December 27, 2013

Doug Walters' surprise breakfast

Matt Cleary
Doug Walters: never short of an interesting yarn  © PA Photos
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It was a generic speech after a generic one-dayer that sent me over the edge. Cricket, to my deep-seated disbelief and melancholy, had actually, incredibly, becomeā€¦ boring.

And this could not be. This thing I had worshipped since first worshipping the sweat from DK Lillee's moustache had become vanilla. And not in a good way like with ice cream, but in a sterile, mass-produced, generic, homogenised and sort of rubbish sort of way. And a once-fervent, even religious cricket-hound was jack of it.

I took up the remote and was soon watching polar bears getting jiggy on Discovery Channel. Too much cricket - sorry Richie, sorry Bill, sorry evil overlord of all sport - had become enough.

Of course within minutes I was back watching Chris Gayle teeing off in Dubai. And it was all good. And cricket remained My Main Thing (After Golf).

But the period had rocked, even frightened, me. Had a Rubicon been crossed? Had the platitudes, the PR-driven one-day-at-a-time bulldust of the professional cricketer, with their robotic ways, their lack of flavour, their never-ending short-form games telecast at times suited to line the pockets of the world's richest men, had these things conspired to finally push me, a rock-solid member of the Joe Punter cricket-consuming demographic, had all these things alienated me from the grand old game?

No. They had not.

But I would embark on a quest to rediscover my pure love for cricket. I would track down and talk to the "characters" of my childhood, the great, moustachioed men's men of yore - Lillee, Marsh, the Chappells, Bruce freakin' Yardley. These men who plundered the English and made cracks about "boobs" and wiped the froth of a thousand beers from their hairy top lips, these great ones, these Solo Men, these Stubbie-wearing nongs, they would help me rediscover my passion for the greatest game of all of man's games.

As it was I could only track down Doug Walters. And he's never been the world's greatest gift to philosophical pondering. But he did tell me the following yarn, which was pretty funny. Said Dougie:

Towards the end of the South African tour of 1970 the Australian team had been away for six months. We'd been thumped 4-nil in the Tests but still had two tour matches to go.

[Wicketkeeper] Brian Taber was my room-mate for the whole tour and we'd take it in turns ordering what we called "Surprise Breakfast". And at 8am on the morning of our second-last tour game, after just getting home from celebrating our Test losses, there was a tap on the door and a waiter brought in Brian's "Surprise Breakfast": six bottles of beer.

Brian had anticipated the hair of the dog might be necessary, and while they were a bit warm, we sat on the bed and downed them. Then we showered and dressed and went downstairs, where the bloke at the bar was just rolling up the shutters. Brian poked his head under and said, "Two beers please, mate."

I said: "Tabsy - play starts in an hour." He said no worries, he had a car, knew the way, we'd be sweet.

Well, we took a sip of that nice cold draught beer and agreed it tasted damn nice. And not being one to miss a shout I said to the bloke: "Two more of those please, mate."

Two minutes to start of play we walked through the dressing-room door. And there's Bill Lawry with the pads on, so I knew we'd won the toss. I was batting No. 5 or No. 6 in those days, so I looked at Brian, wiped my brow and said, "Well, thank goodness for that, at least I can have a bit of a breather." Brian just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Doesn't worry me, mate, I'm 12th man." Now he tells me!

Then I copped another surprise when Bill told me to pad up and bat No. 3. It was starting to sound like a conspiracy! I asked Keith Stackpole to keep his head down (I didn't have to tell Bill) but five minutes later, just what I didn't want to hear: a cheer from the crowd, Stacky's out.

So there I am out in the middle trying to focus on Mike Procter who's somewhere up there at the top of his mark, and I'm wondering what I'll say to Brian Taber when I get hold of him next.

But his "Surprise Breakfast" was perhaps something I should've tried a lot more often because I went on to score my only hundred of that whole South African tour.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

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Posted by jw76 on (December 27, 2013, 15:54 GMT)

Great guy, Doug Walters - not a sledger on the field, like others we could all name! A great batsman too who could have been greater still.

Posted by David_1946 on (December 27, 2013, 11:27 GMT)

Another classic Doug Walters yarn...... but he actually scored his only hundred on the SA leg of the tour batting at #5 in the second innings against Western Province. Walters arrived at the crease with Australia 3/55, after Stackpole was dismissed by Procter for 29. (Procter had previously smashed 155 in WP's first innings, including 5 consecutive sixes off Aussie spinner Ashley Mallett). Perhaps the surprise breakfast affected Dougie's memory somewhat!

Posted by   on (December 27, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

Beautiful article - very naughty of Taber to make him drunk and at the eleventh hour declare that he was 12th man. Hahaha...........

Posted by Dirk_L on (December 27, 2013, 7:23 GMT)

Yeah. That's how we used to know Australia. That's what Lehmann brings that Arthur could not.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Cleary
Matt Cleary reckons he watched more of the 1978-79 Ashes series than any eight-year-old. Despite this punishment - Geoff Boycott batting for days - Cleary was hooked. As a journalist he's written about sport, travel, beer, wine, swimming with stingrays in the Alice waters of Bora Bora, and touring Australia on a four-month lap, playing golf. Yet he counts doing ball-by-ball commentary for ESPNcricinfo as the most fun he's had with a keyboard. He writes for several of Australia's sports and travel magazines, notably Inside Sport, Inside Cricket, Golf Australia and Rugby League Week. @JournoMatCleary

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