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The hot and cold of Graham Yallop, the anti-David Hookes

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Roar Guru
16th May, 2022
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I recently did a piece on David Hookes to commemorate the late batter’s birthday, and in amongst the replies (thank you, Roarers), discussion brought up the still-very-much-alive Graham Yallop.

Which made sense because the two men were contemporaries, although they didn’t seem to have much in common.

But when I thought about it some more they actually mirrored each other’s careers in surprising ways.

Yes, they played in the same era, but it was more than that: both were (arguably) picked too soon and discarded too soon, both were giants of the domestic game who struggled to find a regular place at international level, both had the image of being unable to score away from their home grounds, both played very well during World Series Cricket when both were closely associated with a particular camp, both captained their country and their state sides to Sheffield Shield triumphs, both were later booted from the captaincy of those states, both considered going to South Africa (Yallop went), and both suffered from the perception they were strong against one type of bowling and weak against another (pace-spin for Hookes, spin-pace for Yallop).

So I thought it was worth a look back on the life and times of ‘Wally’, as he was known — in particular, the times in his career when he was hot, and when he was cold

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Yallop was born in 1952, making him two years older than Hookes. He was coached by former British pace bowler Frank Tyson, played for Australian Schoolboys, and made his first-class debut in 1972-73.

Yallop’s progress was steady rather than spectacular — he had a habit of starting the summer slowly, which plagued him throughout his career — but he was a good player who became a Victorian regular in 1974-75, making his debut Shield century against South Australia.

In 1975 he scored over 3000 runs in the Birmingham League in England.

Hot: 1975-76
This was encouraging, if not sensational, but in 1975-76 after 79 and 62 against South Australia and 108 and 95 against New South Wales, Yallop was selected in the Australian team to play the fourth Test against the touring West Indies.

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We were in a rebuilding stage that summer — Gary Cosier had just made his debut — but it was a shock selection.

Yallop himself called it “the biggest surprise of my life. I gave myself no chance at all.” He admitted later, “I felt almost embarrassed to be among those great players”.

Graham Yallop

(S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Those great players weren’t too keen on Yallop being among them, incidentally, the Chappell brothers being especially annoyed that the Victorian had been picked over Rick McCosker (in a slump).

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Instead of allowing Yallop to debut at number six, they insisted the newbie bat at three … which, to be fair, was where he played for Victoria.

And to be fairer, Yallop actually did quite well — not in his first outing (16 and 16*), but he made solid contributions in the fifth (47 and 43) and sixth Test (57). Australia won all those matches, too.

So, it seemed Yallop was away…

Cold: 1976-78
… only he wasn’t.

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There was no Australian overseas tour in 1976 for Yallop to consolidate his spot and when the 1976-77 season began, he only scored 46 runs in his first four innings.

Then he pulled himself out of a match against WA due to fear of injury — a sensible precaution on one hand, but a no-no in the macho world of ‘70s Aussie cricket.

In October 1976, Ian Chappell said Yallop, “still has a lot of work ahead and will have to spread his run scoring around the Australian grounds a little more consistently than in the past”.

By December he wrote Yallop was “no chance” of selection due to his failures. And indeed Doug Walters was picked over Yallop — after which Yallop, with great timing (not), scored a century for Victoria against Tasmania.

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Still, Yallop might’ve considered himself next cab on the rank but, not for the last time in his career, the selectors had gone off him by now.

The perky West Australian Kim Hughes snuck past Yallop to grab a spot on the New Zealand tour, then David Hookes snuck past Hughes to get in the side for the Centenary Test, then Hookes, Hughes and Craig Serjeant were all picked as batters on the 1977 Ashes tour while Yallop was ignored.

Yallop’s efforts over 1976-77 had been 472 first-class runs at 47, which wasn’t bad but he was cold.

Just how cold was revealed during the Ashes tour, when it came out a bunch of players had signed up to World Series Cricket — and they did not include Yallop.

Ian Chappell (in charge of selections) had not made an offer for him, or Ashes tourists Cosier and Hughes (he asked Serjeant, who turned it down).

Instead the back-up World Series batters included Hookes, Martin Kent, Rob Langer, and Trevor Chappell — none of whom, incidentally, would have a Test record as good as Yallop’s.

David Hookes

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Well, these things happen. Yallop might’ve considered himself at least a decent shot for selection in the establishment XI to play India in 1977-78.

He had Test experience, after all, and even Ian Chappell regarded Yallop as one of the best players of spin in Australia. And he was appointed captain of Victoria and scored a century against the Indians during a tour game.

But Yallop was so unfashionable in 1977 he was left out of the Australian establishment XI in favour of, at various times, Hughes, Cosier, Serjeant, Paul Hibbert, John Dyson, David Ogilvie and Peter Toohey.

Some of this was understandable: Cosier was experienced, Hibbert and Dyson were specialist openers, Serjeant and Ogilvie started the domestic season brilliantly. But Yallop was on the nose.

Hot again: 1978-79
To his credit, Yallop kept plugging away, scoring a century in each innings against NSW, and then suddenly he went from ice cold to red hot.

He was picked in Australia’s team for the fifth Test, appointed vice-captain to boot, and on the same day was picked on the West Indies tour, only weirdly not vice-captain to boot (Jeff Thomson got that gig).

Still, he was back. “I really had to fight to get there this time,” Yallop said.

His return to international cricket went brilliantly, scoring 121 and 24 in that Test, and setting up a thrilling Australian victory.

Yallop then had a very good tour of the West Indies, making two and 81 in the first Test, and 47 and 14 in the second – excellent efforts against the world’s best attack. The West Indies were weaker in the last three Tests of the series after their World Series players withdrew.

Yallop was on 118 in a tour game against Guyana when his jaw was broken by a bouncer from Colin Croft so he missed the third Test (won by Australia).

But he was back for the fourth, making 75 and 18. This was Yallop’s first experience of a disastrous second-innings collapse causing Australia to lose a game they should’ve won.

It wasn’t to be his last. He made 57 and 23 in the fifth Test, a game Australia most likely would’ve won if not for a riot.

His 317 Test runs at an average of 45.29 saw him established as one of Australia’s most reliable batters.

From having been too unpopular, Yallop would now find himself too popular for his own good.

Establishment cricket was getting sick of Bob Simpson (the West Indies tour had not been entirely harmonious) and refused to guarantee his selection, leading to Simpson retiring.

Bob Simpson

(Photo by Don Morley/Allport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Australia were without a captain and Yallop was now the front runner, mostly by virtue of the fact that he was one of the few players guaranteed to keep his spot and with captaincy experience.

The person who should’ve got the job was John Inverarity, the excellent West Australian captain, but his form as a player was not considered adequate (even though he scored 187 in a Shield game at the start of the summer).

Other viable candidates were Cosier, who’d captained state sides, and John Maclean, Queensland’s experienced wicketkeeper-captain.

But Cosier was on his way out and Maclean was too … Queenslander-y and wicketkeeper-y, I guess. So Yallop got the gig.

The result was one of the great disasters, 5-1 to England … though Australia were more competitive than that scoreline indicates.

They had a brilliant attack in red-hot form — Rodney Hogg, Alan Hurst and Jim Higgs, with back-up from Bruce Yardley and Geoff Dymock — which kept Australia competitive.

We won the third Test, should have won the fourth, and maybe, if Inverarity had been captain, we would’ve taken the first and fifth Test as well, but the team kept collapsing.

In three of the Tests the selectors played bits-and-pieces all rounders as the sixth batting option, i.e. they took a batting-weak, bowling-strong team and strengthened the bowling and weakened the batting.

Yallop scored seven and 102 in the first Test, giving Australia a shot at victory.

In the second he made three and three but his scores of 41 and 16 in the third Test did help Australia put on enough runs to win — Yallop’s first and only one as Test captain.

In the fourth Test, Yallop made 44 and one. In the fifth, he made zero and 36.

In the sixth Test, Yallop scored 121 in Australia’s first innings of 198, one of the all-time lone hands (the next highest score was 16) but Australia lost.

He was our leading batter of that awful (for Australia) series with 391 runs at 32.58.

Baggy green

(Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images )

Yallop led Australia to defeat in another Test they should have won (or at least choked less badly), against a touring Pakistan.

Australia were 3-305 in their second innings chasing 381, then were all out for 310 (Yallop scored 25 and eight).

Yallop then fell injured, and Kim Hughes replaced him as captain for the second Test, which Australia won — and Yallop would spend much of his subsequent career in Hughes’ shadow.

Yallop’s captaincy is generally held to have been uninspired — Rodney Hogg threatened to punch him out, he didn’t seem to be able to rotate his bowlers at key times and always seemed (to quote one contemporary of his I once interviewed) “wet”.

To rub it in, over the summer World Series Cricket offered contracts to establishment batters Graeme Wood and Peter Toohey — but ignored Yallop.

Cold again: 1979-1980
Yallop came back from injury and managed selection on the squads for the 1979 World Cup and tour of India.

But the establishment didn’t want him back as captain. Indeed they didn’t want him as vice-captain — that job went to Andrew Hilditch.

Still, Yallop was appointed third selector and also captained Victoria to a Sheffield Shield title.

Yallop provided some gold-plated comedy with the release of his ghosted memoir Lambs to the Slaughter, full of whingeing and cracks about Rodney Hogg — which Hogg took exception to, and Yallop hired lawyers to stop the book being published arguing he hadn’t written a word only for the book to come out anyway.

If you’ve never read that book, try to find a copy — it’s hilarious, one of the great bitch fests of Australian cricket literature, up there with Tim Zoehrer’s Gloves Off.

The World Cup campaign was forgettable for every Aussie except Hilditch. The 1979 India tour was more memorable, although we lost 2-0.

Yallop managed 18 and two in the first Test, 12 and six in the second, then 89 and 15 in the third (where another Aussie second-innings collapse turned this game, the one Test we had a chance of winning, into a defeat).

He followed it with 21 and 25 in the fourth then (whoah!) 167 and four (as opener) in the fifth, and 60 and four in the sixth.

It hadn’t been a bad series — 423 runs at 38.45 — although he’d been outshone by Allan Border and Kim Hughes.

By now the peace treaty had been signed and all players were available for selection over the 1979-80 summer.

For the batters, everyone knew Greg Chappell and Bruce Laird would be picked, and Kim Hughes and Allan Border had a strong chance after India. And that’s what happened: these four would be the bedrock over the summer.

Greg Chappell

(Photo by Matt King – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

The other two spots went to Rick McCosker (considered lucky) and David Hookes.

If Yallop had continued opening permanently for Victoria when he returned, after his 167 in India, who knows?

Anyway, losing out to Hookes then was no disgrace. Hookes did okay in his one Test then fell injured.

But Yallop soon realised he was cold again when the selectors replaced Hookes with Peter Toohey, who played two unsuccessful Tests, then Ian Chappell, who did well then retired.

Ouch.

What did Yallop do wrong?

That summer he captained Victoria to another Sheffield Shield title and the McDonalds Cup, played one ODI (the 23rd person to play for Australia that summer), he’d done well in Tests previously against the West Indies and England … and he only scored 266 first-class runs at 33.

So yeah, I think that was it.

Hot again: 1980
Things were soon to turn yet again. Yallop was picked on the 1980 tour of Pakistan where the absence of Ian Chappell and David Hookes’ disastrous form saw Yallop back in the Test team.

He made 12 and 16 for the first Test, then 172 for the second, and three and 34 in the third. Four failures out of five, but the one success went big.

He stayed on in the 1980 Centenary Test tour, making two in the Test, but 52 in a ODI.

He also resigned from the Victorian captain to focus on his batting, which sounds weird considering they just won the Shield, but from what I gather Victorian cricket was highly toxic at the time.

Cold: 1980-81
The next thing you know, Yallop was out again. The non-Chappell/Hughes/Border slot in the middle order was taken by Doug Walters, who had a superb summer.

Yallop ploughed on, making 796 first-class runs at 44.22 and most observers had him in their hypothetical 1981 Ashes squads.

That even included Ian Chappell, who called him “the best middle-order batsman outside the Test team”, adding Yallop “needs to learn that a bit of pain has to be suffered to consistently succeed in Test cricket”.

Yallop’s 122 and 66 against South Australia got him over the line and on the plane to England.

“They didn’t select me this season but I didn’t think they had forgotten me,” said a relieved Yallop.

Generic Ashes urn

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Hot: 1981
The absence of Greg Chappell and Doug Walters opened up two batting spots for the Australian Test team in England. These were taken by Yallop and Trevor Chappell/Martin Kent.

This series was an even more famous disaster for Australia than 1978-79, going down 3-1 when should’ve won 3-0.

The only game Australia looked like losing the whole way through was the fifth Test — in which ironically Yallop scored a century and gave us a chance of winning.

His Test results, incidentally, were 13 and six, one and three, 58 and zero (in the famous collapse), 30 and 30 (in the other famous collapse), zero and 114, and 26 and 35. In the ODIs he made 63 and 48.

Comic highlights included Kim Hughes shielding Yallop from the strike against the bouncers of Bob Willis in the fourth Test (Yallop had been hit twice).

“Never have I seen a specialist batsman protected in the way Yallop was shielded by Hughes,” wrote Peter McFarlane in The Age.

Cold: 1981-82
Back in Australia, Yallop was overlooked in favour of Martin Kent for the first Test against Pakistan in 1981-82 — but then Kent fell injured so Yallop was in, playing his first home Test since 1978-79.

He scored 20 and 38 in an Australian victory and might’ve established himself but then Yallop fell injured and was replaced by Dirk Wellham for a Test.

By the time Yallop got better, the selectors gave another chance to Wellham and then Dyson.

He made 647 first-class runs at 38 for the summer and was overlooked for the tours of New Zealand and Pakistan.

I get New Zealand (Yallop was injured again towards the end of the summer) but being omitted for Pakistan was a mistake.

Yallop was on the nose again. In 1982-83, when he was back captaining Victoria, Yallop had one of the all-time great seasons.

In 1982-83, he made 1254 Sheffield Shield runs at 69.7, breaking a 56-year-old record of Bill Ponsford, but was unable to get into the Australian XI. In fairness, David Hookes played well.

Yallop had been re-appointed captain of Victoria leading to more comedy. His late declaration in a game against South Australia prompted an annoyed Hookes to promote himself as opener and score 107 off 40 balls, and Victoria’s poor performance that season prompted Victorian attempts to lure Hookes over to captain the side.

An annoyed Yallop resigned the captaincy (which was eventually given to Ray Bright) and considered leaving his home state to play for Tasmania, but changed his mind — and then got in a legal fight with Victorian Cricket over wanting to change clubs.

For a seemingly unassuming person, Yallop seemed to attract a lot of drama.

You’re hot: 1983-84
Yallop once again benefited from an Australian regular not electing to go overseas when in 1983 Kim Hughes decided to miss the tour of Sri Lanka and Yallop was selected in his place.

“I hadn’t given up hope but I thought I might’ve been overlooked,” said Yallop. He made 98 in a crushing Australian Test victory as well as three 50s in the ODI series.

Yallop then took part in the Greg Chappell-free squad to play the 1983 World Cup, scoring two in the famous defeat to Zimbabwe but picking up two half centuries in the rest of Australia’s disastrous campaign.

The tide was turning.

For the 1983-84 summer, Chappell was back but Yallop took Hookes’ place in the Australian batting line-up against Pakistan.

It was a wonderful summer for the Victorian, the first time he played a full home season of Tests since 1978-79.

In the first Test, Yallop made 141, setting up an Australian victory. He then made 33, 68 and 14, 268, and 30. That 268 was the seventh highest score by an Australian.

The Sydney Morning Herald called Yallop “Australia’s new cricket superstar”.

“He’s been a player that had had a very rough deal,” said former captain Lindsay Hassett, adding “I can’t think of any player that has been treated worse”.

Arthur Morris added, “He is a beautiful player of spin and medium pace.”

It seemed finally Graham Yallop had made it. His end-of-summer statistics were 1132 first-class runs at 113.20.

You’re cold: 1984-87
Yallop injured his left knee while fielding in an ODI against the West Indies (he went out to bat after the injury in the same game and scored 13 in an unsuccessful run chase).

His place in the ODI squad was taken by David Hookes and his spot on the 1984 West Indies tour was taken by Dean Jones.

Dean Jones

(Photo by Getty Images)

Australia could’ve really used Yallop on that West Indies tour — and I have a theory that people felt Yallop chickened out of it.

He was back in the ODI side for the 1984 India tour, providing some useful knocks, and was picked in the first Test against the West Indies for the 1984-85 summer, scoring two and one.

Yallop then withdrew himself from a Shield game, claiming his knee was playing up. The selectors lost their patience and dropped him for the second Test — and that was it.

Everyone remembers Kim Hughes resigning in tears that series — no one recalls the farewell of Yallop.

Yallop was not considered for any ODIs or Tests that summer and was omitted from the 1985 Ashes.

Not that it was a great shock. His domestic tally for 1984-85 was 472 runs at 36.30.

Not that he could’ve even gone, having signed to tour South Africa, vice-captain of a rebel Australian XI under Kim Hughes for two summers.

Yallop’s first tour was poor, making only 272 first-class runs at 27.2. He even participated in an old style Aussie collapse — the third ‘Test’ of 1985-86 where Australia were chasing 249 and went from 0-24 to all out for 61 (Yallop scored six). Bless.

Yallop’s performance caused Hughes to criticise the Victorian publicly, saying “Yallop’s unavailability has cost us dearly on tour. Had Yallop been fit and in the right frame of mind … you’ve got to want to play. As vice-captain you’ve got a huge responsibility. People such as [Mick] Taylor, who had no reputations, have made one for themselves, while Yallop, who had all the reputation, has not really done anything.”

Yallop quit the vice captaincy and had a successful return visit to South Africa in 1986-87, making 552 first-class runs at 61.3.

Yallop tried to get back in the Victoria side for the 1987-88 summer but he was overlooked.

Victoria were the only state who didn’t pick the South African rebels and Yallop might’ve extended his career by moving to, say, Tasmania like Mick Taylor did but he stayed in Melbourne and it was over.

It’s a fascinating career, Yallop’s.

I don’t recall a player who had such a strong record but who seemed so … disdained.

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Researching this piece, I got the impression Australian (and Victorian) cricket kept wanting him to just go away, as if embarrassed by making him captain too quickly — then they’d get excited by him again, feel as though they were let down, then go back to wanting him to go away.

Yallop won Australia several Test matches with the bat (the fifth Test versus India in ’77-78, the first Test versus Pakistan in 1983-84), and played some incredible lone hands in losing causes (the sixth Test versus England in 1978-79, the first Test versus the West Indies in 1977-78) as well as some lone-ish ones (the first Test versus England in 1978-79, the fifth Test versus England in 1981).

But he is probably best associated with being part of several legendary disasters: the ’78-79 Ashes second, fourth and fifth Tests, the ’81 Ashes third and fourth Tests, the 1983 World Cup, the 1984-85 first Test versus the West Indies.

His tendency to start the summer slowly hurt him a lot, as did his knack for getting injuries at the wrong time — 1976-77, 1981-82, 1984 and 1984-85 … the latter three coincided with Yallop having to play against the West Indies.

Like David Hookes, Yallop got a lot of 30s and 40s he was unable to convert but unlike the South Australian, Yallop was better at converting — and when he did, he could go big.

But a lot of those centuries came along when it didn’t do that much good — say the sixth Test in the ’78-79 Ashes, the second Test in Pakistan in 1980 or the fifth Test in the 1981 Ashes or the fourth Test in 1983-84.

If he’d managed, say, a half century in the second innings of the third and fourth Tests in the 1981 Ashes, we would’ve won those and Yallop’s reputation would be much higher.

He was integral to a Victorian side that went through some extremes, to put it mildly: first in ’78-79 and ’79-80, last for the next three seasons.

He average 55.9 in first-class matches at the MCG and 44.5 at the SCG but 25 at the Gabba.

Yallop definitely should’ve been picked earlier in the 1977-78 summer and on the 1982 tour of Pakistan. He was very unlucky not be selected in 1979-80.

But you know something? To be Australian captain and play 39 Tests, making 2756 runs at 41.13 — that’s not bad.

Someone do a book on him, why don’t you?

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