Cricket: Australian Diary: Numbers add up to lengthy Waugh effort

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The Independent Online
When, or perhaps if, given the dodgy state of his hamstring, Steve Waugh leads out Australia against West Indies in Trinidad next month he will become the country's 40th Test captain. England, by contrast, have had 71 since the first match in 1877.

This is partly because England have played 170 more Tests (756 to 586) and partly because they have had more temporary captains. Seven Australians have led the side no more than twice, 15 Englishmen have done so.

By that yardstick Waugh can expect a long tenure despite being appointed at the age of 33. He was, as you would expect of a player who is steeped in the game's customs and heritage, touched by his elevation. He reflected on how he had dreamed as a boy of playing for Australia, and now this. It was affecting stuff, though not to be confused with the way Waugh will handle opponents.

Seven of the last ten men to lead Australia in a Test have done the job for more than 20 games and five of them for 30 or more. Of the three others, Barry Jarman (once) and Brian Booth (twice) filled in for injured skippers and Graham Yallop (seven) was entrusted with the job only during the Packer era.

Despite his lack of captaincy experience Waugh has undoubtedly been given the job on merit. It might not have hindered his cause, however, that he is from New South Wales. Australia have had more captains from that state than any other, much to the annoyance of Victorians. Waugh is the 17th player from NSW to be captain and the eighth in the past fifteen (though Allan Border had moved to Queensland by the time he was appointed). The only genuine Queenslander to lead Australia was Bill Brown, against New Zealand, in the First Test after the Second World War. Seven South Australians have done it, the last being Greg Chappell; there has been one Western Australian, Kim Hughes, and no Tasmanian.

Victorian players were once the favoured species but the last was Yallop 20 years ago and the one before that was Bill Lawry. There have been 14 Victorian skippers in all. Shane Warne must already be favourite to be the next and if the Waugh hamstring breaks down again he might yet be the 40th captain of Australia.

IT has transpired that being called a Pommy on the cricket pitch does not amount to racial abuse. The Western Australian Suburban Turf Cricket Association has dismissed a charge of racial vilification brought against a player from Nollamara who was alleged to have used the term in a third- grade match.

The accused, taking his cue from Arjuna Ranatunga, arrived at the hearing with a lawyer. The upshot was that he was charged only with bringing the game into disrepute and banned for three matches. The club president Drew Hueppauff was a relieved man. "The club doesn't condone any player bringing the game into disrepute," he said. "But I'm glad it found nobody at the club acted in a racist manner."

The Pommy on the receiving end, Graham Cashin, said merely that he expected sledging in Australia but was astonished at the level it had reached. The judgement is probably good news for Shane Warne. At the beginning of the one-day series he said: "I just want to get out there and whip the Poms."

IF the tubby (and, dare one mention it, getting tubbier since he gave up smoking) leg-spinner is the most famous of all Australians, Mark Taylor and now Steve Waugh are not far behind. But nobody is mentioned more in cricketing conversations than Stuart MacGill.

Will he or will he not replace Warne in the Test side? Probably not is the most convincing response. MacGill has had a remarkable few months. Until the 1997-98 summer he had played only eight first-class matches in four seasons. Now he has played eight Test matches and taken 47 wickets including 12 in his last appearance against England.

He has also been made Young Cricketer of the Year by the Australian Cricket Media Association. There could hardly have been a more deserving recipient. Except that at 11 days short of his 28th birthday maybe he should have been Middle-Aged Cricketer of the Year.

AS Glenn McGrath and Alec Stewart indulged in a touch of verbal sparring in the first Carlton & United Series final it occurred that a month ago they might have faced charges under the ICC Code of Conduct.

It was all harmless enough and it was followed later by the successful ribbing of Nasser Hussain but the ICC thinking when drawing up the code was probably that it ought not to be condoned lest it lead to bigger bust- ups. All that has changed since Ranatunga.

The Sri Lankan captain was given a slap across the wrists for upbraiding a match official. Short of perhaps pistol whipping an umpire at the crease players are probably immune from punishment for misdeeds. So, too, are umpires.

Darrell Hair was charged with conduct detrimental to the game after describing Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action as diabolical in his book Decision Maker. He should also have been charged under the section which deals with disregard for aesthetic values but no matter.

The result of the hearing announced on Friday was that Hair was found guilty under two charges. The ICC then discovered that there was no penalty procedure for umpires in its code. The body trying to lead world cricket into a great new age are consulting their lawyers. Hair is now to be Australia's umpire in the World Cup.

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