Tiger, Tiger, burning bright…

As discussed elsewhere, I picked up Keith Butler’s 1979  Howzat for 9 bucks the other night. It came out just as peace was being declared elsewhere in the WSC/Establishment war, but none of that flows through onto the page. It is verbal Bodyline, players against administrators. Unreal stuff.

And then there’s dear old Tiger. Settling a few scores away from the word limit of his SMH stuff, and less sanguine than in his later memoir (which, I remember as I type, was given to me in 85 or 86 by my then partner’s dad, and he died this year… hate this time of year for the memories.) Anyway, Butler does an intro and then sat 16 of them down to talk. He then transcribes sections of the interview.

O’Reilly of course was famous in the early 80’s for his hate of pyjama cricket. Based on this visceral reaction, I imagine what he would have made of today’s froth and bubble, the Not so Big Bash. Or, even worse, the trusties on Channel 9 talking about Kim Hughes with reverence. (Not Chappelli – while he always had issues with Hughes, he always – ALWAYS! – said that dig was a work of genius.) If only Warne was in the box, with his C=piR2 and 85% of the time the answer is B. How would he have played it?

Anyway, this is not about me. It’s about Bill. In verbatim, and Merry Christmas, ACB:

“(ON WSC, 1979)…. The two games I have attended as a paid witness have left me as cold as the proverbial picnic lunch. To me it seems to appeal to a different crowd of people from those i’ve been hearing, watching and meeting over the past 50 years. In fact I would not be surprised to discover that the majority of them think they are attending to some type of rock concert at which Neil Diamond is scheduled to make an appearance.

“I have been uncomfortably browned off by commentators using discerningly affectionate terms such as “superb”, “brilliant” and “magnificent”, to describe the efficiency and speed of bowlers long past their magnificent bloom. For me it conjures up an incongruous feeling of unreality about a game I have known and loved for sixty years. It has its devotees certainly, but they belong to a group different from mine. Probably it can be most adequately described as an abusive brand of cricket, designed for a modern permissive society. One really cannot say much more than that…”


Personally, I think Tiger would have enjoyed the Almanac. And maybe we would have mellowed him. Just a bit.

About Peter Warrington

Richmond fan; Kim Hughes tragic; geographer; kids' book author; Evertonian; Manikato; Harold Park trots 1980; father of two; cat lover, dancer with dogs; wannabe PJ HArvey backing vocalist; delusional...


  1. Certainly, he would have corrected grammatical and spelling errors.
    I love the story he told of meeting Henry Lawson. As I recall it as a child he visited Sydney. One of his relatives took him to a pub to meet Lawson. Lawson was evidently drunk but was kind enough to shake the boys hand. When told that’O’Reilly was from out of town , Lawson apparently claimed him saying words to the effect “We boys from the bush have to stick together”. A man after my own heart.

  2. The “Tiger” had a way with words, but sadly the cricketing world he knew is no more. His disdain of the 50 over game is legendary, as was his love of the emergence of Shane Warne. In the circa two decades since his death how would he have perceived the way Shane Warne developed on and off the field?

    His viewpoint of T20, especially the local 20 0ver comp, the BBL, one could only imagine. To paraphrase one of his contemporaries Jack Dyer, ” If he was alive today he’d turn in his grave !”


  3. the “an abusive brand of cricket” was very prescient.

  4. All (sadly) too true. And this BS 20/20 is ruining the game further. Crankypete, could you do a follow-up on tige and his ‘love’ for Bradman? I’d LOVE to read that!

  5. Keith Butler was cricket writer for the Adelaide Advertiser for decades (before Rupert bought it). The job I aspired to growing up. My grandad had the book, and I must have read it, as I devoured anything on cricket. But it left no mark.
    Much like modern cricket in all forms.
    For all its limitations – T20 is what the next generation will call “cricket”. Tiger’s devotion to long form is understandable given he devoted his life to it. Pity he was a journalist and not an administrator.
    Thanks for the memories CP.

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