Cricket seems very far from my thoughts at the moment, which, of course, it is in reality too, as England begin their tour of Australia. Already what the Press refer to as “The War of Words” has begun, and it is certain that, once the series gets under way at Brisbane, Straussy and the Lads will have to contend with (in addition to the mockery of the Press and some on-field pleasantries from their opponents) a certain amount of good-natured chaff from the cheap seats.
‘Twas ever thus, and I thought they might find it helpful to have a little advice from an old Australia hand on how this barracking should be dealt with, and how, if approached in the right spirit, it can be turned to the shrewd tourist’s advantage. This is the suave and prolific opener Herbert Sutcliffe, from his 1935 autobiography “For England and Yorkshire“.
“Australian followers of the game have acquired the habit of letting off steam – of securing relief from nervous tension – by barracking. I realised early in my Test career in Australia that the barracking must be ignored entirely or else it must be played up to; and I say that the experiences on the last tour [The so-called “Fast Leg Theory” series – ed.] proved the correctness of my first impression.
In the 1928-29 tour I was amused by the cry of one of the barrackers. He yelled at the top of his voice “Sutty, this will be your last tour – you will be dropped for the next game”. I had scored 11 runs in that match, but that did not matter to the friends I apparently had in that section of the crowd. They attacked the barracker so fiercely with words that he was ready to leave that part of the ground.
Before that – long before that – I had a personal encounter with typical Australian barrackers, and it ended in a most delightful fashion. We played two matches at Brisbane … My fielding position was close to the scoring-board, and there, of course, I was the target of the famous scoreboard squad which used to control the barracking.
For four days they hammered me unmercifully, but when the second game came along I was in favour with the barrackers, having, evidently, passed through their fire with honours, chiefly, I believe, because I took and countered the comments of the squad. The final day’s play ended, and then, to my great surprise, the barrackers swarmed on to the ground to present me with a case of pipes – a gift which carried with it a tribute of which I am exceedingly proud.”
I’m not sure that the modern-day player would be quite sure what to do with a case of pipes. Perhaps a quick look at a past master of the art would be in order.
That’s the way to do it.