Jim Maxwell AM (1968) is one of Australia's best known cricket commentators, having broadcast for the ABC for over 40 years and covered 270 Test matches. He has also edited Australia’s longest running cricket publication, the ABC Cricket Magazine, since 1988. Outside the commentary box, he has served since 2009 as the president of the Primary Club of Australia, which provides sporting and recreational facilities for people with disabilities. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2013.
Jim's initial interest in cricket was spurred by his father's taking him to the SCG in the early 1960s. At first, Jim didn’t pay much attention to the game; instead, he collected empty bottles (threepence each) to make a bit of money. Things changed with the Test during the 1960-1961 series against the West Indies, which played a significant role in piquing the young Jim’s curiosity in the game. He has said: ‘I went with my friends on the 333 bus on spec on a Saturday, and paid a shilling to get in and watch the game from the hill. There was a wonderful atmosphere, and Gary Sobers was going berserk, making a brilliant 100. That stuck in my mind – that would have been January 1961.’
Jim’s interest and skill in cricket were then developed substantially in the Cranbrook Senior School. Although Jim actually lived very close by in Bellevue Hill, his parents sent him to school as a boarder because, given that he was an only child, they thought he needed the fraternity that a boarding house would provide. While Jim was still at school in 1967, he applied for a job as a trainee at the ABC (which would have involved commentating in a variety of sports), but he was coincidentally trumped by an old Cranbrookian, Peter Meares (1963).
After another unsuccessful application to the ABC in 1969 (reportedly lost to a young Gordon Bray), Jim was lucky enough to participate in the 1972 world tour of the Australian Old Collegians cricketers – the last tour of its kind. When he returned home, his mother showed him a newspaper clipping with a job advertisement for a trainee position at the ABC. After participating in the Old Cranbrookians' first overseas cricket tour to New Zealand (which gave Jim the perfect preparation), he did the audition with the ABC and the rest, as they say, is history.
One of Jim's early mentors was Alan McGilvray, a man with an intimidating reputation who called every Test in Australia from World War II until 1985. McGilvray always said to Jim, ‘copy technique, not style’, and ‘you won’t be any good unless you listen!’ Jim says: ‘I’d like to think that I listened a lot in my early years to try to work out the correct technique and to marry a certain style to it that is to a large extent conversational but still sticks to the path of presenting the information.’
Jim has seen many changes to the way that cricket is played in Australia over his time. Jim remembers speaking to Matthew Hayden during a series in India when he scored over 500 runs in three Tests: ‘everyone was full of admiration for his technique against the slower bowlers – he really took them on, with horizontal shots, slogs and just brave hitting. And I said to him, “I don’t know whether the old Don would approve, because he always said, ‘You can’t get caught if you don’t hit the ball in the air.’ And Hayden’s response was, “Sorry Don, there’s a whole lot of room in the air!” And that’s a comment that tells you a lot about how the game has changed.’
(adapted from the OCA Newsletter, No. 42, by Lyndon Goddard (2007))