Carl Rackemann: The Australian speedster whose career was cut short by injury and association with rebel tours

Carl Rackemann had all the ingredients to become one of the most effective fast bowlers of his era © Getty Images

Carl Rackemann, born on June 3, 1960, was a well-built fast bowler from Australia who managed to play just 12 Tests and 53 One-Day Internationals. Even in such a short-lived career, he was quite menacing with his effective pace and accuracy. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at this big Aussie’s career who has taken to coaching and politics post-retirement.

Carl Gray Rackemann, nicknamed ‘Mocca’ by his teammates, was deceptive in more ways than one. He was a burly fast bowler who often left batsmen stunned with his searing pace and accurate line and length. His prowess with the ball that cuts into the right-hander and his ability to use it tactfully was truly commendable.

If someone took a closer look at Rackemann’s career, it would be safe to say that his statistics of 82 wickets from 52 One-Day Internationals (ODI) and 39 wickets from 12 Tests was not a true reflection of his ability to be Australia’s top bowler in his time.
Rackemann’s fling with Perth

Rackemann was a 23-year-old boy with dreamy eyes when he first set foot on Perth.  It was love at first sight for him.

In only his second Test for Australia in 1983 — which came a year after his Test debut at Brisbane against England — he got an opportunity to play at Perth and returned with his career best figures. After Australia’s Wayne Philips (159) and Graham Yallop (141) added 259 runs for the second wicket to post Australia’s first innings total of 436, Rackemann worked his magic on the bowlers’ paradise to help skittle out Pakistan for just 129. He bowled just eight overs for his five wickets.

Rackemann’s role in the second essay was far more crucial as Australia enforced follow-on.  He showed great perseverance for a 23-year-old as the Pakistan batsmen tried to string together a few partnerships. He put the brakes at the start when he dismissed both openers — Mudassar Nazar and Mohsin Khan — in quick succession just when they were starting to get their eye in. Qasim Umar and Javed Miandad took over the rescue work and started rebuilding the innings. They added 125 for the third wicket till Rackemann came back and got Umar. Soon after, he trapped Miandad leg-before to leave the visitors reeling at 197 for four, still trailing by more than 100 runs. Rackemann went on to pick three more wickets to hand Pakistan a defeat by an innings and nine runs. He finished with six for 86 in the second innings to finish the game with as many as 11 wickets.

Six years later, he did something far more spectacular. In a match against New Zealand where David Boon scored a magnificent double century and Dean Jones was agonisingly dismissed on 99, Rackemann frustrated the Kiwi batsmen to bowl 21 maiden overs from 31 and give just 23 runs away at a jaw-dropping economy rate of 0.74

It was great display of fast bowling from Australia, led by Rackemann’s miserly figures, as the Kiwis batted out four days of the Test to end the one-off match in a draw.

Rackemann’s perennial struggle with the bat

To say batting was not Rackemann’s forte is a gross understatement. His abysmal single-digit batting average in both forms of the game paints a clearer picture of his ability (or the lack of it) with the bat.  He was a typical number 11 batsman who often had negligible footwork to offer even to half-decent deliveries that would go onto rattle his stumps. Nine out 14 times Rackemann was bowled in Tests.  His affair with Perth extended to his batting as well. An unbeaten score of 15 — his best in Tests — came in front of the crowds that was more used to cheering him with a ball in his hand. Rackemann managed 53 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 5.30.  Despite this, he played the most important role with the bat in the 1990-91 Ashes. Australia were 2-0 up with the third Test happening at Sydney.

The hosts could only manage a 49-run first innings lead after piling on 518 on the first two days of the game. To make matters worse, Phil Tufnell and Eddie Hemmings began to script a possible final day victory for England by picking up early wickets in the second innings. Before they knew it, Australia were reduced to 166 for seven. Rackemann walked out and showed nerves of steel by playing out as many as 107 deliveries for his nine runs. More than those nine runs, he succeeded ability to take time away from England’s possible chances of chasing down a target under 250. The visitors eventually had to get 256 but had just 25 overs to do it. The match ended in a draw, giving Australia an unassailable lead in the series. This also happened to be Rackemann’s final Test for Australia.

In ODIs, he was far worse. He managed just 34 runs from 52 matches at an appalling average of 2.83.
Queensland Hero

Rackemann’s First-Class career spread across 16 years where he went from being a 19-year-old raw fast bowler to a hero with 425 wickets, which was third best bowling record behind Andy Bichel (463) and Michael Kasprowicz (498). During the 1980s, when Rackemann was  part of Queensland, they managed to runners up in five out of seven seasons and won the ODI trophy three times.

Rackemenn’s tryst with the rebel league

During the turbulent times of the apartheid regime in South Africa when they were banned from international cricket due to the political tumult within their country, a series of seven tours were organised between 1982 and 1990 which were termed as the ‘rebel league’ as most of the cricketing bodies opposed it. Despite strong opposition, a lot of teams and players took part in it. Rackemann was one such player who was later banned from international cricket for a brief period due to his association with this league.
Coaching and Politics

After calling time on his career in 1995, Rackemann was appointed as Zimbabwe’s coach in 2000. He enjoyed the role for two seasons but ended it citing other priorities.

“My situation is that my agreement with ZCU finishes at the end of July 2001 and my problem in terms of carrying on with the team is that I am unable to give to Zimbabwe cricket a full-time commitment. This is because of my farm and other business interests in Australia. Just being away for this amount of time is becoming untenable. To continue to do it is stretching things past the breaking point.”

After finishing up with Zimbabwe, he was back in his country to try his hand at politics. In September 2011, he stood for Queensland state election as a Katter’s Australian Party candidate in the electorial district of Nanango. Although he failed to make an impact, he was quite impressive and eloquent while speaking at the Katter’s Australian Party convention.

Carl Rackemann had was also one of those cricketers who was loved and admired by a lot of fans. So much that, he inspired an expatriate Australian cricket team in London who call themselves the ‘Carl Rackemann All Stars.’

Rackemann had all the ingredients to become one of the most effective fast bowlers of his era.  But, injury to his back due to lack of due care while bowling and his association with the rebel league truncated what could have been a flourishing career.

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with His twitter handle is @kya_toh_bhi)