Cricket: Australian diary - Sir Tubby or not Sir Tubby, time is the question

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The Independent Online
It is an endearing feature of the game that the retirement of outstanding cricketers is invariably greeted with outpourings of respect and affection. In the case of Mark Taylor, erstwhile 39th captain of Australia, it went much further.

His departure was accompanied by the sort of coverage usually reserved for the deaths of reigning monarchs or sitting presidents. The lamentations at the loss to the side of an accomplished left-handed opener, a great captain and an outstanding man have continued for days.

Nobody, even in the most cynical of public prints (and perhaps particularly in the most cynical of public prints) has had a bad word to say about him. Unless you count the observation that he sets a bad example for children by chewing gum with his mouth open.

He is known to one and all as Tubby, Tubs or Stodge. When he is eventually awarded a knighthood he will be Sir Tubby Taylor. At his valedictory ceremony - which is what it was - Australia's youth radio station Triple J paid him the most handsome tribute. And they wanted to know if he was going to register the name Supertubby. Apparently not.

Among his new jobs will be that of commentator on Channel Nine. This, it was pointed out, will make him a Teletubby. Then again he might have other job options in mind. The day after he stepped down, his picture was emblazoned on the web site of an Australian newspaper. Underneath it, the caption read: "There's nothing like this dame: Kiri Te Kanawa kicks off her tour..."

There was a move afoot, trumpeted in the Sydney Morning Herald no less, to give him a last hurrah in the final triangular series qualifying match between Australia and England. But he was dropped from the one-day side last year and the selectors would not do that even for Tubs. More probable is taking up the suggestion that Taylor Square near the SCG have Mark or Tubby added. Nobody seems to remember who the original Taylor was in any case.

Tubby drives a BMW with the number plate MT 39. He was both the 39th Test captain of Australia and the 39th New South Wales father of the year. Maybe his definitive biography could be called The 39 Steps.

SINCE the Australians invented sledging (the word and probably the procedure too) it was something of a surprise to learn that their leagues have disciplinary tribunals to punish it. A third-grade match between Nollamara and Applecross in the competition known as the Western Australian Suburban Turf was obviously hectic.

Four Nollamara players were charged after the game, three with bringing the game into disrepute. The fourth is accused of a much more serious offence, transgressing the competition's racial vilification rules. He is alleged to have called a member of the opposition a pommy. Not that it worked. Applecross and their pommy won the game.

NEVER mind the dodgy hamstring which persuaded Darren Gough to take an untypical precautionary measure and leave the field at Sydney on Friday night. The England fast bowler should also be careful not to damage his left wrist. He spent two hours yesterday signing half of 2,000 limited edition commemorative prints of his hat-trick in the Fifth Test of the Ashes series (he may bowl with his right hand but he writes with his left). The print shows the fall of all three of the wickets, the first hat-trick for England against Australia since J T Hearne in 1899.

The balls were, you may remember, a sharply lifting delivery which Ian Healy could only fend to Warren Hegg, an inswinging yorker which uprooted Stuart MacGill's middle stump and a vicious late outswinger of full length which took Colin Miller's off stump. The prints are being sold for Aus$ 299 (pounds 110) and demand is already so heavy that they are unlikely to be available in England.

IN an attempt to coerce Australians into finding out more about their country's past the government has begun an advertising campaign. One of the posters poses the question: what kind of country would have a national cricket team before it had a national parliament? The answer, of course, is Australia. The cricket team inflicted defeat on England in 1877, the Federation was formed in 1901.

Few people, a survey has indicated, are aware of the Federation, only half of the respondents knowing what it means. Only 18 per cent knew who Edmund Barton was which was a shocking revelation. Barton was the country's first prime minister. More importantly, he was also a cricket umpire.

THE maligned Sri Lankans are on their way home now, out of the triangular one-day tournament before they hit their stride. They leave with their best bowler, the spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, having been no-balled for throwing and with their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, having had opprobrium heaped on him.

None of this has diminished the devotion - indeed it has probably enhanced it - of their most fervent supporter. Lionel Nawaragodagedera watches Sri Lanka everywhere. He is now so identified with the team that his trips are sponsored. Lionel was there when Murali was called, he was there with the largest banner in support of The Sri Lankan One when Ranatunga was sentenced. He will be there in Colombo when they seek revenge against Australia this autumn.