Music and cricket - it's almost impossible to unlink the two. Wherever you travel on this great six-stitcher in which we live, if you see a rolled piece of grass, half a dozen bits of wood in the ground and a bunch of guys dressed in white and ready to kill, you will hear the melodies in the air.
Whether it's the steel drums in Kingston with their pleasant party sound specifically designed to make you forget that you are about to have a ball hurled at your head at a hundred miles-an-hour, or the Zulu children in Port Elizabeth singing in the stands such traditional South African tunes as "Bohemian Rhapsody" in perfectly improvised three-part harmony, or even the Barmy Army entertaining all with their string of hits like "He Ate All The Pies" and "Nice Shirt, Nice Pants", all over the world you will hear music at the cricket.
For some reason, in this part of the world we are so reserved, self-conscious and, dare I say it, uncreative, that the most musical crowd participation we have come up with in these parts are "Buuuuullllll-shiiiiiiit, Buuuuullll-shiiiiiit" and "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi". Somehow the English managed to infect us with their stiff upper lip, and then broke out of it before we did - the nerve!
It hasn't always been so. Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall, when sharing rooms on tour, would often fight over whether to employ the gramophone for Keith's selection of Beethoven's Eroica Variations, or Ray's choice of Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train". And when Frank Worrell stood before the crowd in Melbourne at the conclusion of the immortal 1960-1 series, they broke into "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" without any prompting from organisers hoping to engineer some emotion.
Alas, times have changed. Music has been played to us as batsmen walk to the wicket in one-day matches, and our national team genuinely believes that "Under the Southern Cross" is a song. So, it's time for drastic action. I would now like to announce my team for the Second Test against New Zealand next week, selected specifically to preserve Australia's cricketing musical heritage. (Don't worry; we're 1-0 up, no pressure.)
To open the batting, we need one player who is full of life and ready for action and another player who is surly and solid. I present to you Australia's newest opening batting combination - Darren Hayes and Tim Rogers.
Why has no one thought of this before? I mean, have you noticed how similar Hayes looks to Michael Slater? They even shave on the same days! How hard is it to imagine Hayes, dressed in a white leather jacket so as not to offend purists, grinning at Chris Cairns as he charges in from the boundary, anxiously waiting to unload his full range of strokes, celebrating each boundary with a triumphant falsetto note.
At the other end, Tim Rogers would be utterly disgusted, watching this poppy pretender carry on like life's just so fucking marvellous. He would be disgusted to the point where he vows not to get out before Hayes, and that is just the role that Tim would be perfect for. It's easy to imagine the mid-pitch chats between overs with Hayes babbling incessantly about how inspiring and wonderful this cricket thing is and Tim just glaring at him with eyes that unmistakeably say, "Darren, shut the fuck up!" He would, of course, then return to his crease to think about what rhymes with stumps and balls.
The best ever number three for Australia was, of course, Sir Donald Bradman. With this in mind, at three and captain, I choose Paul Kelly. Think about it. Firstly, there's the song link, I mean, Kelly's musical tribute to the Don is not the best thing he's ever written, but it's better than John Williamson's effort! Secondly, Kelly has already seen a cricket game and likes it. This may not be the case with some of the other selections (still, a small price to pay). Thirdly, Kelly has the respect of every Australian muzo, and it doesn't hurt to have a national icon as your national captain.
At four, I have selected Bernard Fanning. Fanning would normally be going in as Rogers was coming out and Tim would appreciate Bernard's understanding ear when it came to voicing his displeasure at some of the company in the team. After all, Bernard has already shown himself to be quite adept at going in to bat for Tim (case in point, 1999 ARIA Awards). Bernard Fanning is all passion. When he sings, you hear how much he means it, when he bats, the same overwhelming sincerity is apparent. Scoring runs for Australia would mean so much to Bernard; let me not deny him the opportunity.
Number five is the place is the batting order where you put your loose cannon, your madman, the guy who will turn the game completely on its head and give it a good kick in the balls just for fun. The obvious choice is Quan Yeomans. As frontman for Regurgitator, Quan is noted for bringing a 90s slant to 80s music. I believe that he would do the same for batting. Remember in the 80s when one-day batting was about smashing the ball as hard as you could? Then came Bobby Simpson who believed in scoring as many singles as possible (the musical equivalent of Simmo was Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who believed in releasing as many singles as possible). Cricket and pop music became efficient and boring. But Quan and the boys rescued our memories of the 80s in a way that had us jumping in the streets and humping in the sheets! We need him to do the same for the dying art of batting. Come save us, Quan! Come play for Australia!
Choosing the all-rounder was rather difficult. Ideally, I wanted someone with all the skills, who could do pop, rock, jazz, folk, lieder and music hall, yet my mind drew a blank. The Australian Women's Team could rely on Kate Ceberano or Grace Knight to play an all-rounders role, but the men have come up short. It wasn't until I ventured into the world of over-priced tuxedos and over-applied make-up that I found my man - David Hobson. When Baz Luhrmann wanted a Rudolfo for his new-age production of 'La Boheme', he chose Hobson. When the Carols by Candlelight producers want someone to belt out 'O Holy Night' before being joined by the Wiggles to duet on 'Hot Potato, Hot Potato', they get Hobson. When AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson's voice finally goes... they SHOULD get Hobson! I need an all-rounder. I'm getting David Hobson.
The wicket keeper for this team must be a drummer! Drummers are the blood of bands. They keep them motivated; they keep them sane; they keep them together. Keepers do the same for cricket teams and with that in mind, I name Paul Hester as the new Australian wicket keeper. This zany rhythm-machine has the ideal temperament that allows him to sit behind his men without ever taking a back seat. You'd never hear anything like a droll "Bowwwwwled Warnie" from Hester, more likely a "Yeah man, that was very funky indeed" or 'Let's get ready to rock". Of course, he wouldn't mean a word of it and at the end of play he would sit at the back of the dressing room, burning joint in hand, looking thoroughly depressed.
If I'm going to choose a team representing Australia's musical heritage, one thing is certain. The bowling attack must have a strong social conscience. For too long, we've had to suffer the extreme right wing opening combination of McGrath and Fleming. I need the "most leftist" bowlers I can find, and more than that, I need the opening bowlers to be MILITANTLY leftist. So, bowling with the new cherry with the breeze is Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett, and with the mildly bruised cherry into the breeze, Tim Freedman of the Whitlams.
Garrett would be a menacing sight at 6 foot 5 with his shaved head, loose shirt flapping as he approached the wicket, suddenly giving birth to a whirlwind of arms hurling the ball towards the petrified batsman who would then feel the wrath of Garrett's politically incisive sledging. No batsman in the world would be able to survive having a ball speared at his feet from eight feet in the air before being made to feel guilty about his lack of participation in the anti-logging movement. Garrett would be particularly effective when playing England when he could exhume all of his anti-imperialist fury in a violent display of fast bowling that would secure an Australian republic faster than any referendum could. If there is no Aboriginal in the team (Munduwuy Yunupingu has a hamstring injury at time of writing), then Garrett's selection is a must. His selection is a must anyway.
Tim Freedman would be the perfect foil for Garrett. Freedman is both a slasher and a swinger, and at just above fast medium, he would do the same on the field with bat and ball. Tim would be subtler than Peter, sledging to his own schedule and bowling longer, more intricate spells. Still, the batsman would know that he was sufficiently hated. The only problem with Tim opening the bowling is that he would probably field at fine leg when Peter bowled. The selection committee fears that leaving Tim too close to women with no teammate closer than square leg could see him regularly disappear for ten-minute intervals down behind the boundary fence. Team disciplinary rules would have to be severely stretched if this opening combination is going to work.
There will be no let-up for the batsmen when Peter finishes his first six-over spell. Charging in with Marshall-esque pace and skid off the wicket will be Angry Anderson. Anderson would not need to say anything to make you feel guilty. His 'Challenges' in the early nineties raising money for various community groups had the dual effect of making us all feel involved in a great work while simultaneously giving the impression that he didn't think very much of us for putting them in that situation in the first place. Well Australia, we, as a nation, finally get the chance to put Angry's self-righteousness to good use. Let the Kiwis feel the guilt for a change. Get him on with the breeze an hour before lunch and watch him slip the ball into the batsman's groin. Laugh uproariously as the batsman gets to his feet rubbing his crotch and muttering, "I could have done more, I could have done more." It's nice watching someone else suffer in a way we can relate to, isn't it!
Completing the bowling attack with vicious turning leg-spinners would be the heart of Not Drowning, Waving and My Friend the Chocolate Cake, David Bridie. The only songwriter to actively speak out about the dangers of living in Kennettville, Bridie would not only take advantage of any fourth and fifth day crumbling of the wicket, but would also be a boon for team morale by using his uncanny ability to find the friendliest, most out-of-the-way pub in every city the team plays in. Somehow, I just can't imagine David turning up to the Allan Border Medal dinner at the Crown Casino. He would demand an unpretentious function in a pub in St Kilda where the winner would be announced by the innovative method of the entire squad each downing a schooner of Foster's with the winner finding that their medal had been deposited in the bottom of their glass. He would then take the squad to an outback oasis for a post-season piss-up.
The first training session will be held tomorrow starting at the Sandringham Hotel, Newtown before jogging with coach Vince Jones to the SCG nets where the team members will be presented with their team kits, including the newly-designed Baggy Green Akubra, (featuring a baggy crown, wide brim and crocodile teeth around the crownline) and shirts with the new major sponsor of Australian cricket, Mushroom records.
I believe that this is the best team to contest the second test against the Kiwis, who I've just heard are undergoing the same crisis and have drafted Neil & Tim Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Mike Nock, Don McGlashan of the Muttonbirds, and Paul Fuemana of O.M.C. into their squad.
The Australian Musicians XI:
- Daniel Viles (February 2000)
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