David Boon March 20, 2010

'Everything we touched turned to gold'

Interview by Daniel Brettig
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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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'........so 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 border......wow!!!! 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.

  • 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'........so 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 border......wow!!!! 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.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 15:28 GMT

    David Boon took some exceptional catches at forward short leg. He was a good fielder.

  • POSTED BY jmt55au on | March 20, 2010, 15:10 GMT

    Not quite Kai ... I think the first Tasmanian test cricketer was actually Kenneth Burn who toured England in 1890 and played 2 tests. I also believe there may have been several others before Roger. There was also Laurie Nash who was born in Vic but played for Tassie in the 1930s. However Boonie is ultimate Tassie cricket hero. I can recall driving down Davey Street in Hobart when my five year old son (at the time) recognised Boonie driving past (from the cricket cards of the day), he waved and got the classic Boonie nod, he still talks about it to this day ... legend :-)

  • POSTED BY indianpunter on | March 20, 2010, 14:27 GMT

    thought this article was about boony! why is there all this discussion about indian cricket?

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    Abhay Ganguly is at it again, leading KKR to its doom. Do you think Shah Rukh can ever drop him without riots? Ganguly will play next IPL too..:) Ganguly was failing in test cricket, he might have come back and played an innings or two? Do you think Boon would not have done that or Steve Waugh for that matter? We have people like Badrinath and Srinath struggling for a break while Saurav and Kapil played on and on. It is about taking a decision without emotions and riots in Mumbai or Kolkatta

  • POSTED BY map27871 on | March 20, 2010, 12:14 GMT

    Boony

    One of the legends of Australian cricket,not sure if he got full credit for his exploits in the 'baggy green'.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 12:13 GMT

    cultural difference is a bad reason to give for any mishappening. Its just that indians especially the ones from the middle class downwards in semi urban and rural areas get unbelievably emotional if anything is said against them since they think all indians are saints. I voiced my opinions about such issues and have had numerous heated debates. They feel australians, americans have no decorum and do what they feel like. my simple words - look at their infrastructure, economy and cricket. In Australia, aggressiveness is an inborn or rather its present from the start. they face it all the way through only to find themselves against a bunch of pansies when they make it the national side. People who dont follow cricket much look at numbers and names. I dont its all over for aus, never was. they look good now and its only a matter of time for domination. india on the other hand have reached their limit, another couple of years and their batting is gonna be pathetic..

  • POSTED BY KhuMir on | March 20, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    Er.. Abhay... In 5-10 years time, Dhoni will be gone, as will Tengulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir etc. The future is bad for India. The present is good. Australia on the other hand has plenty of young raw talent.

  • POSTED BY lyoung on | March 20, 2010, 10:23 GMT

    No wonder Boony was starting to struggle in the field. How many cans of beer did he drink once on a flight to England? 80-odd wasn't it?

  • POSTED BY JogeshPanda on | March 20, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    went through some early days of my cricket following when a tubby guy with bug moustache used to bat like immovable person against India, I still remember his athleticism in running out raju in the last ball of Ind - Aus tie of WC'92 where Basby was donning the big wicket keeping gloves. Current cricket miss character like him. His batting style of dominance showed way for generation that followed.

  • POSTED BY sushantsingh on | March 20, 2010, 8:56 GMT

    @ Thomas Cherian. I think what you are saying is absolutely correct. Ganguly should have retired with grace but he didnt. SAME WITH GANGULY IN THIS IPL ALSO. HE WASNT ABLE TO SCORE 200 RUNS AFTER PLAYING IN 14 MATCHES. BUT HE IS CAPTAIN BECAUSE HE KNOW THAT IN CALCUTTA THERE WILL BE NO MATCH IF HE IS NOT PLAYING.LOOK AT HIS PERFORMANCE THIS YEAR ALSO.PATHETIC PLAYER WHO ONLY PLAYS FOR MONEY & RECORDS.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 8:02 GMT

    Comparing Boon and Ganguly :

    Boon was asked to retire because he didn't fit into the modern game. He must have become a lousy fielder then. He was still a very good batsman.

    It doesn't really matter how much run Ganguly scored after comeback. I am sure if he were given a chance in ODIs he would have scored as much runs as he used to , but that's not a big deal.

    It is his fielding that had become bad to worse and batting was just about average. He didn't deserve to be in Indian test team for so long.

  • POSTED BY JogeshPanda on | March 20, 2010, 7:49 GMT

    went through some early days of my cricket following when a tubby guy with bug moustache used to bat like immovable person against India, I still remember his athleticism in running out raju in the last ball of Ind - Aus tie of WC'92 where Basby was donning the big wicket keeping gloves. Current cricket miss character like him. His batting style of dominance showed way for generation that followed.

  • POSTED BY HindustanTigers007 on | March 20, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    Hey It's not that people really care what Ganguly or tendulkar or dravid or Azzaruddin do with there life. The real problem is the so called celebrities know how to exploit the emotional Indians with there caste, region or religion.

    Seriously people in India love cricket and all this crap about riots when a player has been dropped is artifitually created by crapy idiots like Ganguly and.. when they don't know how to leave gracefully.

  • POSTED BY cam.skirv on | March 20, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    Yes Thomas, but at least Boony had the Grace and common sense to look at it and take it on the chin. All ganguly did was complain about how unfairly he was treated. Its all about playing for your country and what's best for your country, not about individuals

    Great article from one of the greats of Australian cricket. His prescence is always missed

  • POSTED BY vatsap on | March 20, 2010, 6:20 GMT

    Good interview, although it seems too short. Boon could have been asked about contrasting captains he played for, Border and Taylor. His own captaincy ambitions and his mates.

  • POSTED BY Itchy on | March 20, 2010, 6:04 GMT

    Babsy! Boony or "the short backward square with the flared pants" make much more sense!

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 6:03 GMT

    @Thomas Cherian Umm maybe because Ganguly is not a chicken and has the balls to stand up to bully like Chappell, and oh wait a minute, actually come back to the first team after getting dropped and make Chappell look like an idiot, scoring around 1500 runs in the year in Test cricket before he retired? Don't be bitter mate. There is a huge cultural difference between the way things are done down under, and in India, and there is nothing to say one is better than the other. India are doing pretty well at the moment and the future is looking good. Same can't be said of Australia, esp the batting, with all the best bats over 30 or around that mark. But Oz have had an unbelievable decade and a half and while that is hugely impressive the whole world has blindly accepted that the "Australian Way" is the only way to go. It doesn't work in India, Chappell was proof.

  • POSTED BY HyderabadiFlick on | March 20, 2010, 5:26 GMT

    I absolutely agree with Thomas Cherian. Boony was the most hard working cricketer of his time and finally accepted his weaknesses and retired just before the 1996 World Cup. Ask Indian cricketers of 80's & 90's, how Boony made them cry every single time he batted against them. He can surely be called as the best batsman of the early 90's.

  • POSTED BY Periander on | March 20, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    David Boon was a hero of mine growing up. That era is lost, but the legend of the keg on legs will live on.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 4:31 GMT

    The '94-95 Aus tour of WI is the best TEST series I had ever seen. I was growing up watching tests and ODIs but it was that series which taught me how hard a series can be fought and what "tough" and "grit" attitude means. Sure, the WI batsmen did not score big runs and were not their best, but their bowlers Ambrose, Walsh and Benhamins were still fearsome and breathing fire. So it was all about Aus batsmen fighting WI fast bowlers. Yet some gems from Lara and Richie Richardson (wore a helmet in that series, very rare of him) from that series still remains in heart.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    No one from Tasmania had played Test cricket for Australia before you.

    Test debut Australia v West Indies at Brisbane, Nov 23-26, 1984

    I think you will find that Roger Woolley was the first to play for Australia from Tassie, he made his debut against Sri lanka on April 22, 1983.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    "Babsy, we're not sure about you, the game's changed and we're going to probably move on for the future." say that Ganguly and you have riots on your hands

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    "Babsy, we're not sure about you, the game's changed and we're going to probably move on for the future." say that Ganguly and you have riots on your hands

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    No one from Tasmania had played Test cricket for Australia before you.

    Test debut Australia v West Indies at Brisbane, Nov 23-26, 1984

    I think you will find that Roger Woolley was the first to play for Australia from Tassie, he made his debut against Sri lanka on April 22, 1983.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 4:31 GMT

    The '94-95 Aus tour of WI is the best TEST series I had ever seen. I was growing up watching tests and ODIs but it was that series which taught me how hard a series can be fought and what "tough" and "grit" attitude means. Sure, the WI batsmen did not score big runs and were not their best, but their bowlers Ambrose, Walsh and Benhamins were still fearsome and breathing fire. So it was all about Aus batsmen fighting WI fast bowlers. Yet some gems from Lara and Richie Richardson (wore a helmet in that series, very rare of him) from that series still remains in heart.

  • POSTED BY Periander on | March 20, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    David Boon was a hero of mine growing up. That era is lost, but the legend of the keg on legs will live on.

  • POSTED BY HyderabadiFlick on | March 20, 2010, 5:26 GMT

    I absolutely agree with Thomas Cherian. Boony was the most hard working cricketer of his time and finally accepted his weaknesses and retired just before the 1996 World Cup. Ask Indian cricketers of 80's & 90's, how Boony made them cry every single time he batted against them. He can surely be called as the best batsman of the early 90's.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2010, 6:03 GMT

    @Thomas Cherian Umm maybe because Ganguly is not a chicken and has the balls to stand up to bully like Chappell, and oh wait a minute, actually come back to the first team after getting dropped and make Chappell look like an idiot, scoring around 1500 runs in the year in Test cricket before he retired? Don't be bitter mate. There is a huge cultural difference between the way things are done down under, and in India, and there is nothing to say one is better than the other. India are doing pretty well at the moment and the future is looking good. Same can't be said of Australia, esp the batting, with all the best bats over 30 or around that mark. But Oz have had an unbelievable decade and a half and while that is hugely impressive the whole world has blindly accepted that the "Australian Way" is the only way to go. It doesn't work in India, Chappell was proof.

  • POSTED BY Itchy on | March 20, 2010, 6:04 GMT

    Babsy! Boony or "the short backward square with the flared pants" make much more sense!

  • POSTED BY vatsap on | March 20, 2010, 6:20 GMT

    Good interview, although it seems too short. Boon could have been asked about contrasting captains he played for, Border and Taylor. His own captaincy ambitions and his mates.

  • POSTED BY cam.skirv on | March 20, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    Yes Thomas, but at least Boony had the Grace and common sense to look at it and take it on the chin. All ganguly did was complain about how unfairly he was treated. Its all about playing for your country and what's best for your country, not about individuals

    Great article from one of the greats of Australian cricket. His prescence is always missed

  • POSTED BY HindustanTigers007 on | March 20, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    Hey It's not that people really care what Ganguly or tendulkar or dravid or Azzaruddin do with there life. The real problem is the so called celebrities know how to exploit the emotional Indians with there caste, region or religion.

    Seriously people in India love cricket and all this crap about riots when a player has been dropped is artifitually created by crapy idiots like Ganguly and.. when they don't know how to leave gracefully.