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The Wisden Cricketer

David Boon

'Everything we touched turned to gold'

David Boon looks back at the heady summer of 1989, and the years after, when he was considered by many to be the best batsman in the world

Interview by Daniel Brettig

March 20, 2010

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

The Australian team (from left: Steve Waugh, Dean Jones, David Boon, Geoff Marsh, mark Taylor and Allan Border) celebrates the first Test win, England v Australia, 1st Test, Headingley, 5th day, June 13, 1989
"The special thing about '89 was that we won the Ashes back, and we did it in four Test matches" © Getty Images

While growing up did you have any idea how much of a trailblazer you'd be for Tasmanian cricket?
Not at all. When you're younger you have a dream that you'd love to represent your state and your country and you quietly go about trying to achieve that. As a kid I played footy [Aussie Rules] during the winter and cricket during the summer. When the big decision came I injured my knee and that was basically it for football, so I thought I'd concentrate on the cricket.

You got picked during a really low point for Australian cricket, with a lot of new players coming into the side. How was that?
It was difficult but it was something that we just learned to deal with. You have a lot of players learning about Test cricket instead of a gradual turnover, so it was really hard. There were a few retirements and then the South African [rebel tour] business, but I think it gave players who stayed in the side a resolve to really try to bring Australian cricket out of that. Later on I made a pact with AB [Allan Border] when we were selectors that we'd make every endeavour for that situation not to happen to Australia ever again, because it is devastating when it does. So it built a resolve for us to be hard, and then once we started succeeding, we resolved again to not let that feeling go.

The 1989 Ashes tour of England seemed to change everything. Is it still your fondest memory?
The special thing about '89 was that we won the Ashes back, and we did it in four Test matches. It was a tour where everything we touched turned to gold. It was a really hard, long tour: winning a Test match, playing a county game the next day, travel a day, play another county game, then straight into a Test match two days later for four months. So in that respect it was quite difficult, but I don't think we got beaten in a county game [they lost once, at Worcester] and we didn't lose a Test match, so it was unbelievable. The icing on the cake is that we won back the Ashes.

And what about four years later in 1993?
We played really good cricket over there. There was the usual "this side's not as good as '89" and so on, which always gave us a spur when we arrived in England. I made my first hundred in England at Lord's, which was really special. I'd gone close a few times in '89, but didn't quite get there. Then when I got out in the first Test at Old Trafford for 93, geez it annoyed me. But then to make three in a row, at Lord's, the home of cricket, Trent Bridge and Leeds, was quite unbelievable.

In between 1989 and 1993 you couldn't quite catch West Indies as the best side in the world. Why was that?
They were still really good. We were close a couple of times against them, once in Australia in 1992-93, and we just let things slip a little bit in the West Indies on the tour before, in 1990-91. But then in 1994-95 things just fell into place a bit more and the team started to really click again. Things went for us. When we won in Barbados we all felt "Geez, we've a sniff here at doing this". That Australian attitude we'd been building on for a while - let's give it a red-hot go, we're no longer underdogs, let's not think that way, let's think positive - that helped us win in Jamaica. Wow. We'd beaten the best team in the world that'd been dominating cricket for the last 18-20 years, and it was a fantastic feeling to be part of that. I had mixed feelings on the day, because AB, who had been fighting for this for so, so long, was in the Caribbean, commentating. He came into the dressing room and he was very excited, but I actually felt quite sad that he wasn't a part of the group who finally did that after all the years he'd been fighting for it.

"We'd beaten the best team in the world that'd been dominating cricket for the last 18-20 years, and it was a fantastic feeling to be part of that. I had mixed feelings on the day because AB, who had been fighting for this for so, so long, was in the Caribbean commentating"

At times between 1989 and 1994, many judges felt you were the best batsman in the world. What impact did that have on you?
It's nice to think that people thought of me in that way. But it all boils down to, every time you go out there you have to do the best you possibly can. That was the main thing that drove me: it wasn't to be the best batsman in the world, but I was striving to be the best batsman I can be, which is a subtle difference. If you get there and people think that of you, it's nice, but it's not the be all and end all.

There's a popular view that it has been more of a batsman's game in recent years. How do you look back on the attacks you faced?
I've always said to my wife that if I ever start bagging players in the modern game, shoot me, because it changes, and history says it gets better. Their fitness levels get better, the way they conduct themselves, their athleticism. It's all very different to how it used to be. All I can say is, there were some very, very good bowlers in my time and that it was a challenge to face.

When did you start thinking about retiring from internationals?
The one-day game started to change around 12 months before I retired [in 1996]. And I realised I'd started to struggle a bit, not so much in the batting but in the fielding and that was affecting everything. I remember [chairman of selectors] Trevor Hohns coming to me during that summer [1994-95] after I'd played a couple of one-dayers and saying, "Babsy, we're not sure about you, the game's changed and we're going to probably move on for the future." When he told me that, my heart sank. But when I sat down and analysed why, he was right.

This interview was first published in the March issue of the Wisden Cricketer. Subscribe here

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by bonner on (March 23, 2010, 16:54 GMT)

PottedLambShanks: Mullally did work hard to 'get in the team' but he ended up playing for England. Remember?

Posted by   on (March 22, 2010, 9:44 GMT)

His backfoor square drive and square cut come to mind immediately...not to forget the catch he took of Azhar during the India tour of 1992-93. Boon was a true legend and one of the very best of the modern day game.

Posted by arunvish on (March 22, 2010, 5:02 GMT)

Boonie retired at the age of 34, if he played another 2 or more years he would have passed 10000 runs in test and one dayers easily. Even Sachin Tendulkar was a fan of boonie. its very rare to see a unique cricketer like david boon at all times, thats why he has gained more fans than the many other famous cricketers.

I can't forget his 100 in just 60 odd balls against the indian masters... ( I think it was played in year 2004 between the Australian masters and Indian masters to remember the famous tied test match).

Posted by Drewthur on (March 21, 2010, 23:01 GMT)

PottedLambShanks: Might want to check your dates there - Boonie started playing tests in 1984. Warnie didn't start until 8 years later, when he picked up 1 wicket in two tests - he didn't start taking wickets regularly until 1993 - the same year McGrath turned up. All up Boon spent about 1/4 of his career playing with those two, so no - he does not owe "every last drop of his success" to those two. You may notice the interview talks about the 89 Ashes, which neither Warne or McGrath played in.

Posted by Sidhanta-Patnaik on (March 21, 2010, 13:00 GMT)

Will never forget the catch he took at forward short leg to hand Shane Warne his first test hattrick.

Posted by safize on (March 21, 2010, 10:46 GMT)

'babsy we are not sure about you...gotta to think about the future' says trevor hohns to boon and they both are on the same page. in many parts of the world it would be difficult to come across either trevors or davids of that kind. and it shows. be it cricket or any other national activity. earlier in the article, theres mention of a pact between boon and!!!! where were the politicians running the board? is it not they who should be charting the future course of action? it does happen in many other parts of the world.

Posted by JimmyDee on (March 21, 2010, 0:14 GMT)

Boon had already established himself and was indeed well entrenched in the Australian team well before Warne or McGrath had entered the fray. His impact on Australian cricket was his own and along with Allan Border formed one of the great backbones of modern cricket. A mention to some of the comments here who have yet again, somehow, made it about Indian cricket. Take your blinkers off and look at the subject matter!

Posted by PottedLambShanks on (March 20, 2010, 19:12 GMT)

Let's be honest, any cricketer who played in the same team as Warne and McGrath owes every last drop of their success to the luck of being in the same team as Warne and McGrath. Sure, they had to work hard to get in the team, but so did the likes of Alan Mulally and Mark Ramprakash.

Posted by Rajesh. on (March 20, 2010, 19:03 GMT)

Of all the David Boon memories that has stayed with me the best one is that of him taking that fantastic reflex catch at forward-short-leg off a very crisp flick from Mohammad Azharuddin..... Azhar was already struggling on that tour and this just rubbed it in for him.......

Posted by waspsting on (March 20, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

Ganguly still had good cricket left in him - and he was treated shabbily by selectors compared to how other players in the same team were. It was time for Boon to go when he did - not only wasn't he as good as formerly (obviously), but there were replacements ready (he was replaced by Ponting - i'd say thats paid off for australia). Australian selectors have long been much less sentimental in selection matters than India - the difference in practicality this reflects might have something to do with their general superiority. Think about that. Still, some Aussie players have been treated pretty shabbily by their practical board - Bill Lawry for one, and Ian Chappell deliberately left ahead of time to prevent being shamed eventually. As far as Boon - he was good, solid, a tough cookie especially againstg fast bowling - but he was NOT the best batsmen in the world. Graham Gooch was better, Richie Richardson and Martin Crowe too. He was also a damn good fielder at bat-pad.

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