Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Favourite Cricketer: David Boon, by Jimi Stephens

In our continuing series "My Favourite Cricketer", World Cricket Watch's Jimi Stephens takes on the legend that is ... Boonie.

Allan Border has been taken. S.K Warne and Rahul Dravid are gone too. I thought about the Waugh brothers, and even the charismatic Carl Hooper was an early contender. But, delving back into my most formative of cricketing experiences, I found a short, roundish bloke with a killer moustache and looked no further. Here’s why……

Boxing Day Test, 1994. I was 11 years old and sitting with my older cousin and my grandma in the members reserve at the MCG. All morning I’d been swinging around in my seat, to see if the window to the Australian dressing room might open enough for me to catch a glance of Mark Waugh or Flemmo or anyone. But, nothing.
That year we were sitting as close as you could to the dressing room, just in the row beyond the chained off area where I think close friends, family and partners got first dibs. We’d won the first test in Brisbane and this was day 3 of the match. Our seats on the opening day were no-where-near this close so my autograph book was halfway out of its holster. Clink. The door opened to reveal Boony in all his glory: singlet on, massive gold chains vying for priority over his impressive tufts of chest hair, legs resting up on the window ledge, pads on and, in his right hand, something I was not expecting; a ciggie. David Boon, my idol, was smashing a dart! In fact, in the time I watched him, he must have smashed about 5! I couldn’t take my eyes off this spectacle. I think Tubby Taylor hit a four which my Grandma applauded but I couldn’t stop watching as Boony sucked in hard on dart after dart, blowing the smoke out into the member’s reserve. Then it happened. He saw me watching. I waved. He did not wave back. Instead he took an extra long drag on his fag, and blew a smoke ring in my direction.

In retrospect, I found Boon’s smoking endearing – ala Bob Simpson talking about his addiction on an Australian current affairs program, Today Tonight. However, my idolisation of the plucky Tasmainan started well before that. I just loved the way he could hold a pose, bat raised as high as he could, having just whipped one backward of square. Other players instintcs had them setting off soon after making contact with the ball but Boon was content to ‘save his legs’ and trust his power and placement. Whilst I was never that strong on my legs, I did buy a Gray Nicholls Ultimate 750 Limited Edition and after very careful photo analysis, positioned sports tape at the neck of the bat exactly as David Boon had it. In later years, I did buy into the folklore of Boon too, the 52 beers on the flight to England being the obvious example here. For those interested, Dean Jones’ account of this Australian Folk Tale is worth tracking down. However I do not advise trying to replicate this effort. Sinking a shitload off piss is a skill I have, but I am barely even able to get significant bum fluff on my face at 27 years of age and I reckon you need a handlebar to even attempt that!

 ain’t gonna list his stats here, not becuase I’m lazy but, well, you’re on the net right now so look ‘em yourslef. Suffice to say though that for his time, Boon’s test average was very bloody good, second only to Alan Border when Boon called it a day. His one day record is impressive also, maybe most notable for his best afield efforts in the 1987 World Cup final against the Poms at Eden Gardens and in the dead rubber against the Windies at the MCG in the 1992 World Cup. He wasn’t a technically brilliant player and he wasn’t elegant either. He was however, a belligerent upper order batsmen who was called upon ad nauseum to steer Australia through batting collapses and take the shine off the new pill. I can actually remember (at three years old!) first hearing about him from my Grandmother who had listened to the tied test in Chennai in 1986 and was talking to me about Dean Jones’ outrageous effort that saw him hospitalised after spending a total of five hindred and two miuntes at the crease. I had only one question for Gran “Who was up the other end?”

Getting back to Boxing Day in ’94 though: Boon had a spectacular match. He made 134 in the second innings which was a very nice knock to watch and he moved like Dhal Sim from Street Fighter to catch a ball at short leg to give Shane Warne his hat-trick. 

But I remember Boon from this match because he blew a smoke ring at me.  Probably not the best thing to do to an 11 year old kid but hey, it’s not like I copied everything he did……now where’s my lighter?

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