Former PM Hawke livens up Australia's training
It took only a few minutes visiting Australia's training session at the SCG for the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke to lighten proceedings with a typically ribald bit of humour.
Hawke spent around half an hour with the team ahead of their World Cup semi-final against India on Thursday, and saved his best quip for the allrounder Shane Watson, following an equal parts fortunate and forthright innings to wrap up the quarter-final against Pakistan in Adelaide. "How much," Hawke asked mischievously, "did you pay the bloke who dropped you?"
Later, Hawke spent time chatting with the young batsman and captain-in-waiting Steven Smith, who wore his broadest grin while speaking with a man known for his lifelong love of cricket, frequent visits to the SCG and habit of draining a glass of beer in front of spectators whenever they see him at the ground.
Asked for his opinions of the 2015 Australian World Cup team, Hawke was warm. "We've got a good side, a very good side," he said. "Our batting is very good and an exciting bowling line up. Those fast bowlers, what an array of quickies… about 10 foot tall each of them.
"I just wished them luck, but I was very impressed by the camaraderie of them. The relationship between the players seems to be very good. The captain Michael Clarke, he's not an effusive fella but he has the confidence of his team.
"I think he's been absolutely remarkable personally, the way he's fought back over his injuries and he's very much respected for that. The relationship between the players, just listening to them and watching them with each other impressed me very much indeed."
There was something to be taken from this observation, for Hawke was a consistent presence in the Australian dressing room during less happy times when he was Prime Minister and the national team was struggling to regain a place near the top of world cricket.
The success of the 1987 World Cup and the 1989 Ashes tour heralded better days, and Hawke personally awarded Allan Border the Order of Australia following the second of those triumphs - an award he had previously handed to the great West Indian captain Clive Lloyd.
By the time of the 1992 World Cup, Hawke had been deposed as Prime Minister by Paul Keating, but has retained an interest in the game. Hawke visited the team via the link of the Cricket Australia liaison staffer Pearce Gibbons, whose wife Jill is Hawke's personal assistant. The opportunity to converse with the team ahead of the Cup semi-final was a fleeting one, for the 85-year-old Hawke was due to fly to China on Tuesday.
But he did not leave the team without a confident prediction, even expectation, of success. "They will win on Thursday and they'll win on the weekend," he said. "I told them I expected it."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig