerships in Australian sport.
Lawry’s tales about his beloved pigeons, his passion for the state of Victoria along with his fondness for Melbourne Cricket Ground became iconic. Grieg would often pull his leg about him being described as ‘corpse as pads’ during his playing era, but Lawry was never short of a word asking Grieg about his loyalty towards England or South Africa or Australia. It was fascinating listening.
When a batsman or a bowler reached a milestone Lawry always had the knack of making the accomplishment even greater with his magical voice. At times he even struggled to hide his excitement about a beautiful cricket shot. When Sachin Tendulkar kept playing those on-drives past the Australian fast bowlers as an 18-year-old, he would say 'ohhh stand up an applaud this boy is the new superstar of cricket’ or just a simple ‘gorgeous’. Other than words, it was his characteristic voice that will remain unmatchable.
Lawry was a master at spilling his excitement into the comfort of the lounge rooms. So absorbing was Lawry as a commentator that the GEN Y only remembers Lawry as a commentator and forgets the fact that he played 67 Tests for Australia and led the nation for nearly three years in the 1960’s.
But Lawry was never engrossed by his own career, as he recently told an Australian radio station RSEN, "When on air it was about the audience and as Kerry Packer said 80 percent of the audience did not understand the game as well because it is complicated sport, so it was our job to describe the action.” he said.
Describe the action he did. For close to four decades he was one of the most decorated callers in cricket. With Lawry behind the mic, as a viewer, you almost wanted an exciting passage of play just to hear the stimulation of his vocal chords. But like all great commentators, he was listenable even during the dourest phases of the game.
In recent times other Channel Nine commentators even urged him to mesmerise the audience with his best lines, but Larwy would often suggest waiting for the right moment was an art in itself.
Along with Richie Benaud, Tony Grieg and Ian Chappell, Lawry led a new era of cricket coverage that has now set precedence for other broadcasters to follow.
The upcoming summer will be the first time in 40 years Lawry will not be behind the mic. But you can bet your bottom dollar that when Mitchell Starc shatters the stumps of the batsmen Lawry will certain to be in lounge room screaming ‘GOT HIM’, unfortunately, it will not be broadcast to every lounge across Australia.