Graham Yallop cherishes memories of test captaincy despite ups and downs
For Graham Yallop, these days of summer summon memories of days grim and glorious.
There's his defiant captain's knock in 1979 amid a thumping Ashes defeat. There's an all-time record romp at the MCG in 1983 - 30 years ago this week - that stands as his last hurrah. There are the summers since, spent in the shadows of the game that delivered him - at just 25 - the inevitable start of his obituary: former Australian Test captain.
''You've always have got that with you forever and I don't think you realise that fact when you become captain,'' Yallop says.
''It's only after you give the game away and people refer to you as a former Australian captain and that's when it hits you that, 'OK, I was at the pinnacle of the sport'.
''I think that's very important for the younger guys to really appreciate, that the sky's the limit. I had no idea when I was 13, 14, 15 that I was ever going to be even playing for Australia, let alone be captain.''
His was an unusual career, profoundly defined by the era in which he found himself. It started and ended in controversy and has been followed by equivocal judgment. He has been called the forgotten captain - a description at odds with John Howard's suggestion that even the occupant of The Lodge takes second place in national prestige to our Test captains.
The forgotten man? Yallop says the notion has never bothered him.
''It doesn't bother me whatsoever because I made a choice after I gave the game away … what way would best suit [me] to repay what Australian cricket gave to me.
''I had an opportunity to go into the media and I chose not to.''
Instead, he has spent 30 years coaching the next generation in Melbourne, preparing them for the rigours of a game whose demands both on and off the field have completely changed since his glory days.
He was thrust into the limelight in 1978 on the eve of a home Ashes series. Cricket was in crisis, with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket splitting the game and robbing the Test side of its leading players. Into the maw walked young Yallop.
''People were divided. The average Australian supporter was divided,'' he says.
He recalls how cricket bosses made him toe the establishment line in public - ''controlling me, every step of the way, every day; condemning the series, condemning the players and telling everyone what rubbish it is'' - even as he held private sympathies for the rebels and for what the Packer revolution could do for the game.
The six-Test 1978-79 Ashes series was a brutal thrashing. ''[We lost] five-one, but who's counting,'' he says.
It was a bitter defeat, though it did provide what he considers his greatest moment: scoring 121 at the last Test in Sydney - memorable because it came from an all-out scorecard of 198.Being named captain is ''a particularly fond memory in many respects but also harsh reality, that we didn't have a great team. It was disappointing from a results point of view.''
Yallop places that innings above his record-breaker against Pakistan at the MCG in 1983. For his Melbourne innings, he went in towards the end of the second day. He walked off, exhausted as never before or since, at the end of the fourth - 12 hours at the crease, 517 balls faced and 268 runs for the history books.
The MCG, the Boxing Day Test, his home-town crowd - ''you hear the roar of the crowd, the intensity, the electrifying atmosphere, the players walking out on the ground, your spine just tingles. Great feeling.''
He played only three more Tests. Having come to the big time amid crisis, so would he leave it. In 1985, Yallop joined the Australian rebel tour of apartheid South Africa. Bob Hawke, then prime minister, called them traitors and many agreed.
But Yallop has no regrets, even as he notes that to this day he is still banned by Victoria. ''There are no regrets. We did a lot of good work coaching in the black townships, particularly in Soweto, and everyone was happy for us to be there.''
He seems a man at peace, proud of his career, its highs and lows in proper perspective. Paint the past any colour you like, but Graham Yallop was and always will be an Australian captain.
''I think once you don't have it, you then tend to reflect and sit back and think, 'Well gee, I've done that, I've done this, I would have preferred to do it another way, or I would have preferred to do it this way.' But it was great to have that experience.''
December 29, 2013