June 20, 2014

Famous cricketers I've talked to

Including one who doesn't fit the description. House rules, okay

It wasn't Marto. Or was it? Tom Shaw / © Getty Images

And so, for no reason, some interesting people I've talked about cricket with are:

Graham Yallop. Interviewed the former Australian cricket captain about the 1985 South African rebel tour. It was pretty interesting, all the moral quandaries, hypocrisy, getting paid $US200,000. Few other things. Asked Graham the hypothetical that if he was given ten million bucks, would he tour countries that today are pariahs, like Syria, Iran, Stalinist North Korea? Would he tour the Axis of Evil? He was silent on the line for a full eight seconds before laughing his head off and saying: "It'd never happen without the support of the governments." So there you go. Australian rebel tour of Syria - off.

Lisa Sthalekar. NSW and Australian women's cricket allrounder Sthalekar and I once played a "Test match" on the middle of the SCG. Actually it was called "Super Cricket!" but it was the same as that old board game "Test Match", with the little men and the ball, except in the latter version you could bowl bouncers and the fielders have little magnets in their feet. But whatever, it was choice fun, especially doing it in the middle of the SCG with Australia's best women's allrounder, and getting paid for it. This would not happen in Stalinist North Korea.

Greg Matthews. Went down my local boozer once, the Clovelly Hotel, in Sydney's east, and had a bet with a mate about who ran out Brian Lara when he scored 277 in Sydney in 1992-93. As one does in groupings of men.

Now, I knew it was Damien Martyn. I knew it. I could see Martyn doing it, slinging it in underhand and getting Lara the only way they were going to, short of a sniper in the crowd. But I couldn't convince this mate, who was sure it was Mark Waugh. And the bet, as bets sometimes do in groupings of men, went from $20 to $100 and upwards to an almighty $500. And I still gave my mate the get-out option. Then it went back to a more manageable $100. But then he was goading and taunting me. And the bet went back up again.

So we've got this bet and we're trying to decide how to work out - this is before the internet was on phones - how to definitively work out who ran out Lara. And then into the pub walks… Greg Matthews, who was actually the bloody bloke who bowled the very bloody ball that Lara was run out on.

So my mate goes up to him at the bar and asks him, "Hey, Mo! Who ran out Brian Lara on 277 in '93?" But Matthews didn't know what he was talking about, and in fact sort of flinched and looked a bit frightened with my mate - a large Kiwi - fronting him. Eek! What does this person want? But Mo managed to say: "It wasn't Martyn".

But I knew it was.

So a journo mate with us said he'd text Mark Waugh's manager. Ingenious! This bloke then texted Mark Waugh himself, who was in Singapore at the airport on the way to India. And Mark Waugh's text came back to us, saying: "It could've been me. Sorry, I dunno."

It was getting weird. So then we SMS'd all these journos we half-knew - Mike Coward, the late great Pete Roebuck. And the bet was flashing around press boxes Australia-wide. Finally we got on to the official stats man of the ABC, Ric Finlay, effectively the Australian cricket nation's statis-bloody-stician. He confirmed it: "Damien Martyn".

Which I knew.

So I let my mate off the bet but ordered him to buy me beers for the day. And then I yelled out to Greg Matthews at an adjoining table, telling him the news. "Hey Mo! It was Damien Martyn." To which Mo replied, "That's because it must've rained."

Which made no sense.

Andrew Walsh. Now, Andrew isn't famous. Indeed he is a park cricketer for North Sydney Bears. But he reckons he and his mates were the first fans at the cricket to yell "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi."

Ian Healy. Asked him whether he'd called Arjuna Ranatunga a very rude word and he said no, he had not. He said he'd called him "unfit" because he was fat and was getting cramps. He also denied telling Shane Warne to put a Mars bar on a length to get him out of his crease, saying that was a Zimbabwean called Kosie Venter.

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