The true story of why John Howard is a pie-chucker
In some minds the absurd black-balling of John Howard as ICC vice-president was decided by his tragic spell of bowling on a dusty plateau deep in the Pakistan mountains in 2005.
More likely it was a product of the former Prime Minister’s 2003 opposition, entirely principled and warranted, to World Cup games being played in anti-democratic Zimbabwe.
But Howard has gained the reputation of a klutz with the ball and the International Cricket Council could not have a leader who didn’t have a talented arm. Howard, one commentator has said, is a pie chucker.
He’s no Tiger O’Reilly, but he’s not pie-chucker class, either. It’s time for the full story of what happened on that plateau and how Howard got his bad reputation at the crease.
In late November, 2005, John Howard flew by helicopter into the Neelam Valley of Pakistan to see the damage caused by an earthquake which sliced the sides off huge mountains and killed from 70,000 to 80,000.
He also wanted to visit 86 Australian soldiers who had been running a medical unit in the middle of the devastation, treating some of the thousands of locals who had slowly sought help over the previous six weeks.
The base, on a roughly level chunk of rock 1200m above sea level, was named Camp Bradman - at the insistence of a Pakistan military unit working with the Australians.
That should have warned Howard what was to come from the cricket-mad Pakistanis, even in the middle of an earthquake zone.
As he inspected the camp he notices there were two flat areas. One was used to land choppers. The other was strangely bare, given the space shortage, apart from two sets of stumps.
He also noted the extraordinary sight of a dozen or so young men and boys lining up obediently.
He couldn’t miss them. They all were wearing bright red Lynyrd Skynyrd tour t-shirts with the slogan, ``Support Southern Rock’‘.
How a batch of t-shirts dedicated to a Florida-born rock band - which effectively broke up after a 1977 plane crash and had never been anywhere near Pakistan—ended up in the Neelam Valley was never explained.
But what was clear was these boys considered themselves a cricket team, and they were here to play.
Another visiting head of government might have walked away to discuss matters of high importance. Howard showed he was a good sport, and accepted the invitation to send a few down
``I knew I could not get out of it,’’ Mr Howard later recounted.
To say he was handed a ball would be to use a broad and generous definition of ``spherical’‘. It was a home-made mix of tape and irregular stuffing.
It was more like a cloth bag filled with rocks than a Kookaburra six-stitcher. And the pitch looked like it had been prepared for seeding.
Howard’s efforts often failed to reach the other crease and some departed their line at right-angles mid-wicket.
But Shane Warne would have had trouble shattering the stumps of the Lynyrd Skynyrd batsmen with that pill. Any backyard bowler like Howard didn’t have a chance.
So began his reputation as a pie chucker. And with it, the suggestion he bowled his way out of the ICC job.
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