|Issue No 17||11 June 1999|
In Defence of Graeme Yallop
By Peter Warrington
The Australian Press made great mileage out of the recent recall of Graeme Hick to the English test team. Hick, with an imposing first class record (100+ centuries, average in the high 50s), has never quite cut it at Test level. His recent selection was the 8th time he had been called into the England team.
The media went ga-ga about Hick's in-out record, suggesting it displayed immaturity by the selectors. But how good is the Australian record in this area? Do we have similar love-hate stories, guys who are the first to be dropped and then grudgingly recalled?
No and yes. No, not recently, when the team has been built around a solid core of Taylor, the Waughs, Healy, Warne and McGrath. A few of the batsmen have been in and out 2 or 3 times, but nothing approaching Hick's Nellie Melba performance.
But it hasn't always been that simple. In the 80s there were a number of fringe dwellers, guys who came and went on the whim of the selectors. In some cases there were exceptional circumstances, but often the logic was hard to follow.
Take Graeme Yallop, for instance. An average of 41, 8 centuries and captain of your country is not a record to be sneezed at. But Yallop only played 39 of the 93 tests from his time of first selection until his banning from Tests in 1985. He was unavailable due to injury for about 10 of those, but that leaves a phenomenal 44 times Yallop was overlooked on form.
In that period he was picked 8 times - the merry-go-round goes something like this...
1975-6 - Yallop is picked against the emerging West Indies team at the age of 23, but he has already played 3 seasons for Victoria and spent time in English league cricket. Walters was injured and McCosker out of form, so the selectors plumped for the youth of Gary Cosier and then Yallop. Played the last 3 tests for 179 runs at 46 with top score of 57, the series won 5-1 and a bright future seemingly assured.
1976-7 - Pakistan tours Australia, Australia tours New Zealand, the Poms come over for the Centenary Test. Dougie comes back from injury, but the retirement of Ian Chappell and the poor form of Allan Turner leaves a gap - or does it? The selectors recall golden boy Ian Davis in the middle order, then move him up to open when glamour golden boy David Hookes demands selection with 5 centuries in 6 innings.
1977 - worse is to come when Yallop is leapfrogged by West Australians Craig Serjeant and Kim Hughes for the Ashes tour that year. What must he have felt when Victoria's wicketkeeper Richie Robinson played 3 tests as a specialist batsman, for the great return of 100 runs at 16.7? The Packer defections become public knowledge late in the series, decimating the ranks and leaving players with test experience such as Yallop apparently indispensable.
Nov 1977 - the first test against India. The Australian batting line-up reads Hibbert, Cosier, Ogilvie, Serjeant, Simpson, Toohey - four who have never played tests and one who hasn't played for 10 years. Yallop sits on the sidelines with other former test men John Inverarity, Turner, Hughes and Ashley Woodcock. The selectors make a change to the winning team for the Perth game - unheralded NSW opener John Dyson gets a call-up. With the series poised at 2-2 and the Indian spinners ripping the Australians apart, Yallop finally gets the nod in Adelaide, 15 tests after his last appearance. He responds with a solid 121. The test is won, and Yallop's test average sits at a juicy 54.
1978 - Yallop has a successful tour of the Windies, unfortunately missing the 3rd test with a broken finger. The first two tests were against the Packer men, and the combination of Roberts, Garner, Holding, Croft, the wickets and the umpiring left the Australian batsmen scattered across the Lesser Antilles. Yallop fought hard, with scores of 2, 81, 47 and 14. He was not missed in the 3rd, as Serjeant and Graeme Wood added 251 to help the Aussies chase down the imposing target of 362. He recovered for the last two tests against the more inviting line-up of Vanburn Holder and Sylvester Clarke, continuing the good scoring with two more fifties. He scored 317 runs at 45 for the series.
1978-9 - the Poms are coming and Simmo wants a guarantee of his spot for the whole series. The Windies quicks had given him a working over (not surprising given his 42 years), and the selectors, eyeing the likes of Willis, Hendrick, Botham and Old in the England team, decide it's time to take the plunge. Graeme Neil Yallop, you are Australian captain at 26. It's history that the series was lost 5-1, but it was a lot closer than that. A couple of collapses when chasing modest totals consigned the young Australians to a series thrashing. Yallop scored two centuries and made a solid 391 runs at almost 33 in a series completely dominated by the ball. His captaincy leaves much to be desired, at least that's the opinion of new gun quick Rodney Hogg who invites Yallop to inspect the plantings at the back of the Adelaide Oval. Packer-stan's team play two tests at the end of the season, and the first is lost when Sarfraz goes ballistic, taking 7-1 in a spell. Yallop is run out as the Aussies crash from 3-305 to 310 all out, a symbol of their fragile spirit. Yallop gets injured and Kim Hughes inherits the captaincy for the 2nd test, which he is lucky enough to win, due mainly to the form of new boy Allan Border and Hogg's brilliance. Yallop never captains his country again.
1979 - Yallop goes to India under Hughes. We lose 2-0 but Yallop performs reasonably well with the bat, scoring 423 at 38 including 167 opening at Calcutta. Hughes stars on this tour, and he, Yallop and Border appear the only batsman with the class to combat the reasonable bowling line-up of Kapil Dev, Ghavri, Doshi, Yadav and Venkat. Peace is made with the Packer camp and all players are available for the coming summer. With an average of 39 and four test centuries to his name, Yallop must feel some hope of retaining his place....
1979-80 ....but he is not picked for any test. Hookes, Toohey (who has had a shocker in India) and the reborn Ian Chappell rotate the middle order spots, alongside captain Greg Chappell, Hughes and Border. Hookes must feel hard done by when dropped after scoring 43 and 37 against the Windies in Brisbane. The selectors are clearly trying as many men from both camps as possible. Everyone but Yallop.
1980: Ian Chappell retires again and Yallop is picked for the Pakistan tour. He opens in the first test, drops down to displace Hookes for the last two and scores 172 in the Faisalabad run-fest. He keeps his place for the Centenary Test at Lords, scoring a measly 2 as the rain dampens everything except the brilliance of Kim Hughes. By now, Hughes with his solid performances at home and brutal display at Lords, and Border, with his domination of the Pakistani bowlers, are entrenched in the team alongside captain Chappell. With the return to favour of Graeme Wood at the top of the order, Yallop is now fighting Hookes for one place in the top 6.
1980-1 - or so it seems, until evergreen Doug Walters flays the South Australian attack in Sydney and earns a recall to the team for the series against New Zealand and India, 34 tests since he last played. 35-year old Dougie tops the averages, scoring a century in Melbourne, but that can't save him from the axe when the touring team is picked for England.
1981 - for once Yallop benefits from selectorial whims. With Walters at home, and Greg Chappell taking a well-earned break after his 18 months back at the helm, Hughes is made captain and Yallop is again one of the senior hands. He plays all 6 tests in Botham's Ashes, scoring a slashing 114 in the lost cause at Old Trafford, punctuated with devastating drives and cuts. Martin Kent and Trevor Chappell make their test debuts, but it is Dirk Wellham's stodgy century on debut at the Oval which captures the selectors' imagination.
1981-82: official "doubts" begin to surface about his ability against pace - this is the man who has scored runs against the likes of Roberts and Holding, Garner and Croft, Willis and Botham, Imran and Kapil. Chappell returns to the team and Yallop plays the first test against Pakistan, scoring 20 and 38. Australia wins easily, but Yallop is dropped for Wellham. His test average had fallen to 36, but he had scored 6 centuries in his 31 tests, the latest of them only 2 tests before. Wellham fails miserably against the Pakistanis and the Windies, but Yallop gets no reprieve - John Dyson is picked at number 3, behind Wood and Bruce Laird. Yardley takes his 41 wickets and Dyson takes his catch. This line-up plays 3 tests in New Zealand as well.
1982 - Greg Chappell's replacement passport does not show up in time for him to tour Pakistan. Hughes does the dirty work again. This time he has young Queenslander Greg Ritchie for comic relief. Ian Callen, who played one test in 1978, also tours, along with alleged spinner Peter Sleep and back-up keeper Wayne Phillips. This is a horror series, spinners Qadir and Iqbal Qasim ripping through a dispirited team. Yallop's solid technique against spin would surely have been welcome. Ritchie scores a brave century and Geoff Lawson comes of age as a bowler, but the 3-0 drubbing convinces Chappell he made the right decision. No surprises there.
1982-83 - This is the year Hookes goes berserk, with five centuries all scored in a session, including the century from 34 balls at Adelaide. He makes useful scores in the 5 Ashes tests as well, many in partnership with a maturing Hughes (467 runs at 67) and the series is won 2-1. Yallop scores heavily in the Shield, and appears close to displacing Border from the test team. Border is having a horror series until Willis allows him to bat himself into form at the MCG, and he capitalises with two fifties in the last test at the SCG. Kepler Wessels qualifies for Australia and displaces Wood at the top of the order.
1983 - Chappell finally resigns as captain but fills in for Hughes in the one-off test in Sri Lanka. Yallop is the lucky man chosen in the middle order, back again after a mammoth 16 tests on the outer. Roger Woolley and Tom Hogan make debuts. Wessels scores a big ton, and Yallop gets 98 - these runs need to be discounted, as Hookes scored 143 not out, his only century in 23 tests.
1983-4 - the season in the sun. The Australians, mindful of Qadir's spin, stack the team with lefties - Wayne Phillips, Wessels, Yallop and Border, as well as Marsh, and Greg Matthews late in the series. Hughes and Chappell are the odd men out. Yallop bludgeons a century on the first day at Perth, and goes on to dominate the series, scoring 554 runs at 92. The highlight is a marathon 268 at the MCG. Border, Hughes and Chappell also have big series with the bat, yet Geoff Lawson is made Man of the Series. Yallop is now being talked about as a late bloomer (he is 31) and one of the best batsmen in the world.
1984 - disaster strikes again as he injures his knee in a meaningless one-dayer. He misses the whole tour of the West Indies. Greg Chappell has retired, along with Lillee and Marsh. Hookes plays every test, Steve Smith and Dean Jones make their debuts. Border saves Australia from total disaster, but the 3-0 loss flatters the Aussies. In a worrying sign, Hughes' form deteriorates as the captaincy takes its toll. He has many scores in the 20s and 30s, but cannot convert.
1984-85 - one more year Hoggy, one more year Yallop. So exhorted the ACB ads at the start of the season. A season too far. Yallop returns from injury in the first test at Perth, his 8th time back in the team. Australia are rissoled for 76 by Holding, Yallop scores 1 and 2, and is unceremoniously dumped. Boon, Ritchie and Hilditch (back after 5 years) grab the selectors' eye. 3-1 to the Windies, the body count including Hughes, Yallop, Dyson and Hogg.
1985 - Yallop announces his intention to tour South Africa with Hughes' rebels. He is lost to tests at 32, and never plays first class cricket again. His record stands at 39 tests, 2756 runs, average 41.13, 8 centuries, highest score 268. He and Hughes sue the ACB for banning them from playing grade cricket. The players who were, with Border, the symbols of loyalty to the ACB, become the pariahs of Australian cricket, never to be spoken about, never to have their innings replayed on Channel 9 during rain delays.
In reviewing Yallop's career, some points need to be made. There is no doubt the selectors were afforded the luxury of flirting with Yallop, Hookes, Walters, Wellham and Ritchie due to the stability provided in the middle order by Greg Chappell, Hughes and Border - who each played every home test from 1979-80 until 1983-4.
Yallop's longest period between centuries was 6 tests - a record unmatched by his direct competitors, and one that many of the current team would covet. And when noting the tests he missed, it is worth remembering the smaller program back then - he was twice out for effectively two years - 1976-78 and then 1981-83. In modern terms, that would entail missing about 30 tests each time.
Interestingly, Yallop only hit 9 fifties. He was not the quintessential "duck or hundred" man like Graeme Wood, instead scoring enough 20s and 30s to retain a solid average. But his propensity to punctuate high scores with many low ones kept him in the selectors' gaze every time a young gun appeared on the scene. Last in, first out.
There is no doubt Yallop was harshly treated by the selectors. Maybe they thought they owed him no favours, having thrust him in to the team in 75-6 at the expense of established players like Rick McCosker. Maybe they thought he owed them for being made captain of one of the weakest teams in Australian history. Maybe he suffered for not being a WSC player. Maybe it was because he was Victorian. Or a left hander. Or had a big bum.
But the next time a Ponting, Blewett, Langer, Slater, Elliott or Bevan, not to mention a Martyn or a Law, has a whinge about the selectors, get them to give Graeme Yallop a call.
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