'I think we had a little bit more fun on and off the field in our time'

Former Australia fast bowler and TV host Mike Whitney on the 1992 World Cup, Desmond Haynes' box, and his one perfect day of bowling

Interview by Crispin Andrews  |  

Whitney bowls for New South Wales, 1981

Whitney bowls for New South Wales, 1981 © Fairfax Media/Getty Images

I wasn't even due to play. I was having Christmas dinner with my family when the phone rang. It was Bob Simpson. Merv Hughes was injured and he wanted me to get on a plane, 90 minutes later, and get down to Melbourne to play against New Zealand, 1987-88. We ended up with me and Billy [Craig McDermott] having to bat out the last five overs to draw the game Danny Morrison bowled a really good penultimate over, two lbw shouts, one of them really close. New Zealand weren't happy that it was given not out.

I love playing "Breakdown" by Tom Petty with the Mike Whitney band. We've just started playing it this year. It's got a couple of really good musical hooks.

We played our first game at the 1992 World Cup in Auckland, and we just expected to win that game. But we lost. Martin Crowe got a hundred. It was one of those Martin Crowe innings where you just sat there and said, "Can people bat better than this?" It was just phenomenal to watch him manipulate the field and put the bad ball away.

I'd had a few nets with Steve Waugh and Greg Matthews at New South Wales, and Steve Rixon, our coach, was always throwing a few down. Those guys were always saying that if I couldn't get any runs, at least I should try and hold an end up so if a top-order player was batting with me at the end, I could do a job for him.

It was a 1992 World Cup game against Pakistan in Perth. Bruce Reid and I were batting. We were nine down and needed 30 to win off three overs. Mushtaq Ahmed bowled a beautiful turning legspinner. There was a little nick on the pad. They appealed for a catch. Umpire gave me not out. Moin started calling me a cheat. "You are cheating, Whitney. Cheating." I slapped Moin across the glove and the paper said that I'd hit him. Some of the reports said I'd actually hit him across the face. Wasim Akram ran in and said, "If you're going to hit someone, hit me." I said, "Don't take another step, because you'll be next. I'll cop anything but don't call me a cheat."

One time, a bloke tried to jump up on stage. The boys I play with are serious musos. There's a hundred grand's worth of equipment up there. I said, "Don't get up on stage, we haven't got insurance." He had a bit of a go. Puffed his chest out. "Listen, mate. If you fall over on stage, you're going to sue us and then I've got to sue the pub." And I don't want to do that. That's probably the only drama I've had in ten years.

"Wasim Akram ran in and said, 'If you're going to hit someone, hit me.' I said, 'Don't take another step, because you'll be next'"

I love the way Kevin Pietersen goes about his game. I reckon he's a lot deeper than people think he is. The big moments are his theatre. And he's done that so many times. He'd have no problems getting up on stage and strapping a guitar on.

I thought: how the *@!* had I managed to get myself down the striker's end for Hadlee's last over? That's the 1987 Boxing Day Test against New Zealand and Richard Hadlee. Faced the entire last over, one of the all-time greats. He couldn't get me out. And everyone could get me out, I only averaged 6 in Tests. I batted 18 balls in all to save the game.

There aren't enough characters in modern-day cricket. Social media is to blame for that. Players today are stifled. If they do anything funny on the ground, it's not looked at like it was.

I used to love watching Dennis Lillee take on Viv Richards. Viv with no helmet. Tipping his hat to DK. You knew another bouncer would come. And at the end of the game, they'd all be great mates. There's a lot more money in the game now and it's a very serious business. They're still having fun. But I think we had a little bit more fun, on and off the field.

I still run into Hadlee every other year, usually when he's over in Australia. I wave, smile, and he drops his head, pretends he hasn't seen me.

Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney hold the Trans-Tasman Trophy after the draw against New Zealand in Melbourne in 1987

Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney hold the Trans-Tasman Trophy after the draw against New Zealand in Melbourne in 1987 © Getty Images

Australian cricketers are still tough, but players see each other so much that the rivalry doesn't seem to be as intense.

If you went out for a drink with Ian Botham, you definitely had a drink, that's for sure. He loved a drink, a big cigar, loved going out. You could do that in those days. There was no social media, no iPhones.

The match referee [for the match against Pakistan in Perth in 1992] was an ex high court judge. He had to come back to the ground and he was not happy. He asked me what had happened and I told him with a few expletives thrown in. He said: "Stop swearing." I said, "Well, you asked me what he said. He called me a f*****g cheat." Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan manager, was there with Moin. "I'll have to speak for Moin," he told the referee. "Moin doesn't speak very good English." I got fined. Moin got away with it.

I was 22. Had played four first-class games for New South Wales, and was in England playing for Fleetwood Cricket Club in Lancashire. Gloucestershire called me down for a trial. I'd played one Championship game for Gloucestershire and got called up to play for Australia when Rodney Hogg and Geoff Lawson got injured.

I'd like to see cricketers speak their mind in interviews. They're hamstrung by contractual agreements with boards. Can't criticise anything, really. You can't have people taking the game apart, but it'd be nice to see them speak their mind on certain situations.

I got 11 wickets against India in Perth in 1992. It was one of those days. Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Richard Hadlee, Jimmy Anderson - they've had 50 of those days. But I had a couple and that was one of them. Everything was perfect. The ball was right in the slot, run-up felt right. I was swinging it in, jagging it away. Every bouncer I bowled was perfect.

"I still run into Hadlee every other year. I wave, smile, and he drops his head, pretends he hasn't seen me"

I go out in the bush when I can. It's hectic in Sydney with all the traffic. I like getting away from the noise.

We didn't gain any momentum at the 1992 World Cup. There was so much expectation. Before we knew it, we were playing catch up.

Andre Nel would make a great gladiator. [Whitney hosted the Australian version of the Gladiators TV show]. You'd dress him up in the gear, point him in the direction you'd wanted him to charge in and say, "Take him out."

I was doing some commentary at the Indian Cricket League. There's Moin coaching one of the sides. We kissed and made up.

Sanjay Manjrekar was batting [in Perth]. I was walking back to my mark. I had this vision in my head that I was going to run in, pitch it on middle and off, run it across him and he was going to get a feather through to Ian Healy. And it happened. Next ball. Exactly as I'd seen it in my head. Unbelievable

At a one-day game at the MCG, 1992-93, Desmond Haynes is batting and I hit him right in the box and he went down. Everybody laughs. Are you all right, Des? Yeah man, yeah man. I ran in the next ball. Straight in the box again. Des staggered five metres to the off side, pulled the box out. Merv Hughes picked up the box and flung it up in the air and it hit AB on the head. Allan looks down as if to say, where the **** has that come from? Des, in the meantime, is looking for the box. He sees AB with it, 20 metres away and starts going at him. "AB, what're you doing with my box? Give me my box back." And where's Merv? He's already jogged halfway back to the fence at fine leg, laughing at the whole situation.

On the way back from the West Indies tour in 1991, we had to spend two weeks in Bermuda, because apparently, Bermuda voted for us to have the 1992 World Cup. Part of the deal was that we'd play a couple of one-dayers against Bermuda. We stayed at Elbow beach resort. It was magnificent. We were feted like superstars. Bermuda is such a magnificent place. The water, the grounds were unreal. It was like the plane has crashed, we're all dead and we're in heaven.

It was a wonderful moment to see our boys win here, 18 months ago, when the World Cup finally came back to Australia.