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Soup of This Day #101: Proudly Our Pibroch Has Thrill’d In Glen Fruin

November 18, 2011

Nixon at the MCG in 1956
Cricket. It’s tricky – Photo: National Archives of Australia, 1956. The National Archives of Australia have no affiliation with Longworth72 bar his tax dollars funding them just a bit (he hopes). Image cropped by Longworth72.

The photo above is not doctored. I feel like I should declare that from the off. It is (then) Vice-President Richard Milhous Nixon with a cricket bat. It’s 1956 and he was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) prior to the commencement of the Melbourne Olympics.

To untrained eyes it may look like he is holding the bat strangely, almost as if he is prepping for a golf shot but I choose to believe he is shaping to guide a fast shortish out-swinger through a vacant slip cordon to the boundary for a stylish 4 runs. Check the slight bend in the leading leg as he prepares to rock back slightly allowing the pace of the delivery to glance off the willow. I’m sure the next photo in the series shows the gentleman with the wheel-barrow wildly applauding the élan of the VP.

On the other hand he does appear to have telegraphed his intentions a little early and he is dressed a little inappropriately. Cricket is pretty formal but mostly you don’t wear a suit and dress shoes and the usual approach would have been to take a conventional guard stance in case the bowler decided to reward your premature arrogance with something unexpected, like a short, sharp lifter into your groin area. Unlike baseball you don’t get a walk if you get hit in cricket, at least partly because if you get hit in the nether regions you can’t actually walk anywhere anyway. Modern cricketers do wear something called a ‘box’, a protective shield that covers the family jewels. Apparently it still hurts.

The Nixon photo cropped up of late because we had a visit from President Obama across the past 2 days. To celebrate the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (aka ABC or ‘Aunty’) dug up a reel of snapshots of Presidential visits down under. This image was excluded on the basis that good ol’ Tricky wasn’t the Prez at the time but presumably someone decided it was too good to waste and so it got a guernsey in Aunty’s live blog of the trip. Sadly President Obama was only here for a short stay and was pretty isolated by the several hundred security guys and gals that accompany him so there are no shots of him with any sports equipment that Australians hold dear.

Which is a shame as he seems to be of the sporting persuasion: You can find many shots of him shooting hoops and he’s apparently a big fan of college basketball. He’s also hosted members of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl championship team to the White House (They missed out originally because the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred just 2 days after their 1986 win) and he’s declared his allegiance to the White Sox.

Which puts him at odds with his predecessor. George W Bush is a Texas Rangers fan, who at 1 point was part of the ownership group. GW is also a bit of a golf tragic, at least once seeming to play golf when you would have thought world affairs might have needed a little more attention. He might therefore have enjoyed this trip more than President Obama, partly because the President’s Cup golf tournament is currently underway in Melbourne.

Yeah, I know. I’m about to write about golf. Worse, I’m going to be explaining about me watching golf.

On TV.

It will just be the once.

This is because 1 time I watched golf on TV and I was riveted. It was 1998 and it was the President’s Cup at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The President’s Cup is a matchplay tournament between the dozen best golfers from the US and the dozen best golfers from the rest of the world that isn’t Europe (Europe and the US tee off against each other in the Ryder Cup). The tournament alternates locations between the US and places like Australia and is held every 2 years. In 1998 the Internationals were bidding to win their 1st trophy (The US had won the 1st 2 events, in 1994 and 1996) and they came in with a pretty talented bunch. Helmed by Aussie golfing great Peter Thompson and featuring Greg Norman, Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els the International team came out swinging, going to a 3.5 to 1.5 lead after the morning foursomes. By the close of play on Day 1 that lead had grown to 7 to 3 as the Internationals dominated the four-ball matches. Fred Couples was the sole standout for the US, teaming with Tiger Woods and Davis Love III for the American’s only wins.

Even Fred though couldn’t halt the slide on Day 2. The US could only manage to halve 1 match of the morning foursomes while the Internationals steamrolled to a 11.5 to 3.5 lead. Shigeki ‘The Smiling Assassin’ Maruyama, from Japan, was an unexpected star, helping to inflict defeat on the pairing of Woods and Couples. In fact Maruyama was to continue through the tournament with wins in each of his matches, teaming up with compatriot Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki in the afternoon to take out David Duval and Phil Mickelson. He then beat John Huston (The golfer. Can find no evidence of Maruyama playing the director of The Maltese Falcon.) in the singles on the last day. He was 1 of only 4 Internationals to win a singles game but by then it didn’t matter and they triumphed 20.5 to 11.5.

It’s now 13 years later (There is an extra year due to a postponement – The Ryder Cup which alternates with the President’s Cup was to have been held in September of 2001. For obvious reasons it was carried over to 2002, throwing the President’s Cup a year out of whack) and the President’s Cup is back at Royal Melbourne. Returning too are Greg Norman and Fred Couples, this time as the non-playing captains of the respective teams. In addition Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods suit up as veterans of 1998 whilst opposing them Ernie Els strides out once more. The youngest player is Japan’s Ryo ‘The Bashful Prince’ Ishikawa – The 20yr old was just 7 in 1998. For the record he wouldn’t have seen the Internationals win since – They’ve lost 4 out of 5 post 1998, tying the remaining 1.

So far it’s not looking like that trend will be reversed. The US led 4 to 2 after Day 1 and the Internationals have had to grit their teeth to keep within touching distance at 7-5 down after Day 2.

Perhaps though the Internationals can draw inspiration from a comeback that occurred down the road at the MCG last weekend. At the same location as Tricky’s cricket debut but holding the bat a whole lot better the Western Warriors matched up to the Victorian Bushrangers in a 4-day Sheffield Shield stoush.

The Vics batted 1st and notched up a decent 301, thanks in no small part to a 91 run effort from opener Rob Quiney. For WA Jason Behrendorff made his 1st class debut and celebrated with 4 for 76. The Sandgroper bats then replied with a disappointing 218, Travis Birt’s 63 and tailender Michael Hogan’s swashbuckling 41 from 22 balls the only standouts. With an 83 run lead the Vics looked to build in their 2nd stanza, hoping to set a competitive target for WA. They notched 278 in the end, setting WA a challenging 362 to win with just a day and a bit to do it in. The WA chase was a masterclass in patient, attacking cricket – A 108 run dig from opener Liam Davis got WA going while Wes Robinson’s 83 kept the pressure on. Even so, WA was scrambling at 4 for 199 when Adam Voges belted out a timely 76 and Birt backed up his 1st innings with another 60, including 2 6s. And so with 11 overs and 5 wickets to spare the Western Australians successfully ran down the Vics to move to 14 points and outright 2nd on the table.

The Bushrangers will no doubt feel hard done by – They had the game by the scruff of the neck before WA stole in, like a group of men raiding a Washington hotel and office complex. The Sandgropers are not crooks though – Just a decent cricket team playing it tough. That’s the way Victoria plays it and that’s the way the Warriors are going to play it.

Proudly Our Pibroch Has Thrill’d In Glen Fruin

One Comment
  1. Great pic of Nix. Just missed on the attire…and agree he is committing to the play a tad too soon.

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