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Posted on 4 Feb 2020 in Non-Fiction | 2 comments

JESSE HOGAN, ANDREW FAULKNER AND SIMON AUTERI For Cap and Country. Reviewed by Bernard Whimpress

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This collection of 22 interviews with Australian cricketers is framed around the symbolism of the baggy green cap and, more importantly, around the actuality of representing their country.

Conceived by player agent Simon Auteri, 18 of the interviews in For Cap and Country were conducted by Melbourne Age journalist Jesse Hogan, and the first draft was completed when Hogan (in his thirties) suffered a massive stroke. The project might have lain dormant as a result, but four more interviews were completed by his friend and fellow journalist Andrew Faulkner (of The Australian), who also prepared the final text for publication. While Hogan deserves the major authorial credit, the finished book represents a team effort.

The first story is that of Queensland batsman Stuart Law, one of Australia’s unluckiest cricketers with just one Test match and a single undefeated innings of 54 against Sri Lanka in 1995. The last, appropriately, is Steve Waugh, one of our most heralded players with a record 168 Tests, 10,927 runs and 51.06 average, who has been the leading proponent of the baggy green cult which has arisen since the 1990s. In between are those of Mike Hussey, Colin Miller, Simon Katich, Justin Langer, Marcus North, Ellyse Perry, Jason Gillespie, Bryce McGain, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Tait, Rob Quiney, Ed Cowan, Trent Copeland, Glenn McGrath, Brendon Julian, Michael Kasprowicz, Nathan Hauritz, Lisa Sthalekar, Brett Lee and Tom Moody.

While it was Mark Taylor who, as Australian captain, introduced the practice of on-field presentations of baggy green caps to players making their Test debuts, it was Steve Waugh who made something of a fetish of the object by continuing to wear his in a shabby state throughout his career. The idea of the cap becoming almost holy, bearing the stains of blood, sweat and beer, has been picked up by current Australian coach Justin Langer and Mike Hussey and Nathan Lyon in these accounts, although, significantly, other Test heroes, such as Shane Warne and Steve Waugh’s twin brother Mark, always favoured white floppy hats, as did Glenn McGrath early in his Test career. McGrath also makes the point that caps have a use-by date:

When I took my 500th wicket, I wanted to retire my cap. I thought it looked pretty ordinary and I wanted a new one. It took me quite a bit of convincing Cricket Australia to allow me to have a new one. In the end I didn’t think I was setting a dangerous precedent. If someone gets a new baggy green whenever they get to 500 wickets, I’ve got no issue with that.

To which Hogan adds:

Fair call. McGrath and Warne are the only Australians with 500 Test scalps, and that isn’t changing any time soon.

It’s the symbolism of the cap, like the symbolism of The Ashes (not the puny little urn and whatever it might contain), that matters and perhaps there’s no better expression of that than Mike Hussey’s words:

It’s more than just a cap. It’s such a long journey to even just get the cap so it means so much more. It does feel like there’s a brotherhood. There’s a very small, select group that have earned that right. To share that hallowed turf with all the other brothers, who all had their own stories … you just pinch yourself.

What is special about For Cap and Country is the quality of the stories, often of the lesser lights, and the commentary that accompanies them. Law, aged 20, made 179 in his third Sheffield Shield innings, but when questioned about the youngster’s talent, Queensland captain Allan Border replied, ‘He’s done it once, let’s see if he can do it again.’ He never received a second chance in the Test arena – ‘he’s the eternally not out batsman’.

Victorian leg-spinner Bryce McGain is another one-Test player without an average. For him the embarrassing analysis of 0 for 149 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2009 came from 18 overs as he was smashed into submission by Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers. One of Australia’s oldest players, debuting at 36, the journey was more interesting than the final destination as McGain did not play for his state until the age of 29 and was an IT manager with the ANZ Bank before quitting on gaining a Victorian playing contract at 33.

Trent Copeland is an outstanding analyst on Channel Seven’s current Test match panel while remaining a brilliant fast-medium bowler for New South Wales. Copeland has taken the most wickets in Sheffield Shield in the last 10 years, but his three Test matches came in Sri Lanka in 2010 and, despite multiple outstanding performances in first-class cricket, he has had none since. As with South Australia’s Chadd Sayers (another fine opening bowler at Shield level), times can be tough when bowlers of the quality of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson emerge at the same time.

And then there are the women – two in this book – Lisa Sthalekar, commentator and former Australian women’s captain, whose career ran from 2003 to 2011; and current superstar Ellyse Perry. Sthalekar was the first woman to reach 1000 runs and 100 wickets in one-day international matches (ODIs), representing her country in 125 matches in this form of the game along with 54 Twenty20 (T20) matches. Perry made her national debut in both soccer and cricket at the age of 16 in 2007 and continued with both sports until being forced to choose, concentrating on cricket since 2014. Perry has played 112 ODIs and 111 T20 games with outstanding success, but both women bemoan the meagre opportunities for Test cricket in the women’s game: for Sthalekar just eight matches in eight years and for Perry eight in 13 years.

On this subject Sthalekar remarked:

It would have been great to have played more Test cricket, but it wasn’t to be … The reason they call it a Test is that it’s a test: physically, mentally and tactically. I think that is the ultimate test of a cricketer.

Perry added that while one-day and T20 cricket were ‘great vehicles for growth in the women’s game’, she hoped that the day/night Test against England at North Sydney in November 2017, which drew 12,000 paying patrons, might prove a harbinger for the future:

The amount of people who came to that game, the way it was covered, the interest … it would be really nice to do that against other nations as well.

For Cap and Country is a well-balanced and versatile piece of storytelling that relates the pride experienced by cricketers in gaining selection for the Australian cricket team even if the time in the sun (for some) is fleeting. The book also complements Michael Fahey and Mike Coward’s The Baggy Green: The pride, passion and history of Australia’s sporting icon (2008) and Steve Cannane’s First Tests: Great Australian cricketers and the backyards that made them (2009) as an important contribution to Australia’s cricket history.

Jesse Hogan, Andrew Faulkner and Simon Auteri For Cap and Country HarperCollins 2019 PB 284pp $34.99

Bernard Whimpress is a historian who writes chiefly on sport. His most recent book is The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018.

You can buy For Cap and Country from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here or you can buy it from Booktopia here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.


  1. Dear Bernard Whimpress,
    A fine review of an interesting book … but, pray tell, how is the author Jesse Hogan of whom we read only that he suffered a massive stroke in his 30s?
    A google-search reveals that, after months in hospital, he was evidently able to open a conversation with the F word.
    This satisfied mates that flamboyant Jesse was going to be OK.
    As a retired hack journo now rising 80 in the Philippines, I am plased to read this … but would like a reliable update from you, Bernard.
    Not necessarily using the F word.
    Thank you.

    • Dear J Haswell

      Thank you for your compliment. I will be speaking to Andrew Faulkner on the weekend and obtain information on Jesse or alternatively Andrew may be able to reply to you here.