Public conversation: Bowled over by Gideon Haigh
Gideon Haigh and John Harms, 20 June 2010
LOUISE DOUGLAS: My name is Louise Douglas and I am one of the assistant directors here at the National Museum of Australia. I have the pleasure of welcoming you to the National Museum this glorious Sunday afternoon. These two must be really talented for you all to be here on such a gorgeous afternoon.
I have to acknowledge the traditional observers of this land on which we are meeting, the Ngunnawal, and acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the City of Canberra and to the region, and acknowledge and welcome any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be attending today’s event. In fact, I just discovered coming up here that we have 60 Indigenous students from around Australia who are touring the Museum this afternoon and they were contemplating coming to visit us. But I am not sure we can fit them in.
The format of today’s conversation is essentially Gideon is going to say a few words, John and he can going to have a conversation and then you are going to get involved. But I think I might leave when that happens up to John and Gideon. The whole idea is for you to get involved in today’s forum.
This forum is part of a much wider program of activities around Australian identity and, not surprisingly, Australian identity is a permanent preoccupation of the National Museum. We have just published, with University of New South Wales Press, a terrific book called Symbols of Australia. We are also travelling at the moment an exhibition which looks at a selection of about ten symbols, and that exhibition has just opened in the Albury library and museum, if you feel like a trip to Albury.
The book itself includes 26 Australian symbols, including, of course, a chapter by Gideon on the baggy green. We are always looking for objects that help tell the story of Australian identity and symbolise what Australia is all about. You can see the baggy green worn by Australian captain Greg Chappell, as well as Rod Marsh’s baggy yellow, both from 1982 just outside the theatre in the showcase.
It is my great pleasure to introduce John Harms. John is a writer and broadcaster, as I am sure you know. He is currently director of Manning Clark House in Canberra and has over the last year or so been responsible for rejuvenating Manning Clark House so that it is now an incredibly important part of Canberra’s intellectual landscape.
John trained as a historian and was a history teacher. He writes on a broad range of topics, but sport is really the thing that he loves. If you have seen him on ABC TV’s Offsiders you will know that. When you look at the list of his publications which include: Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a mug punter, Loose Men Everywhere and The Pearl: Steve Renouf’s story as well as The Footy Almanack annuals that he produces, you kind of get the idea that sport is what he really loves.
His column ‘No harm trying’ appears regularly in the Canberra Times on Fridays. Normally when a person comes to the Museum and you get notes from them to introduce them, you paraphrase and cut bits out, but his are so good I am just going to read what he gave me. He loves red wine, short par fours, which I think is something to do with golf - architecture of golf courses, would that be right? - and the Geelong Football Club. His ambition is to lunch for Australia. However, it seems that it will be some time before he can thrust his name before the selectors again. He is devoted to his beautiful wife Susan and two little ones, Theo and Anna, and he reckons conversation is at the heart of it all. It gives me great pleasure to introduce John Harms to you. Please join me in welcoming him. [applause]
JOHN HARMS: Thank you very much. Thank you, Louise, very kind words especially about Manning Clark House. Hopefully we are developing a program there that is going to be attractive to the people of Canberra and surrounds, and it seems to have been. We had GCJD Haigh there on Thursday night with Professor Philip Goad. Professor Philip Goad is Australia’s expert on Robin Boyd, both his architecture and his life as a public intellectual, and it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Australian Ugliness which came out in 1960. It has been re-released by Text Publishing, a publisher which at times has published our work, Gideon and mine. Certainly four of my books have been through Text Publishing. It’s been a successful re-release of The Australian Ugliness. You could just about cross out 1960 on the publication page of the book and put 2006 and it would probably stand up pretty well. That was Thursday night, but enough of the advertising from me.
It is my pleasure to introduce a very dear friend of mine GCJD Haigh, which is how I refer to him. He is one of the few I know with five names - Gideon Clifford Jeremy David Haigh.
GIDEON HAIGH: Jeffrey Davidson Haigh.
JOHN HARMS: Sorry, so I have got it wrong all these years. I have only known him for 15 years as well, which is what I am going to tell you about. Both of us love cricket; both of us love ideas; both of us love good writing; both of us are Geelong Football Club fans - very happy in recent years. But I being in Brisbane didn’t know much about Gideon’s early life as a journalist. He was writing for The Australian at that stage. It was before you got the little photos it was just ‘byline Gideon Haigh’. I was reading his pieces, particularly cricket history pieces, and I remember one in the very early days was a profile of Arthur Morris which must have been in 1993 or 1994, somewhere around there. I thought that is just a beautifully researched and crafted piece for me to be reading over my cup of coffee on a Thursday morning or whatever it was.
Then lo and behold at the University of Queensland where I was doing my PhD - unfinished I might add, the box still has the tape over the top of it; don’t tell my wife - we were having a history conference through the human movement studies department on the history of sport by the Australian Society of Sports Historians and I saw Gideon Hague was going to be one of the participants in the conference. He was reporting on it for The Australian. He was interested in this organisation called the Australian Society of Sports History. I said ‘Look, I am helping with this conference, I will go and pick Gideon up at the airport.’ So I am looking for this guy who is about probably 60, given the maturity of his writing and the authority within the writing. I am wandering around the airport looking for this 60-year-old, Gideon Haigh is there aged probably 29. He was wearing what could only be described as dungarees, probably from the gold mines of Ballarat in 1857, a long cricket sleeveless pullover, which probably started as white but was then cream, and a jacket - I didn’t recognise the colours of it either - because Gideon always wears what we call dead man’s jackets which are the ones you pick up from Vinnies after they have been turfed out of home, and badges. I had never seen anyone wear badges like this before. I couldn’t recognise any of them and I said, ‘Hello, Gideon Haigh,’ and I was amazed because he was only 29 and I was expecting 60. Then I said ‘I’m John Harms … I just have to ask: What are the badges?’ He said that was Denis Compton as a child, was it?
GIDEON HAIGH: I think Compo was there, I think Doug Walters as a child and there might have been Imran Khan as well.
JOHN HARMS: I thought this is one unusual character who actually has not only Imran Khan but Imran Khan as a child on a badge. Who made them? ‘Oh, I made them myself, I am a badge maker.’ So let me introduce badge maker Gideon Haigh. [applause]
We have become very good friends since then. Let’s open the conversation, Gideon. I will invite you the audience to be part of it fairly soon. We are talking about the baggy green today. Were the editors Melissa Harper and Richard White right in putting the baggy green in this collection of essays on the symbols of Australia?
GIDEON HAIGH: That’s a good question. Can I just welcome everyone here today. John was calculating before that this is a bigger crowd than the last seven gigs that we have done together.
JOHN HARMS: Put together. The one at Kilmore was a ripper.
GIDEON HAIGH: It is probably fair to say that the words ‘bowled over by Gideon Haigh’ have never been so large. They don’t happen all that often these days and they happen less often every year. It is nice to see them there above the baggy green - the closest I have come to the baggy green is owning a small one down here. I was so confident there was going to be about three people here today that I brought it on the assumption that I could simply pass it around to the people in the audience. That might not be practical now.
The baggy green has a very interesting history. It’s not the history that you would perhaps expect given the iconic significance that it has taken on in Australia. I think that’s partly because our discovery of cricket history and our discovery of cricket antiquity is of relatively recent invention.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and following Australian cricket, there wasn’t the same obsession with the immediate past. We lived in a very comfortable present. I am not sure that I knew anything about the players in the 1960s when I was growing up in the 1970s. It did not seem to matter to me very much.
It is interesting that in the last 15 years, a period of convulsive change in international cricket and in Australia, we have clutched ever more tightly to symbolic reflections of the game that we love so well. John was noting the other day that when he grew up in the 1970s he dreamed of playing for Australia but he never dreamed of wearing the baggy green cap. We didn’t even use the expression in the 1970s.
When it came for me to write this piece, the earliest usage of the expression that I could find was in an article in Cricketer in about 1970 by a writer from England; it was something that the English discovered about us rather than something that we boasted of. I think the first time it was used in a way that really caught the public eye was in a book in about 1981 called Warriors in Baggy Green Caps by a Western Australian journalist called Ian Brayshaw. I never asked Ian where he came up with that expression. There have been references to green caps; there have been references to baggy caps; but not until that particular title was the expression used as one.
When you look back at the very early Australian sides where we sometimes fondly imagine all our historical associations have derived from, the pre-modern period of Australian cricket, there is a huge variety of uniforms in which Australian teams play. Of course, Australia wasn’t a nation at the time. It was a concatenation of colonies who got together to play cricket as one without necessarily entirely coalescing. There was no national cricket government; there was no Australian Cricket Board until 1905. The teams were basically put together by the leading players from each of the colonies, who would form a kind of a limited company with sufficient money to get themselves over to England and they would pay themselves from the proceeds of the gate takings.
It’s difficult to analyse the early history of the Australian cricket colours because we are often looking at black and white photos. But there are some interesting visual clues to the way in which Australian cricketers represented themselves. In fact, I saw one the other day at the National Portrait Gallery. If you go there, you will see Frederick Spofforth in a cartoon from Vanity Fair by a cartoonist called Leslie Ward known as ‘Spy’. He is wearing the blazer and cap of the 1878 Australian team, which was the first Australian team to really achieve great fame in England. They bowled the MCC out at Lords for 33 and 19 and won a famous game in a day. They wore a blue and white striped blazer and a cap without a brim of blue and white as well.
In 1882 when Australia won their first Test match in England, the team was dressed in red, yellow and black. That is the team that, in winning that test match at the oval, inaugurated the traditional of the Ashes. In 1884 they wore navy blue. In 1886 they wore red, white and blue, because the backer for that particular team was the Melbourne Cricket Club, which was the biggest, oldest and richest cricket club in Australia - it probably still is - it’s the oldest continuous sporting club.
In those early days, as the venture of going to England became more and more significant, culturally significant and financially significant, the players required the backing of a large institution and de facto that was the Melbourne Cricket Club. We still don’t have a national cricket government - in fact, we don’t have a national cricket government or an attempt at such until 1893 when the colonial cricket associations, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, form a body called the Australasian Cricket Council.
They organised the 1893 tour of England, not very successfully because it was a poor team that was beaten very soundly. But they had a first go at creating a national cricket raiment. Their idea was a blue blazer and a blue cap with a crest on it, a primitive Australian coat of arms with the legend ‘Advance Australia’ along the bottom. That team was a poor and unsuccessful team that pulled itself to pieces in the course of the tour. So there was no success for the Australasian Cricket Council to boast of.
When they next tried to put forward the idea of a national cricket guard in January 1895, a man called John Portus from New South Wales put a motion before the Australasian Cricket Council saying, ‘We should have a green cap’ - I think he called it a gum tree green cap - ‘and an Australian coat of arms’, the vote lapsed without a seconder. There was no support by any of the other colonies for national cricket colours.
It’s funny - there is no real need in Australia at that stage or no real sense in which the colonies feel as though they need some sort of symbolic expression that draws them together until in 1899 - it would be interesting to get John’s views on this because the first time I met John he was delivering a paper on the 1899 Australian tour of England which takes place immediately before Federation. The Australian team going to England in 1899 wear a uniform: a cap of sage green and they carry a flag with them, a green flag with an Australian coat of arms, once again with the Advance Australia legend, and they fly the flag over their hotel in England, the Inns of Court Hotel in London which is where they made their base. That tour was organised by the Melbourne Cricket Club again, and it was immediately after the collapse of the Australasian Cricket Council which basically had no funding. It was really put together by a few like-minded spirits from the different colonies, but it had no particular financial support and it had no support from the players.
My supposition, my theory which I present in Symbols of Australia, is that because there was some anxiety about a private club putting together a team to tour England and some desire to create some sort of national identity that was separate from the club, the players, perhaps in cahoots with the Melbourne club, thought it would be good to have a uniform that separated them from the private club to look more like a national team and not so much the expression of a big and wealthy private institution from Melbourne.
John, you have written about 1899, perhaps you would like to talk about the way in which that team expressed some of the pre-Federation dreams of Australian unity?
JOHN HARMS: It certainly did, and maybe that’s a point for both of us to take up on. This discussion is fine sitting here in 2010 looking back at the late nineteenth century, but did cricket matter then? Hence do the colours matter? I will come back to 1899 in a minute. What was the broader meaning that was projected on to the side or discovered in the side in that late nineteenth century? Do you agree with Mandle’s thesis that it did contribute to a sense of national consciousness?
GIDEON HAIGH: I think it did, with one qualification: it mattered when we were successful. In the 1880s after the period of Australian success, they go to England and lose a test match narrowly in 1880, they win this fantastic test match in 1882, which is very important and is where the Ashes tradition was inaugurated, there was a lot of interchange of teams in the 1880s but Australian teams are not particularly successful. In fact, cricket was regarded in that period as in the doldrums really. Even though it was really the only game in town as far as national sport was concerned, I don’t think it really captivated Australians in the way that it did from the 1890s, and in particular one tour, the 1894-5 tour of Australia by [Andrew] ‘Drewy’ Stoddart’s England team, which is a fantastic tour. It’s a five Test match series. Australia lose narrowly in the final test by a margin of three to two, having lost the first test match after they had forced England to follow on.
It’s the first test series where the publics in both countries have been able to follow it in real time, because it’s immediately after the cable is connected from Australia to England. You are able to get virtually real-time coverage of the tour in England in the Pall Mall Gazette, who pay an awful lot of money to get wire scores in England. Apparently it was followed by everyone in England - it was followed by Queen Victoria. The England team coming out here were very popular, and they created a legacy of good will that followed them. That really revives Australian cricket in the colonies. It is often thought of by cricket historians as the beginning of what has been called ‘the golden age of cricket’, which lasts from around about then up to the start of the First World War.
When Australia lose that test series narrowly, and they also lose narrowly a test series in England in 1896, Australians really re-discover cricket big time because their team is competitive again and it really matters, because Australia is just short of supremacy. There is nothing quite as tantalising as being just short of winning because, of course, when you win it’s so much more satisfying and so much more liberating. Australia wins in 1897-98 and they win again in England in 1899 by the odd test. It’s the first five-test series in England and it’s won narrowly by Australia. It features the first series of a great batsman in Victor Trumper. The rise of Victor Trumper and the beginnings of a distinctively Australian cricket consciousness are very important.
JOHN HARMS: And he wears the cap.
GIDEON HAIGH: And he wears the cap. He is extremely sentimental and attached to that cap, partly because he succeeds while wearing it. He makes a century in his first Test match at Lords, he makes 135 not out, and he wears that cap religiously. In fact, there are references by other players to Trumper’s deep personal sentimental attachment to his cap. If you are a cricketer - John and I are both cricketers for better or worse - there is something both nostalgic about your first cricket cap or the caps that you have worn in your career and you have a superstitious attachment to those pieces of gear with which you succeed. I think that’s one of the reasons why this idea of the green cap and the green uniform take root in Australia during this period, because Australia succeeds in them. Cricketers when they succeed don’t want to change anything about the way in which they are playing the game. That is one of the reasons why Australians cling with ever more passion to this symbol of their united endeavour.
JOHN HARMS: To illustrate Gideon’s point about 1894-95 and then especially in 1896, when the cables stop breaking, there is a famous photo from The Age in the middle of July in Melbourne - imagine how cold it is – where there are 10,000 people waiting for the cable to come once every 15 minutes at which point someone from The Age comes out to the blackboard and writes the new score up and everyone cheers. Then they sit and talk for another 10 minutes in the freezing. That is cricket nuts. Somewhere along the way, and this was probably what Gideon was alluding to regarding my research of 1899, this following of bands of cricketers who have been set up by entrepreneurs to entertain almost, people start to view these sides with some sort of notion of national representation, which is interesting because Federation is only 1901. Nothing is inevitable in history, and I am certainly no determinant, but there is this sense even then that something would come of these six colonies on this land mass and that they would form a national entity - and the degree to which cricket contributes to that is at least interesting, if not significant.
The other way around is to look at 1899 and at the frustration of George Reid and some of the politicians that they can’t get anyone interested in Federation. Why not? Because the Australians are playing cricket in England. So if you go to the Bulletin of 1899 there are probably eight to ten cartoons at the front of the Bulletin of political matters put in cricketing terms. In fact, one of them is ‘if you can’t bring Mohammad to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammad,’ which is about putting political stuff in cricketing terms so that at least then you will have some sort of impact on Federation.
To exemplify that, you also have in Australia in 1899 – and rugby union didn’t get organised as quickly as cricket did - Reverend Mullineux bringing the Poms rugby side to Australia. Now the Poms are here at the moment - this is probably not a good day to be talking about it having gone down 21-20 last evening. Banjo Paterson wrote a poem about Reverend Mullineux who was the skipper of the English side. There is a lovely cartoon, again in the Bulletin, of Australian people all looking at England to the cricket and to wherever they were playing the English-Australian rugby test matches and said, ‘You can only keep your eye on two things at once, there is no way you are going to be able to keep your eye on three things.’ So forget the politics, it’s the sport that people are more interested in.
GIDEON HAIGH: Another interesting interface between politics and cricket in Australia during this period is how many of these key politicians have gained often their first experience of administration through cricket. Edmund Barton is a classic example. He umpired a Test match and was a member of the New South Wales Cricket Association. Then there was: George Reid, Vice President of the New South Wales Cricket Association; CC Kingston, Vice President of the South Australian Cricket Association; Sir George Turner, member of the Melbourne Cricket Club; and Alfred Deakin in 1904 gives the famous ‘three elevens’ speech. So this idea of being able to reach people through cricket and reach cricket through people is fundamental to the early Australian political experience.
JOHN HARMS: Didn’t Barton umpire the famous riot game in Sydney?
GIDEON HAIGH: He did indeed, in 1878-79, Lord Harris’s team.
JOHN HARMS: There you are. Let’s take it beyond Federation and from then on the Australian cricket sides wear a green cap, if they wear a cap at all?
GIDEON HAIGH: Yes.
JOHN HARMS: What is the style of that cap?
GIDEON HAIGH: The importance thing that happens in Australia in the immediate aftermath of Federation is that Federation gives rise to this idea of there finally being some sort of national control for cricket, because up until then it had been a loose-knit coalition of the different state associations and the only place that they really combined their efforts was in the management of test matches and sending players abroad to England - and even then, the Melbourne Cricket Club was the defacto seat of power in Australian cricket. In the immediate aftermath of Federation, there is the first talk of a national cricket board. In May 1905, the associations of New South Wales and Victoria put their heads together and say ‘It’s high time that not only do we have a national cricket government but the team was providing proceeds to the development of the game in Australia at least as we embody it,’ because up until then the players going to England had basically divided the spoils at the end of the tour, which meant they were immensely lucrative endeavours. The tours didn’t take place all that often but it didn’t matter that you weren’t paid very much for cricket in between times. If you managed to get 800 to 1000 pounds from touring England, as the players did in 1899, 1902 and 1905, you could really set yourself up for the next three or four years. Players like Warwick Armstrong didn’t have to work in between times. They held part-time jobs whenever they weren’t playing cricket. They called themselves amateurs because they weren’t paid wages as professionals would expect to be paid but they weren’t amateurs; they were extracting quite significant emoluments from the game of cricket.
This idea that the laissez faire and mercantile spirit of Australian cricket runs up against I guess you could call them ‘narcs and straiteners’ in the bureaucracy of the state cricket associations who think that we are the reputable people to be running Australian cricket along amateur lines. There is this desire to enforce a kind of amateur code, at least a code that isn’t so obviously mercenary in its motivations.
The Australian Cricket Board is formed in 1905. I won’t go into the battle that ensued between the players and the board, but eventually the board is triumphant. In 1908, the board decides on the vote of a man called Mostyn Evan from South Australia that they will wear a uniform of sage green and gold. It is a tight-fitting skull cap; it’s a very, very dark green, almost an olive green; and it has a coat of arms. It’s the original Australian coat of arms on the gift of King Edward VII. It’s a coat of arms broken up into four. You can actually see the vestiges of that original coat of arms are still on the cap at the moment [image shown]. Originally I think the kangaroo and the emu were actually transposed - that’s a change from the original cap. That sun is gone from the original cap. The legend then was ‘Advance Australia’ again at the bottom. The coat of arms changes in 1912. There is a supplementary coat of arms on the gift of King George V, but the cap does not change. We still have the original pre-modern Australian coat of arms up here.
JOHN HARMS: So that is still on today’s cap?
GIDEON HAIGH: That is still on today’s cap. So it’s not the Australian coat of arms. That is an assumption that many people have that it’s our coat of arms. In fact, it predates the Australian coat of arms. The legend ‘Advance Australia’ disappears in 1931-32 when it becomes ‘Australia’.
The other major change is that in the early days the year of the tour or the year of the test series in which the cap was worn was put on the cap so that the caps were readily identifiable. That fashion changes in the 1970s and it goes back to a cap like that [image shown] with no date and no particular provenance. There is a general idea at that stage that maybe we shouldn’t be giving out caps quite as indiscriminately as we have been, because if you went on tour to England you got two Australian pullovers and two Australian caps. That kind of general lack of discrimination about the way in which the cap was used meant that it wasn’t regarded as a particularly special object. Players going overseas ritually distributed caps to friends who wanted souvenirs. Don Bradman ended his career without any of his caps; Ian Chappell doesn’t have any of his caps; Richie Benaud doesn’t have any of his caps - they just gave them away in their travels to people who wanted them. It seems as though people who were outside the Australian team actually valued the symbol more than those who were in the Australian team. Bill Brown said to me ‘In my era,’ which was the 1930s and 1940s, ‘the cap wasn’t important, it was something that you threw in the bottom of your case and didn’t really matter if it got dirty.’ It was a piece of equipment rather than a symbol of your belonging to a special elite club.
JOHN HARMS: My childhood memory is such that in those 1970s sides of the Chappell era, Greg Chappell wore a cap to bat but Ian Chappell, I think of him in that flower pot terry towelling hat that he used to wear at first slip. I can’t really think of too many in the field. By the way, when did it go to this sort of baggy shape? There is a photo of Trumper out there where he definitely has the skull cap.
GIDEON HAIGH: He has a skull cap. The change is basically in line with fashion. The first team that seems to wear a baggy cap is the 1920-21 team, which is Warwick Armstrong’s team that in Australia won 5-0 and in England won the first three test matches of the series. It was the record consecutive number of Ashes wins until Steve Waugh’s team quite recently. It is auspicious that it should have happened at this particular time.
In the immediate aftermath of the First World War the last players who can remember a player-centric model of Australian cricket, where the players ran the game rather than bureaucrats, the Australian Cricket Board, the last player of that era is Warwick Armstrong. By this stage the idea of there being a centralised cricket bureaucracy has very thoroughly taken root, and the players are playing for the representatives of the cricket administration in Australia rather than for themselves.
JOHN HARMS: What happens then, Gideon, is that [Melissa] Harper and [Richard] White, two academics look at this and say, ‘When we are trying to find symbols of Australia, the baggy green cap should now be one,’ because what you are describing up until the 1980s perhaps would suggest it shouldn’t be in the book. But now over the last 25 years, I think you can mount a very strong case that it should be. Why?
GIDEON HAIGH: It’s an interesting tradition in the sense that it’s an imagined tradition; it’s kind of an invented tradition. Australian cricket is not invented; the Ashes is not invented; the Australian cricket team is certainly not invented; Don Bradman is not invented. But it was almost as though we needed some sort of symbol that brought all those separate ideas, all those separate principles and all those separate personalities under the one heading, under the one symbol: we needed a symbolic embodiment of our personal attachments to Australian cricket, and the baggy green actually suited that rather well.
In the 1990s, one of the reasons why the baggy green was not particularly venerated was that it had no copyright protection and it had no trademark protection. There had been attempts in the 1970s and 1980s to ensure that the cap was not commercially exploited by people who basically were putting no money back into Australian cricket. One of the key artefacts in the development of the baggy green is ironically an advertisement that was done in the mid-1990s by Coopers Brewing - some of you may remember it - it is six stubbies and the tops have been rendered as baggy green caps. The Australian Cricket Board went ‘Hang on, how can they use our symbol, the symbol of Australian cricket, for their commercial ends? That is ridiculous.’ So the Australian Cricket Board investigated the intellectual property rights they had over the baggy green cap and they found that they had none.
In 1998, the marketing manager of the Australian Cricket Board was a guy called David Fouvy said, ‘Look, if we can’t control the commercial usages of our cap, then why don’t we dispense with the baggy green cap and invent our own cap that we can copyright?’ This is 1998 we are talking about; this is within the period of the baggy green ascendancy. The players have actually begun to discover it by this period. The institution of the players wearing the cap in the first session of a test match has been introduced by Mark Taylor. Steve Waugh, his successor, introduces the idea of new players in the team being presented with a cap on the occasion of their first test match, so the players have discovered the tradition of the baggy green at the very moment when the Australian Cricket Board is actually thinking of seeing if it can do without it.
What happens at that point? I won’t go into it in detail here. If you are interested, you can find my account of it in a book called Inside Story: unlocking Australian cricket’s archives, which is the official history of Cricket Australia. Denis Rogers, who is the chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, went to John Howard to see if he could get some help at getting trademark protection for the baggy green. And Howard, a cricket tragic, God bless him - I think that’s a silly term because there is nothing tragic about cricket; it’s wonderful – but thanks to the agency of John Howard, who funnily enough at the same time was helping the Bradman Foundation and the Bradman Museum trademark and protect the name of Bradman from unauthorised commercial exploitation, facilitates copyright protection for the baggy green. It’s at the time when the Australian Cricket Board also creates their website, which is called www.baggygreen.com.au, and we begin to think in terms of this both ancient and modern tradition of Australian cricket. It’s a very recent invention, but somehow it connects us to all the things that we like about Australian cricket and all the things that we value. So in that sense it may be a recent tradition but it’s an extremely valuable tradition at the same time.
JOHN HARMS: As someone really interested in meaning, now is the time for me to ask you what it symbolises? What are the meanings of the baggy green? What are these things that you are talking about that it actually symbolises?
GIDEON HAIGH: One of the reasons why the idea of the baggy green has gone forth and multiplied is that it suits everyone concerned. It suits the players who under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh wanted to build a kind of a specialness, a kind of esprit de corps in the team. Players do get a sentimental attachment to their cap. Steve Waugh was an immensely superstitious cricketer in his time. If you read his autobiography he, of course, always batted with the same red rag in his pocket. He also had this idea that, if he found a ladybird on himself in the field, he would try to protect that ladybird in the course of a day’s play. Players do have weird superstitions.
Perhaps later on I might ask people from the audience what superstitions they have had as cricketers. Everyone has them. If you played cricket at any level, it’s a very unusual cricketer who doesn’t have some sort of ritual that they follow in getting ready for playing cricket or some piece of gear that they regard as particularly precious.
The other people that it suits are the administrators who were trying to build some sort of intellectual property that they could control, that they could market and that they could sell - that they could monetise in the modern vernacular. It suits everyone concerned sentimentally when Michael Clarke, on the eve of his first Test century in his maiden test match in India in October 2004, says, ‘I don’t want to wear my helmet. I’m calling for my baggy green because I want to be in the lineage of great Australian players who have all worn this before.’ No-one doesn’t get a good feeling out of that - administrators, players.
JOHN HARMS: Why though, Gideon? What does it mean? What are the human qualities that it is supposed to embody? Is it courage? What are the things that the baggy green -
GIDEON HAIGH: Like all good symbols it is versatile. It means whatever meaning you choose to attach to it. This is a very liberal, very generous and very expansive kind of icon.
JOHN HARMS: Would you believe the Anzac tradition is in the cap?
GIDEON HAIGH: Indeed, although I am wondering where the New Zealand quotient is. Of course, it also suits sponsors who want to attach themselves to a premium product. There is something special and something exclusive - perhaps that is what it embodies chiefly - it’s exclusive. If you get one of these, it’s precious. There is this kind of folklore that has grown up around it that you get one in the course of your career. That’s a very recent development that you only got one. Steve Waugh got his original baggy green playing for Australian under-19s in the mid-1980s and in those days they were just giving them out all over the place. Ken Eastwood tells a fantastic story - Ken Eastwood, some of you might know, played one test match for Australia in 1971.
JOHN HARMS: Zero and 5?
GIDEON HAIGH: Five and 0, bowled Snow in the second innings. He made five runs, one test match and he got two caps because Alan Barnes, the Secretary of the Australian Cricket Association, gave him one cap and it didn’t fit, gave him another cap that fitted and didn’t bother to get back the first cap. So he managed to walk away with two caps. In fact, Bob Merriman, later the Australian Cricket Board chairman, said that Alan Barnes used to throw around baggy green caps like a man distributing newspapers, throwing them onto people’s front lawns.
JOHN HARMS: Just on the cap, perhaps on the Australian cricket side generally and certainly on the Australian captain, what role did John Howard have in elevating these symbols of Australia - say with Mark Taylor for example?
GIDEON HAIGH: I don’t think he originated them but he certainly helped facilitate them, and the baggy green is, of course, fundamentally a conservative symbol. It attaches us to the past; it attaches us to tradition; it attaches us to the best of Australia, the cleanest, the purest and the most successful part of Australia. Whatever else we have achieved, we have been very successful and predominantly successful in cricket wherever we have gone. There has never really been a prolonged downturn in Australian cricket in the way that there has been in English cricket since probably around about the Suez crisis.
I think John Howard was like any good adroit politician, he saw something going past and he attached himself to it. But then so did the players. The players realised that the iconography of the baggy green made them special, made them stand out, made them the members of an exclusive club. There is something wonderfully romantic and evocative about a player’s attachment to the cap, no doubt about it.
JOHN HARMS: To take that moment - and I know we talked about it on Offsiders as a bit of a watershed moment - I think it was in the West Indies where rather than wearing the Australian cap for a game against one of the provincial sides, the Australians wore the sponsor’s cap. For a long time through the twentieth century and certainly in my imagination, the 12 who were selected to play for Australia were the representatives of Australian cricket. There was this sort of apex at the top of the grassroots base. Whether you were playing under thirds, university firsts or whatever, you were on this path on which you could wind up at the top. I felt at that moment that suddenly we were looking at the eleven cricketers who were representing the commercial entity that is Cricket Australia.
GIDEON HAIGH: Sponsored by Carlton United Breweries.
JOHN HARMS: Has there been a change in understanding in understanding of what the cricket society is?
GIDEON HAIGH: I will talk about that particular incident in a second. I think one of the seminal moments in the proselytising of the baggy green cult was the occasion in 2001 when the Australian team stopping off on their trip to England go to Gallipoli and re-enact the famous photo of the game taking place on Shell Green and thereby explicitly identify with the Anzac tradition that John was talking about before. In fact, Peter Cosgrove comes out and says, ‘These players are the modern-day Anzacs.’ It was that particular period in Australian history where I think almost every expression of patriotic symbolism was couched somehow with a marshal association.
JOHN HARMS: I will just read that, Gideon:
GIDEON HAIGH: It’s an interesting choice of language too because it’s kind of straight from the English public school tradition. By invoking the spirit of fair play that is very much a construction of the rugby school of the 1850s.
JOHN HARMS: It sort of fits in with Bernard Whimpress’s view too. During the history wars the black armband view of history was one of the terms that was up for discussion all the time; Bernard Whimpress suggested that John Howard had a white picket fence view of history, not just in relation to 1950s front yard, suburban Australia and the so-called forgotten Australians of Menzies, but also in terms of the cricket oval.
GIDEON HAIGH: I find that interesting, and I don’t think it was as premeditated or as cynical an exercise as this, that in the summer of 2000-01 the Australian team had actually come under considerable criticism not for its prowess on the field but for its behaviour. There had been several incidents on Australia’s tour of India, and in particular Michael Slater had that terrible meltdown where he claimed a catch off Rahul Dravid at square leg and then remonstrated fiercely with the umpire. It was very embarrassing. There was a lot of bad feedback about the Australian team at the time. They were in pretty bad odour with a portion of the public.
But they go to Gallipoli, they identify with this other powerful patriotic totem of the Anzacs, and Steve Waugh was widely lauded for that trip. In fact I remember, because I was in England in 2001 reporting the test series for the Guardian, the English commentators were very impressed by the way in which the Australians showed by this gesture their attachment to their country and to a particular spirit of competition. They compared that unflatteringly as ever to the England team who they thought - I remember James Lawton’s line was ‘The Aussies play cricket because they love Australia. Our lot play because they get paid for it.’
JOHN HARMS: Wandering around the MCG I see there is quite a lot of really chauvinistic nationalism at work amongst sections of the crowd. Is there a bit of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi in the baggy green tradition or is that unfair?
GIDEON HAIGH: I think that probably is a little bit unfair - because it is attached to cricket tradition and because it is attached to the institution of the test match which, as far as John and I are concerned, is the definitive form of the game but it is the longest lasting and most enduringly successful form of the game, I don’t necessarily see it as strongly attached to chauvinistic expressions of Australianness as others. I identify that more with one-day cricket and perhaps more recently with Twenty20 cricket. It is strange that Cosgrove should use that particular collection of assumptions, because they are the assumptions that we tend to associate with test match cricket. We think of test match cricket as embodying the best of cricket and all that cricket connotes.
JOHN HARMS: How much do you think, too, it is because some of the great cricketers have been photographed or caricatured for cigarette cards - I see there is a photograph of a cigarette card in the book - and the fact that we see Bradman not in a white floppy hat or hatless, he is in this baggy green; and, equally, you could look at some of the heroic players in cricketing terms of the last century and say too have they been photographed in that way.
GIDEON HAIGH: I think that is quite powerful symbolism. It’s interesting that the Australian Cricket Board had no compunction until the 1990s about players appearing in advertisements wearing their Australian cap. So the baggy green was subtly commercialised by players wearing it in advertisements for everything from cigarettes to canned fruit. But the board wasn’t worried, because the board had a very uneasy relationship with commerce and they just preferred not to think about it at all.
If you look at Australian cricketers appearing in advertisements over the last ten years, you will notice that none of them are wearing their Australian caps, unless they are advertising the Australian team. If they are appearing in an advertisement for a bat or a set of pads or a mobile phone, they are not allowed to wear their caps because that is this idea of protection from the sullying of mercenary impulses and the idea that players shouldn’t be allowed to harness the mythology of the cap for their own commercial benefit.
JOHN HARMS: Do you think it will ever be available as merchandise? The only way you can get an All Black jumper forever was if you won it, if you were picked for New Zealand. Do you think it will become part of the merchandise program of Cricket Australia?
GIDEON HAIGH: I find it hard to give an answer to that because I so want it not to - and I don’t think it will. I know there has actually been talk of merchandising the Australian cable-knit sweater. For some years the Australian Wool Corporation was a sponsor of Australian cricket and there was talk at one time about it. The Australian sweater is actually a very beautiful thing in its own right and has quite a strong tradition too. I know having written the history of Cricket Australia they have talked at times about maybe allowing that out for some sort of minimum commercial exploitation but they have always pulled back from doing so. I think if they have those reservations about the jumper, they certainly have those reservations about the cap. But a lot of that depends on the way in which the players wear it and the way in which the players continue to regard it. The players have actually become protective of it rather than less. Perhaps because over the last three years we have undergone more change in cricket than we have in the last three decades, and it is always in periods of convulsive change that we tend to hang on to those things that remind us of conservative values of tradition and continuity. The short answer to the question: perhaps the fact that the game has undergone so much change in such a short period of time has shored up the imperviousness of the cap to commercial exploitation.
JOHN HARMS: I have a question but I reckon one of these guys is going to come up with the same question so I will throw it open first and we will see how we go. Any questions from the floor?
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: My name is Fay Goddard. When players are presented with their cap, they say this is cap No. 380 or whatever, is that number actually in the cap? I guess what I am suggesting if the number is in the cap they can always relate back to who it belonged to.
JOHN HARMS: It is on the shirt -
GIDEON HAIGH: Yes, it’s on the shirt as well. I think that came in around -
JOHN HARMS: Mid-1990s?
GIDEON HAIGH: In the late 1990s. The idea of the players being numbered goes back a bit earlier to the early 1990s. There was this celebrated case of Michael Slater getting a tattoo of his player number on his ankle or his ass or something like that, and he got the wrong number. He had got Brendon Julian’s number.
JOHN HARMS: People like the Geelong tourist to Thailand who, having had a very celebrating night, gave the tattooist 2007 [on the] right and 2009 [on the] left but he ended up with ‘2007 right’ and ‘2009 left’ actually tattooed on his arm.
GIDEON HAIGH: Interestingly the England team have started doing exactly the same. In some ways Australian cricket has been well ahead of the rest in introducing these ideas of continuity and tradition to their game.
QUESTION: Thanks guys, this is a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon. My question is either of you: are you aware of any other national team that attaches now such significance to some part of their cricketing apparel or equipment?
GIDEON HAIGH: That’s a good question, and I don’t think it’s the case. If you look at photos of players from the West Indies and England, there is no continuity about the caps and jumpers that they are wearing. If you look at the England team, the institution of St George and the dragon used to be on the cap, then there were the three lions, and even in the 1990s England teams wore a bizarre collection of apparel. A lot of England players preferred to wear white helmets to blue helmets, for instance. Obviously they didn’t feel as though they needed that kind of symbolic embodiment of their cricket.
But it has come to be identified with success. It has come to be thought of as a bit of a secret of Australian success on the field, in the same way as sledging has, strangely enough. There is an absolute obsession in England with sledging about whether Australia is a better team for sledging and ‘maybe we [England] should learn how to sledge as well, that would make us a better cricket team’. It is absolutely standard operating procedure if you go to England as an Australian journalist to get asked to write about a piece about sledging. It’s a bit ignominious. England invented the googly, West Indies invented the chinaman, Pakistan invented the doosra, and we invented you f…ing bastard. But in answer to your question: no. I’d be interested to see whether it actually develops, because the grain of international competition is now competing with the grain of club competition and of private ownership through the Indian Premier League. I wonder whether players feel quite the same sense of national attachment that they did maybe ten years ago when international cricket was basically the only game in town, whether they feel the same way about international cricket now when playing in the IPL is so much more remunerative and so much more prestigious even. Perhaps we can talk about that later.
JOHN HARMS: Gideon only looks through the lens of cricket so let me answer that question with regard to sport generally, and I think the All Black jumper is an example of that. Not knowing specifically the intricacies of the cultures of the 32 football teams who are playing in the World Cup, I imagine the Italian soccer jumper might have important symbolism in Italian culture - I don’t know, but I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a sense that it embodied something about that particular nation. Certainly with the All Blacks, the silver fern, there is great emotional attachment to that jumper.
QUESTION: I am interested in whether either of you know why Greg Matthews always used to bowl with his cap on.
JOHN HARMS: I don’t know.
GIDEON HAIGH: I think that may have been to do with his steadily denuding tonsure -
JOHN HARMS: Which has now been re-fertilised.
GIDEON HAIGH: It has.
JOHN HARMS: In fact they now have English elevens - have you seen that ad on Fox?
GIDEON HAIGH: No.
JOHN HARMS: Where Michael Vaughan or someone says, ‘We’ve got Gucci and we’ve got so and so,’ and Warne goes, ‘Well we’ve got’ – and they’ve all had the hair transplants. Why are we talking about that?
QUESTION: Vic Christofani here: just a couple of comments. With the numbering system that has been mentioned, with the Aboriginal team of the 1800s, how did they fit them into a numbering system when they were subsequently endorsed as Australians? I understand they were given a subset so as not to compound the run of the serial numbers. The second observation is that there hasn’t been any emphasis yet on ‘baggy’. I have worn both the English style cap and the baggy green type - not at that level, of course - but the versatility and functionality of the baggy green is such that, when the sun is low in the day, it has flexibility so that you can turn it around and keep the sun out of your eyes; whereas the English style cap, a tight-fitting one, if you pull it down at the front, it comes up at the back and vice versa. I think this is a much more versatile style of cap.
JOHN HARMS: We have the minister for millinery here this afternoon, so thank you for those comments.
GIDEON HAIGH: That is a very good comment. I am not sure they actually had that in mind with the original cap.
QUESTION: It was probably a latent benefit.
GIDEON HAIGH: It might be a latent benefit but maybe that is one of the reasons why it has endured in a period where no-one was paying all that much attention to it. If you talk to an Australian player of the 1960s, they will say they actually didn’t like the cap all that much. I have talked to Frank Misson, Lindsay Kline and players like that, and they say ‘We thought of it as a bit dowdy or maybe even a bit flouncy,’ - that was the word that Frank Misson used to describe it – and they thought the England cap was actually a little bit funkier, a little bit more fashionable. If you talk to Bill Lawry - he has a few of his caps left – he will tell you that he wore them in the pigeon coop so they are covered in crap. Maybe that is another latent advantage that it is very useful in the pigeon coop.
To answer the question about the Aboriginal team, yes, you are quite right, they were given a subset number. I actually feel a little bit ambivalent about that. I understand the desire for inclusion and the desire to create an Indigenous cricket tradition in Australia. But I also think there is something kind of phoney about it too, because we don’t really have an Indigenous cricket tradition in Australia. We have isolated examples of good Indigenous cricketers and the avid pursuit of cricket in different areas by Indigenous players. But surely the point is that we haven’t had that tradition in the past and to create that numbering system creates a continuity that I just don’t think historically is there.
JOHN HARMS: Why would you choose 1877 - why is that more official?
GIDEON HAIGH: Sorry, 1868.
JOHN HARMS: No, if you say the first test is 1877, why would you choose that ahead of 1868?
GIDEON HAIGH: You choose it because it’s the first time that a team from Australia and a team from England meet eleven a side in a game where the players have been drawn from the different colonies. Funnily enough, the team in 1877 was not called ‘Australia’, it was called ‘the combined New South Wales and Victoria team’. Retrospectively it is understood as the first test match but at the time no-one went around saying, ‘It’s great for Australia, isn’t it, this first test match that we are just about to have, yeah for Australia.’ I think actually a much more important game is the one that I referred to earlier where Australia beat MCC at Lords in a day in 1878 where Fred Spofforth bowls - it’s a much stronger team than played in that first test match – England out for 33 and 19. That really is the event on which Australian cricket really demonstrates its prowess to an English audience – ‘bearding the lion in its own den’.
QUESTION: There is something of a parallel with the 1928 rugby union team - New South Wales was basically the only state that played rugby; Queensland I don’t think had taken it up at that time or there was a gap in their fixtures – where that team called the ‘Wallabies’ went to England as Australia even though the selection was confined to New South Wales players. But they still called them Australia, so there’s a bit of a parallel there with the Aboriginal team.
JOHN HARMS: Well Australia won the rugby gold medal at the 1908 Olympics remarkably - bet you didn’t know that.
QUESTION: My name is Keirin and I wanted to ask Gideon: you alluded to earlier the big change that cricket has gone through in the last few years or so and I wanted to ask whether you thought the baggy green might be test cricket’s saving grace in the future.
GIDEON HAIGH: Once again, it is one of those things that I would like to think it’s the case. I am never quite sure whether I am answering rationally or sentimentally under circumstances like that. I think that the Australian players are actually quite conservative, and players generally are. This team has been very successful over a long period. They won’t want to change too much about the way in which they play cricket and the kind of totems with which they surround themselves.
But at the same time if playing international cricket for Australia begins to significantly inhibit your ability to maximise your earnings - the IPL is getting bigger every year. I think it is moving from 60-odd games to 94 games next season. That is an awful lot of Twenty20 cricket for Australian players who have signed up to play with IPL. They are going to be very tired at the end of that; they are not going to want to play international cricket; they certainly won’t want to play international cricket at the same time or really either side of it; they will want to keep themselves fresh for it and they will want to recover from it. IPL is kind of like the Godzilla of cricket at the moment. It is basically devouring everything in its path.
For as much as the players feel a sense of dedication, a sense of duty, a sense of obligation to the cricket system that made them, they are also encouraged to think of themselves increasingly as autonomous agents maximising their earnings potential in a free market for entertainment. The Aussie players love going to IPL. They are made to feel very special; they are paid a lot of money; and they are treated like superstars, bigger superstars even than they are in Australia. I think players who have been brought up in the traditional system will continue to regard international cricket as a priority. The next generation, I am not quite so sure of.
JOHN HARMS: Maybe it’s a good time then to reconsider the wearing of the CUB cap rather than - does that suggest a commercial mindset ahead of a representative mindset?
GIDEON HAIGH: The curious thing about that is that I think the Australian players have tied themselves in knots with their veneration for the baggy green in that case. If you remember the cause of them wearing that cap was that Brad Haddin had not been capped for Australia in a test match, therefore he didn’t feel entitled to wear a baggy green. So therefore as an act of solidarity the players wore the blue sponsor’s cap instead rather than have all the rest of them wear baggy green and one guy wearing something else. The players were trying to be traditional in that case but they ended up sending completely the wrong message. I think they were trying to do the right thing, but it was misinterpreted. The way in which Australians reacted to the sight of their team playing under the tight-fitting bonnet of a vast commercial organisation caused all sorts of alarms and I think touched off a subliminal sense of alarm or a subconscious sense that maybe this sense of values that we pride ourselves on is subtly being eroded around us.
JOHN HARMS: I am interested, too, in 1977-78 when the best cricketers weren’t playing for Australia but nonetheless there was this sense - certainly in our family - that Peter Toohey’s side with Bob Simpson in that magnificent series against the Indians – it was the Indians, wasn’t it?
GIDEON HAIGH: Yes, that’s right.
JOHN HARMS: They were the Australian cricketers. Alongside that, you have Kerry Packer running World Series Cricket. In fact, I think Gideon you mentioned in your piece that he didn’t want his players to use the baggy green because he felt that was the legitimate cap of the Australian cricket side.
GIDEON HAIGH: When World Series Cricket was looking to outfit itself, they chose a golden cap rather than a green cap because Packer told Vern Stone, who was the general manager of World Series Cricket, ‘You’ve got to earn those, son.’ Of course, Packer in initiating World Series Cricket was actually not trying so much to set up an independent cricket attraction but to win the rights to broadcast international cricket in Australia for himself. He was trying to get the baggy green rather than to create his own baggy green and by signing up the world’s best players and staging his own alternative cricket attraction in Australia he was able to bend the authorities to his will.
Interestingly, during the first series of World Series Cricket the accent of the promotion was: ‘These are the world’s best players, these are the world’s best individual cricketers; they are playing for lots of money; they are playing for more money than ever before; and you’ll see a higher standard of cricket than you have ever seen before.’ But of course, as you remember, the first series of World Series Cricket was not a success because there was quite an attractive official Australian series between Australia and India, with the Australian team being led by the old stager Bob Simpson with a bunch of young lions around him like Peter Toohey, and Jeff Thomson was in the Australian side too.
In the second season of World Series Cricket in 1978-79, Packer rather boldly took what was quite a risky step - it could easily have blown up in his face - he initiated the campaign ‘Come on Aussie come on’. He said, ‘Well, we might not be wearing a baggy green cap but this is the real Australian side. Look at the names in that side, look at Dennis Lillee, look at the Chappells, look at Rod Marsh, these are the real Australian cricketers, be wary of imitations.’ It was almost like he was trying to convince the public that his Pepsi tasted better than the Coke of the Australian Cricket Board. Because the official Australian cricket team in that second summer were very soundly beaten by England 5-1 and the Australian World Series team had quite a successful summer, with the aid of that hype, with the aid of that advertising campaign and with the aid of those very charismatic Australian personalities, he was able to create a very successful cricket attraction and occasion a patriotic pang at the same time. I think fundamentally because of his conservatism he kind of understood the way in which Australians relate to their cricket team.
JOHN HARMS: You will correct me if I am wrong, Gideon, but wasn’t there a photo of World Series Cricket at Waverley where in the background there is only one person in the entire stand?
GIDEON HAIGH: Yes.
JOHN HARMS: Didn’t you find that person?
GIDEON HAIGH: He wrote me a letter.
JOHN HARMS: One person in the entire grandstand. What was his name?
GIDEON HAIGH: I have forgotten his name, but he was a student teacher and he had the day off. He thought, ‘I’ll go down to watch the first super test,’ and there was absolutely no-one there. This was at Waverley, 2 December, 1977. I can remember watching on television - perhaps some of you were watching at the same time – and it coincided exactly with the first test. So you had the test match on from Brisbane on the ABC and you had the World Series Cricket super test on Channel Nine. The world series commentators were making desperate attempts to make this sound like the most exciting innovation since penicillin.
JOHN HARMS: It was a very overcast day, that first test in 1978 in Brisbane - and I was at Oakey on the Darling Downs doing my maths one exam for year 11. I knew the score because Clive David Yeabsley, CD Yeabsley, was my English teacher and he was a Welshman. His brother Tim Yeabsley had taken a hat-trick against Minor Counties in 1973, which included Rowan Canhi and Sir Garfield Sobers. I am very nervous about my maths one exam and CD Yeabsley, who was always trying to dig the knife into us Aussies, put up - I am doing question 3B – ‘First Test Gabba, Australia 6-36’, hence I did arts at university. [laughter]
QUESTION: My name is Andy Turner. My activity in cricket these days is as an umpire notwithstanding the fact we had to leave our guide dog outside. My observation of contemporary cricket is that international cricket is becoming less and less like the game that Gideon and thousands of other people play on a Saturday afternoon and more and more part of the international entertainment business, and if time allowed we could pursue examples of that. I say that to ask you this: in the discussion about the evolution of the baggy green as a symbol, to what extent might it be becoming a symbol which tries to tie the international game back to its roots, because for practitioners the two have less and less to do with one another?
GIDEON HAIGH: Like I said, it’s in periods of convulsive change that we have the most need for wholesome reassurances about the direction of cricket. It’s no coincidence that the baggy green has achieved this eminence in a period where a lot of the values that it would be regarded as embodying have come under threat. It’s a good point about the conflation of the values of cricket and entertainment. I think you see it very clearly in the IPL: cricket is barely even a priority. I think the standard of IPL is pretty poor. If you watch the games - I have watched quite a bit of IPL because I like watching cricket, even if it’s crap - it looks ordinary. They are mainly Indian domestic players with a sprinkling of internationals; the games don’t seem to me to be particularly intense; the standard of the fielding is really poor; the standard of the bowling is modest; the standard of the hitting is great but that’s largely because the grounds are small and the bats are really powerful. But that doesn’t matter, because they have pre-sold the rights for more than US$1 billion to Sony. Actually they renegotiated the rights last year and it’s now US$1.6 billion - absolute telephone book numbers in Indian cricket – it is mind-boggling how large it is. We have no sense of how the gravitational pull of India is affecting our cricket on a daily basis here.
With the expansion of the IPL next season to 94 games, I just shudder to think what it’s going to be like. We had a period recently where we had the 60 games of the IPL, the 40 games of the World Twenty20 and then we had three or four games of the South Africa-West Indies, and we also had the women’s World Twenty20. So we had about 120 games of Twenty20 cricket in ten weeks. By the end of it, I didn’t know who was playing whom. You wake up in the mornings these days and you simply do not know who is playing whom. The cricket calendar has become not only incredibly crowded but incredibly disorderly. That is one of the reasons why we love Ashes cricket so much: we know when it’s going to be in the calendar.
JOHN HARMS: The other thing is that, for the economy of cricket, it doesn’t matter that no-one is going to Dunedin to watch the second test between New Zealand and England because the rights have been sold. But another thing that people don’t often think about is the impact of gambling now on cricket. Gambling organisations are advertising and sponsoring everything because they have so much money. If they can encourage you to have a bet on New Zealand versus England, then that is more eyeballs on that screen. Because if you have your 100 on New Zealand to win by the end of the fourth day at 9:1, then you have an interest in it not only in terms of cricket but also in terms of the punt.
QUESTION: Isn’t that largely back to the future in the sense that we are going back to where cricket origins started in eighteenth-century England as a vehicle for gambling?
GIDEON HAIGH: Yes. John was earlier mentioning the riot at the SCG in 1879 which Edmund Barton was the umpire of -
JOHN HARMS: It was a run-out, wasn’t it?
GIDEON HAIGH: Where there was a run-out of Billy Murdoch which caused uproar in the crowd because so many people had money on him scoring runs. There was basically a gambling ring operating in the pavilion at the SCG. Yes, we have gone back to the future in a sense that the rise of cricket is intimately linked to the gambling culture of England before 1850. The efforts to purify the game of the gambling culture in England are actually what leads us to this idea that cricket is more than a game and that cricket is cricket. If you look at The Cricket-field by Reverend James Pycroft in 1850, the values that he claims for the game are chiefly those of purity and of a lack of corruption where ‘cricket has purged itself of these pernicious influences.’
If cricket is going to conflate the values of sport and entertainment, then what does it matter whether the players are trying or not; what does it matter who wins and who loses? All that matters really is there are outcomes that we can bet on. If cricket is to become like going to see a pop concert, a sort of guaranteed entertainment package, then the idea of it being a competition where it matters whether you win or lose is significantly being eroded.
JOHN HARMS: Just that mythology of cricket too, in my childhood it was don’t give your wicket away. There was almost a death mythology in cricket about survival, about just hanging on and hanging on. Yet now there will be another test match next week. So I think the deeper meaning of it has altered, if that’s the way you are looking at it.
QUESTION: My name is Alex. If we go back to the 1932 series of bodyline, Douglas Jardine the English captain is always synonymous with wearing a cap of the harlequin club. How was it that he actually wore the harlequin cap? Was that because there was actually nothing else in existence?
GIDEON HAIGH: No, because in those days the English weren’t particularly precious about the caps that the players wore. Percy Chapman, the England captain on the 1928-29 tour wore his own club’s cap, the Quidnuncs cap. One of the reasons that the tradition of the baggy green is significant is that we have always had the one cap in Australia. All players, whether they have played one test or 100 test matches, all wear the same cap. In England, because they have had a much longer tradition of the division between amateur and professional, between gentleman and player up until the distinction was abolished in 1962, there has always been greater sartorial individuality in English cricket. And because Australians have prided themselves on having a more egalitarian tradition have said ‘one cap for every man’ - there is something to be proud of in that. In that sense the baggy green is very much a reflection of the way in which we feel as though we play our cricket.
QUESTION: My name is Robert Goddard. Given the enormous amounts of money involved and the people who seem to feed off these prominent players as well, each player seems to have their own manager, is that going to impinge on what these young men decide to do, when they are going to do it, how they are going to do it and where they will go?
GIDEON HAIGH: That’s a very good question. I think about it quite a lot actually. There are some very avaricious managers out there.
JOHN HARMS: Across all codes.
GIDEON HAIGH: Australian players, in my period as a journalist, have become increasingly inaccessible to the media. Basically if it’s not perceived to be in the player’s commercial interests, then players don’t want a bar of cooperating with you as a journalist. You get very controlled access to players through very, very boring press conferences, and that is a source of great disappointment to me. I think cricket sets a poor example in that respect. Players from other sports feel a much greater obligation to be open to the media and to the public and to give an account of themselves and their game. It is one of the reasons why we don’t have particularly good cricket journalism in Australia, because the players and the journalists have become so separated from one another.
I am not sure that it has actually happened yet but I would not be surprised if in the next three or four years a player is encouraged by a manager to go and play in a more richly rewarding game than is on offer in his own back yard. You had the interesting example recently of the Victorian players opting to play in the Sheffield Shield final rather than going to represent their IPL franchises. That was ridiculous. All power to those players that they chose to play for their states, but they cost themselves an awful lot of money in doing so and in not going to play in IPL. I know from talking to Cricket Australia that the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] who run cricket in India are absolutely adamant, they are constantly reinforcing that Australian players must be available for IPL. I don’t think they will in future accept Australian players preferring to play in their domestic competition. It has become a real bone of contention between the different boards. So it may not simply be the managers; it may be the commercial priorities of the BCCI that are as influential on what players do in future as managers.
JOHN HARMS: With managers, it is not so much the encouragement to make an individual decision at a particular point in the cricketer or footballer’s career, it’s the fact that, when the kid signs on at 17 and grows up in a relationship with this manager where the manager is pushing getting the last dollar out - you have to look after yourself commercially. When I was working for Inside Sport occasionally, I had a lovely column ‘A beer with … so and so’ and I asked people for interviews, quite a few of them wouldn’t do it unless they were paid $5,000. They say, ‘Well you have your sponsor and they are getting an earn out of them sponsoring the column, we should have a cut of that.’ It’s quite widespread.
QUESTION: My name is Neil Fleming, I have a couple of observations going right back to the first question: It’s interesting that the baggy green caps are not individually numbered, as we have already noted, but the one-day caps are. Ricky Ponting is 123, is he not? But another observation: I recall watching the last Ashes series from England or rather the first test from Cardiff on the last day – I think it was on SBS - as the Australians were in the field and the commentators were presuming the imminent Australian win that never came, there was a whole segment of about 30 minutes by the commentators showing close-up shots of Australian fieldsmen all in their baggy greens, assuming the wind coming on, and the crest openly visible; and then shots from the previous day of the English fieldsmen with their caps on and with their ubiquitous sunglasses, horror of horrors, shielding the crest on their caps; and the commentators saying this was a sign of the misdirection that the Englishmen were going through. The fact that we didn’t win that Test and then lost the next one seemed to get lost in the thread, but I think that is important in talking about symbolism.
GIDEON HAIGH: I was reminding John of a wisdom of Steven Archibald, who played for Spurs, when he said, ‘Team spirit is the illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory.’
JOHN HARMS: As that was an observation, we will have one quick last question.
QUESTION: My name is Lloyd Owen. I am just wondering if you could check the ‘made in’ tag on that cap?
JOHN HARMS: This is from the tomb of the unknown cricketer, it is anonymous.
QUESTION: I am just wondering if the great Australian icon is actually made in Australia or is it made in China?
JOHN HARMS: Yes, it is Australian made. The caps are made by Albion C&D who are the world’s leading manufacturer of batting helmets and they have had that contract I think since the 1950s. There have been a variety of makers - actually something that we haven’t talked about at all is who makes the caps. There have been an extraordinary variety of makers, probably the one who held it longest was Farmers - does anyone remember Farmers department store from Sydney? They had the contract for years and players, before they went off on tour, would go to be outfitted at Farmers - have their hat size taken and the blazer would also be manufactured in their size.
You just reminded me with the mention of Ricky Ponting and it goes back to the question that Keirin asked before: Ricky Ponting is a real glass of fashion in Australian cricket these days. He has grown in his role as a representative of Australian cricket. There is something significant about the fact that Ponting has retired from Twenty20 cricket and he doesn’t play in the IPL. In fact, he very explicitly turned his back on IPL. Michael Clarke, his dauphin, doesn’t play IPL either. I think from those role models you do see that the senior Australian players do regard their international obligations as a priority for all that they savvy about their commercial value to the last decimal point. But I do wonder, as I said before, what the attitudes of the next generation will be.
LOUISE DOUGLAS: Our expectations were high and I think they might have been met – engaging, uplifting, entertaining, eloquent. While there is clearly an enormous amount of cricket knowledge in this room, you would have to say the cricket knowledge with these two gentlemen is absolutely jaw dropping. I am not sure if it’s healthy. What do you think?
I have got two prospects for you now: whatever you think we would like you to fill in the questionnaire; and the book that you have been hearing so much about, Symbols of Australia is available in the shop right now for $39.95. If you do buy one, I am sure that you if you join us in the Friends lounge for a cup of tea, Gideon would be more than happy to sign it for you. I haven’t cleared that with him but I am sure that’s fine. The Friends of the National Museum have invited you to the Friends lounge for a cup of tea and a bit more of a chat and I think we could do this for days by the sounds of things.
We have a new Director in the National Museum [Andrew Sayers], and one of the things he has been talking about in the last few weeks as he has arrived and got used to the place, he has been reinforcing this idea that he wanted the museum to be a place where we were linking contemporary debate with history. I don’t think we could have had a better example of that here this afternoon. Could you join me in thanking Gideon and John. [applause]
Disclaimer and Copyright notice
Date published: 12 August 2010