Clayton Murzello: Let's not mind their good banners

Jan 28, 2016, 07:41 IST | Clayton Murzello

Harking back to the days when pun-loving fans and smartly-worded banners were as much a part of cricket as the action on the field

Banners were an integral part of cricket spectatorship in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in Australia and Channel Nine, in between deliveries, focussed on the painted words for their viewers.

Nowadays, all we see is a sea of flags and less of smartly-worded banners, which is a pity to both the spectator and the television viewer.

Gideon Haigh, the fine Australian cricket historian says, “I suspect, though I cannot prove, that banners are now frowned upon because they obscure ground signage. Flags, perhaps, provide for more animation in television coverage.”

The names of Australian cricketers provided much fodder for banners like this one from the 1997 Australia- South Africa Test in Johannesburg. Pic/Getty Images
The names of Australian cricketers provided much fodder for banners like this one from the 1997 Australia- South Africa Test in Johannesburg. Pic/Getty Images

Haigh recalled a competition in Australia several years ago, but the banner had to have the logo of the sponsor which was an automobile firm. Mileage (no pun intended) assured!

Australia captain-turned-television commentator Ian Chappell has seen a whole lot of banners panned by the camera through his four decades as a Channel Nine commentator. He revealed to me his favourite Australian banner which concerned his brother Greg: “When Greg was going through his bad trot with the bat (in 1981-82), he took a few wickets and was still catching well. Someone held up a banner at a ground in Australia, saying: ‘Greg Chappell would be a great all-rounder if he could bat.’ ”

The second of the three Chappell brothers had his share of banner messages after he ordered younger brother Trevor to bowl a grubber against New Zealand in the 1980-81 one-day triangular competition. ‘We support you Greg Chappell’ read a long, horizontal strip at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but another one was not so complimentary — ‘It’s not lawn bowls, Greggy!’

The names of Australian cricketers in the late 1980s and 1990s provided much fodder for pun-loving banner makers. When Australia were well on their way to win the second World Series Cup triangular final against India at Melbourne in 1985-86 to ensure there would not be a third final, a banner read: ‘Bordering to victory, no third Waugh’.

Earlier, in the preliminary round, one banner-writer ended up being wrong with his prediction. ‘India won’t go thru the Marsh or over the Border’. In the same banner, he insisted that it would be tough to win ‘the Waugh’ and urged fans to ‘Reid about it’ in the newspapers. But Kapil Dev’s Indians won two games in a row against the hosts and denied the Kiwis a place in the finals. The previous season, the Australian crowds were surprised by the kind of cricket India played in the World Championship of Cricket. When the Indian pacers had Australia on the mat in the first half of the game at Melbourne, one of the spectators thought it was time to hold aloft his ‘How’s that for hot curry’ banner. However, one that some would have screwed their face at was, ‘World Cup final: Tram Conductors vs Bus Drivers’. This one was draped in a stand during the mini-World Cup where India and Pakistan reached the final.

In later years, Shane Warne copped some stick through banners for his reported sexploits. But no other cricketer was targeted so much as New Zealand’s iconic fast bowler Richard Hadlee, who was the scourge of the Australian team on his 1985-86 and 1987-88 tours to Australia. One of the anti-Hadlee banners called him a ‘wan**r’ which got the premier all-rounder so upset that he took up the issue with then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. A few days after that conversation, a banner was seen at a ground which read, ‘We’re sorry Mr Hawke for calling Hadlee a W--ker’.

This was an era when Australia were failing continously, no matter who the opposition was. The 1986-87 home Ashes series was a distinct low point in Allan Border’s captaincy stint and 1986 was the year Pope John Paul II visited Australia. ‘Land one in the Pope’s footmarks,’ said one banner, advising the Australian bowlers, and the Mike Gatting-led English team supporters smiled when they saw, ‘Pommy magic, Aussie tragic’.

Of course, Clive Lloyd’s West Indies were Australia’s biggest hurdle. ‘All I want for Christmas is a draw’ was a banner seen after West Indies won the first three Tests of the 1984-85 series. In Brisbane, during Kim Hughes’ last Test as captain, one supporter unfolded a banner which read, ‘Clive for Aust captain’.

By the end of the 1980s, things got better for Australia, but the future was still uncertain. It caused one pun-sucker to put this up: ‘We went to a Taylor who worked on the Border during the Waugh when business was Booning. He was quite Moody, and said Hughes going to tell the Alderman that Jones + Campbell need Healying before they go to Sleep’.

In 1991-92, Australia were glad to see a Viv Richards-less West Indies come over for a one-day triangular series involving India as well. Hence, one relieved Aussie wrote: ‘The Aussies will live coz Windies ain’t got Viv’.

It won’t harm the broadcasters too much if they let their cameramen zoom in on some funny banners and in this cut-throat world of international cricket, the players will be better off with a few chuckles.
Over-zealous security personnel can take a walk if the rulers of the game encourage it.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to

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