The passing of the baton: What Mark Waugh and I now have in common

The mixture of cricket matches, numerous articles about sledging and the Australian knack of bestowing ironic nicknames have come together for what we here in Clicheville call a perfect storm.

The cricket was a suburban Under 14 match in Bulleen the week before last, with a throwback to a school game played in 1984 at Melbourne Grammar on St Kilda Rd.

The spat between Clarke and Anderson at the Gabba has seen, amongst many articles written about sledging and its appropriateness or maturity in the game, a repeat of many famous on-field interactions, some humorous, some with excellent come-backs and some just plain crass.

One I always liked was when James Ormond, an unremarkable two test cricketer for England, was greeted when marking out his guard by Mark Waugh with incredulity that he was playing Test Cricket for England and that he was no good. Ormond replied that this may be true, but at least he could claim to the best player in his own family.

Like Ormond, I could claim to be the best cricket in my own family. That is, until recent events.

As to nicknames, Australians often revel in the granting of them to highlight a feature or to note the absence or opposite of it. Consequently, red heads become bluey, tall people become tiny and quiet folk are called Rowdy.

I have been known, affectionately, to have called my young 13 year old, the little bastard. The fact that I know he is mine and I am clearly his father doesn’t affect the occasional way in which I speak of him.

I don’t call him this to his face of course, and before anyone create a family image of he and I which is in any way corrupt or inappropriate, those that know me or have read some things I have written will know the esteem and complete love in which I hold my first born.

However, I have been known to use these words, in relation to things like “the little bastard is nearly as tall as me”,  “the little bastard is already a better footy player than I ever was” and “the little bastard chose the Hawks over the Tigers and has seen two flags by age 13”

I grew up with a mythological figure in my life. My father’s middle brother had departed these shores in the early 70s for world travel, which saw him settle in the UK and stay there. As such, my physical memories of him, until there were occasional trips home to see family, were through the eyes of a 5 year old. I assembled other impressions of him from photos, family stories and his wonderful record collection, which he left in Australia and, due to my age and his younger brother being more classically inclined, to me.

My summer memories up until my early teens are at our family holiday house in Blairgowrie, a fibro dwelling with no TV or phone, surrounded by tee-tree. I would play his records constantly, and so grew up on a diet of the Beatles, as well as the Stones, Animals, Herman’s Hermits and the like.

My uncle was also a wild haired, tall, attractive and bohemian guy, a significant break away from his conservative Catholic/air force/publican family.  He haunted Carlton with a towering intellect and questionable standards, and I worshipped him for it. He also played a lot of sport, and from what I can gather, was a reasonably handy sub-district cricketer.

So with him absent, my sporting equals within the family were few if any, so I could claim to be the best cricketer within my family.

My 8 year school cricket career resulted in probably only three highlights, the feature being scoring 45 in Year 12 for the Cs vs. Melbourne Grammar including four towering 6s.

The other stories (thanks for asking) are taking 5 for 10 against a depleted line up in House Cricket on the front oval at Kostka in Brighton in Year 8, and leg glancing a six on the back oval a year earlier that earned me quite a reputation as some sort of Lance Cairns in short pants for a while.

Whilst less of a greatest hits album than a short EP of achievements, it did at least stand me in good stead for many years, and provided me with memories when I sat back and thought about how good I occasionally was.

Sadly, after three years of school cricket and just four games for his local club, the young lad has flicked his right indicator and powered past me in the fast lane of sporting life.

After coming in at 4 for 54, which quickly became 5 for 57, chasing 152, he saw off a dangerous leggie with patience and good shot selection, and combining in a partnership of 37 then another of over 60 with team mates, aided by good running between the wickets and a combination of power and placement, he saw his team home with an undefeated half century. (This was a few days after a young bloke in India had made over 500, but in this comp, you retire at 60, so we’ll call that a draw for now.)

As all dads would be, I was immensely proud, both of the way he batted but the way in which he took the congratulations of his teammates and other parents from both sides.

However, it did mean a passing of the cricket baton, to a far more deserving person.

When he went into bat, he looked like a kid, helmet on, shirt tucked in (I insist on this, both to look like a batsman and to avoid the ball flicking his dangling shirt and being given out caught behind) and with a youthful nervousness and eagerness to face up.

When he walked off, slower than when he walked in, bat slightly raised, helmet removed and running his hand through his sweaty hair, as senior players do, he looked different.

Did he walk out a kid and walk back a young man?

One score doesn’t do that, yet maybe it was his grin, his confidence, his exhaustion, that made him appear that way.

There’s nothing wrong with being second best. And I am runner up to a great little man.

There is some disappointment though at my place in the family pecking order of sporting talent.

Maybe I’ll catch up with Mark Waugh and compare notes on how he handled things.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. Lovely sruff “Faded”. And to think I called you Mark Waugh yesterday in my call for writing nominations for the Adelaide Test. Spooky huh?
    I had the opposite problem. My father and younger brother were outstanding sportsmen who could turn their hand to anything. They knocked up making centuries in good suburban and country cricket. Both played a little A grade district cricket in the 50’s and 80’s respectively.
    My talents were ‘modest/handy’. I didn’t have to wait until I was middle-aged to know I was the worst sportsman in the family. I knew it as soon as my six year old brother belted my 10 year old bowling into the neighbour’s back yard so often he wouldn’t give us the ball back.
    It was my fault for bowling rubbish.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. I’m loving watching your kid grow up on the Almanac site Sean. Must be a thrill for him too having all these rites of passage moments doucumented by your fine writing. Thanks for a story that’s really brightened up my morning.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic Sean, really enjoyed that. What a thrill it must be to see your son do so well. I’m sure he will give you plenty of moments like this one.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read , Sean and as a parent whose kids have no interest in playing sport to say I am envious is a understatement well done to the young lad

  5. A really enjoyable piece to read Sean. I really like the context and background in which you “set the scene” and can somehow relate your long lost uncles record collection to your sons passing of the baton.

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