Awfully Remote Birthplace Key To Cricketing Greatness

According to the QI Book Of The Dead, your chances of being famous are enhanced significantly if your father is dead or absent.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere helps too – only three members of the current Test team were born or raised anywhere near one of the major cities. In fact the birthplace of each member (Phillip Hughes as 12th man) is on average 274 kms from the CBD of a major city. And this is despite the fact that two thirds of the population live in the major cities and a greater number of city kids play cricket than their country cousins.

Admittedly, I listed Ricky Ponting as being 165kms from Hobart because Launceston, his birthplace, isn’t classed as a major city (the Cricket Australia  National Cricket Census doesn’t even rate it as metro). On the other hand Hobart isn’t really a major city either so he could easily have been listed as 429kms from Melbourne. 

What is it about living on a banana plantation or in a combine harvester that makes country boys overrepresented in elite ranks? Is it the good weather and endless space , there not being a decent beer, coffee, or cinema in sight to distract them from meticulous continous practise and dreams of Test match glory? Or is it just kids desperate to escape a tedious hellhole?

Either way they’re out the front of a country fish and chip shop in a Boags singlet chewing on a greasy piece of flake one minute;  lunching at Doyles in a Cricket Australia suit the next.

The greatest ever batsman was born in Cootamundra, 400kms inland from Sydney and then raised in Bowral. Young Donald, living in his parents home ( lace curtains, bone china tea sets and a religious silence broken only by the ticking of an antique clock echoing off the polished furniture) passed hot summer days among creaking windmills belting golf balls into a brick wall. There are Bradman museums in Bowral and Cootamundra and a plaque attached to a Stringybark by the Hume Highway proclaiming: “Young Donald Bradman moved his bowels here during his family’s move to Bowral”.

The writer P L Travers, bored senseless as a child in Bowral, avoided insanity by  creating Mary Poppins. Apparently the town has become more lively in recent times but that’s going to change now that Bryce Courtenay has moved in.

A  place called Wondai is 250kms from Brisbane and a good book. It has a population of just 1400 but has still produced two Test cricketers: Carl Rackemann and Nathan Hauritz.  There is also a good chance of inbreeding hence why Chad Morgan was born there too.

Marcus North was a relatively close 56kms from Melbourne in the “regional” suburb of Pakenham which marks “the end of the suburban electrified train service”. It was the end of the line alright –  desolate flatlands and an abbatoir.  As soon as he was able Marcus left town on the back of a Steggles Chicken truck. 

Travel 100kms further east and you come to Peter Siddle’s brown coal town of Morwell. Its name comes from the aboriginal phrase ‘more willie’, the catchcry of the local women since all the male sporting stars left for the big city.

Phillip Hughes was spawned on the banks of the Nambucca River, spending his teenage years on the John Deere stand at the Macksville Show. 

Are city players discriminated against by rural-type selectors, or do trust funds and shopping for hair straighteners undermine their development? 

Simon Katich was dropped when the selectors found out he was born too near (27kms) to Perth and was only reinstated after he pointed out Middle Swan was a ”rural suburb”.

Stuart Clark (Sutherland, 26km) appeared to be unpopular despite his excellent Test record. It may have been his urban roots; or his reading material.

Ponting:   “Hey Stu, what are you reading?”.

Clark:         “Refinancing and High-Yield Bonds” 

Ponting:   “Hey Sidds what have you got there mate?” 

Siddle:      “Zoo Weekly. Hey Punter there’s a great piece here on ‘Laura’s Norks and Crannies’!”

Peter Siddle in. Stuart Clark out.

Stuart MacGill was an inner city product (2 kms) and was only ever selected reluctantly. Admittedly it could have been because he can be a bit of a knob sometimes. Also the neglected Brad Hodge was conceived just 18 kms from Melbourne. 

We often hear: “He hails from the high country” or “The kid was raised in the Northern Rivers”. Will we ever hear: “He grew up in the Shangri La Hotel while his dad was CEO of Rio Tinto.”?