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February 25, 2008
Ian Healy will become the youngest man in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame when he and George Giffen are inducted at the Allan Border Medal ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday. Healy, 43, is the first member of the dominant Australian team of the late 1990s to receive the honour.
In a 119-Test career Healy was regarded as the pulse of the Australian team and was a long-time vice-captain under Mark Taylor. His work behind the stumps was at its most conspicuous when he handled Shane Warne's bowling with skill and poise and when he retired in 1999 his 395 dismissals was a world Test record.
Despite such a successful career - and even though he knew the honour would come one day - Healy said it was difficult to think of himself in the same category as the other 28 Hall of Fame members. "To be in this sort of area of cricket is a real, real honour," Healy said in Melbourne ahead of the official ceremony. "I don't feel good enough and I don't feel ready for it, but does anyone? I think that's how big it is."
Healy's wife is unable to be with him at the Allan Border Medal, so he has brought his mother from Queensland to share the event. The jokey, larrikin Healy had a lump in his throat when he mentioned his mother's unfamiliarity with a simple flight to Melbourne. As a full-time cricketer turned commentator, Healy is as comfortable on a plane as behind the stumps, and the moment reminded him just how far he has come.
"I'm struggling to come to terms with it a little bit, because in my mind it's still so vivid being the country primary school cricketer that I am," Healy said. "It's got to be the crowning thing, it's probably the last thing I'll achieve [in cricket]. Cricket has given me everything."
When the Australian team of the 20th century was named Healy was given the job as the gloveman, beating his famous predecessors Rod Marsh, Wally Grout and Don Tallon for the role. Healy's own interest in the history of cricket was sparked when in 1996, when the Hall of Fame was started, and he did some reading on one of the original inductees, Australia's first wicketkeeper Jack Blackham.
Healy will be inducted alongside one of Blackham's team-mates from the early days of Test cricket. Giffen was the country's eighth captain, leading them to two wins and two losses from his four matches in charge.
While his Test batting statistics perhaps did not reflect his ability - he made 1238 runs at 23.35 from his 31 Tests - his bowling record was better. Giffen collected 103 wickets at 27.09, however it is not until his first-class feats are considered that it becomes apparent what an outstanding allrounder Giffen was. The only man to score 10,000 runs and take 1000 wickets in Australian first-class cricket, Giffen's endurance was legendary.
Renowned as a stubborn man on the field yet a friendly character away from play, Giffen was a gifted offspinner whose mastery of four distinctly different deliveries made him a difficult man to face. Wisden described him as a batsman with "a wonderfully fine defence". His stooping position belied his ability as a stroke-maker and he was particularly strong when driving.
Giffen and Healy will be the Hall of Fame's 28th and 29th inductees in the 12 years since it was established. Players are selected for their status as "sporting legends" as well as their outstanding records, and they must have been retired from international cricket for at least five years to qualify.
Australian Cricket Hall of Fame
Fred Spofforth, John Blackham, Victor Trumper, Clarrie Grimmett, Bill Ponsford, Sir Donald Bradman, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Dennis Lillee
Warwick Armstrong, Neil Harvey, Allan Border
Bill Woodfull, Arthur Morris
Stan McCabe, Greg Chappell
Lindsay Hassett, Ian Chappell
Hugh Trumble, Alan Davidson
Clem Hill, Rod Marsh
Monty Noble, Bob Simpson
Charles Macartney, Richie Benaud
George Giffen, Ian Healy
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?