The much-welcomed green top

Updated: Jan 09, 2020, 07:41 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

Australian bushfire victims won't be able to thank Shane Warne and Jeff Thomson enough for auctioning their baggy green caps

A delighted Shane Warne puts on his baggy green Australian cap at his Melbourne home in December 1991. Pic/Getty Images
A delighted Shane Warne puts on his baggy green Australian cap at his Melbourne home in December 1991. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloShane Warne and Jeff Thomson have displayed heart-of-gold generosity by putting their baggy green caps up for auction in aid of bushfire victims in New South Wales and Victoria; never mind if these two Australian cricket legends didn't take as much pride in adorning their Test headgear as say, a Steve Waugh.

"Of course it means something to get one, but I'm not one to sit around and kiss the cap and blazer," Thomson was quoted as saying in Michael Fahey and Mike Coward's 2008 book, The Baggy Green.

Warne was seen more often with the white floppy hat; the baggy green mostly worn in the opening session of a Test when Steve Waugh captained Australia. Thanks to Waugh, the baggy green cap has bagged more significance and there is a possibility that cricketers who came before him started valuing the cap just a bit more post Waugh's thrust.

In The Baggy Green book, Thomson's mate and fellow paceman Len Pascoe revealed that he found a cap lying on the floor of the Lord's Cricket Ground dressing room during the 1977 Ashes and none of his teammates claimed it.

In England, at times, county caps were more treasured than the one players received when they made their international debut. The great English fast bowler Fred Trueman related a story in Ball of Fire about how his father, a miner, didn't report to work when he found out that his son had got the white rose Yorkshire cap. There was no formal presentation in those days. Fred and his Yorkshire teammate Bob Appleyard were asked by captain Norman Yardley to head to the office in Bradford and were handed their caps by Yardley.

Fred got his cap in his third season with Yorkshire (1951) and was thrilled for more reasons than one — a capped player received two pounds extra as match fees and availed of a monthly retainer.

To save on hotel bills, Fred stayed at home during games but it meant a bus journey to Maltby.

When Fred arrived at 10 pm, he was surprised to see his father perched on his chair at home. On enquiring why he hadn't reported for night shift, Alan Thomas Trueman exclaimed: "On a night like this in a Yorkshireman's life, he doesn't go to work. Come on, where is it [cap]?" Fred was certain that his old man welled up, but his mother, who was in the kitchen at that time surely wept and the young fast bowler could only say, "Don't worry, Mum, you can have my first England cap." The Yorkshire cap meant the world to Alan because he played a significant role in his son's cricketing development. When Fred was selected for a junior tour after trials where he found the target three times out of 11, father and son didn't utter a word to each other until the end of their bus journey. "It's going to cost me six pounds, but I don't care about that. You've been picked for the Federation tour and you're going." When Alan passed away, that Yorkshire cap was placed in his coffin.

Back to the baggy green. Generosity and appreciation were associated with it among Australian cricketers in another era. Long before Thomson parted with his cap to journalist and collector David Frith, with whom he wrote the book Thommo, Arthur Morris, who played in Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles team, presented his baggy green to a young Indian batsman who scored a century for his team, Indian Board President's XI in a Defence Fund match at the Brabourne Stadium in 1964. While researching for the book, The Baggy Green, authors Fahey and Coward discovered that Morris didn't possess a baggy green because he presented one to Sir Frank Worrell, swapped another with English spinner Eric Hollies, who bowled Bradman for a duck in his final Test innings at the Oval in 1948. The third one was presented to that unidentified young Indian batsman. A few years ago, I was flipping through a 1966 issue of Sport & Pastime magazine which had a profile on Hanumant Singh. The writer mentioned that Morris had presented his Australian cap to Hanumant, thus solving the mini mystery as to who that batsman was.

The next thing to do was to contact Hanumant's son Sangram and he confirmed that Morris's cap was still treasured. The late batting stylist didn't use it and didn't allow anyone to do so either.

A player's country cricket cap will always enjoy special significance. Many players have lost their caps. Some have given them away. That's not a bad thing if, like in the case of Shane Keith Warne and Jeffery Robert Thomson, it helps save families from the financial flames of those bushfires.

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

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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