Tucker returns after a decade on the sidelines
It's all comings and goings at Sydney this week. On the one hand. Glenn McGrath is returning to first-class cricket after a seven-month lay-off; on the other, the Waugh twins are on the verge of bowing out after nearly 20 years in the game. But, further down New South Wales's team-sheet, there is another, even more remarkable story to be found.
With Stuart MacGill on Test duty in Sri Lanka, Adrian Tucker, a 34-year-old legspinner, has been drafted in for NSW's crucial Pura Cup battle with Queensland, and he is set to make history even before the first ball has been bowled. For it has been 10 years and 54 days since Tucker last played for NSW - a gap of 103 matches.
Tucker, who played for Australia in the inaugural Under-19 World Cup in 1988, went on to play 16 first-class matches between 1989-90 and 1993-94, taking 44 wickets at 38.65. It may not be the longest gap between appearances - Frank Tarrant of Victoria spent 16 years and nine months on the sidelines between January 1908 and October 1924 - but the number of matches that Tucker has missed (103) is believed to be an Australian first-class record.
"I hadn't given up," Tucker told the Sydney Morning Herald, "because at NSW we haven't been deep in spin bowling behind Stuey [MacGill], so you think in the back of your mind that if you bowl well you might be a chance."
Tucker's career has been an unconventional one. His lucrative career as an equities trader naturally clashed with his sporting ambitions, and two-year stints in London and Hong Kong all but ended his NSW playing days. "When I went to Hong Kong, it would've been easy to say, 'that's it, I'm retired'," he admitted. "But I never did that because I felt - as I still do - that I've got a lot of cricket left in me."
Tucker's tale has been the talk of Sydney, and even Steve Waugh has been moved by his recall. "It's great to see that sort of story can still happen in cricket," he said. "The guy's been out for 10 years ... and now he's got an opportunity to go back to cricket. He's ready to go."
If Tucker could help NSW beat Queensland this week, he could even play in the final against Victoria, assuming Tasmania don't pick up any points in their last game of the season. That eventuality would be neatly mirror the start of his first-class career, when he found himself playing in the Sheffield Shield final after only two matches. But Tucker is not getting ahead of himself. "The goal is just to win this game against Queensland," he said. "That would cap a remarkable couple of weeks."