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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Salute the Baggy Green giants
By Phil Mercer
BBC Sport in Sydney

Australian Test players past and present
The great and the good of Australian cricket gather in Sydney
The Baggy Green tradition in Australia spans three centuries.

It began with Charles Bannerman, a player turned umpire who made his debut against England in 1877.

Queenslander Martin Love is the most recent addition to the select list of Australian Test cricketers - there are are 385 in total.

Almost half of them have passed away but they have left an enduring legacy.

Numbered replicas of their famous baggy green caps were presented to 150 surviving Test players at a gala dinner in Sydney, the largest gathering of cricketing greats ever seen in Australia.

Merv Hughes, the lion-hearted pace bowler, told the BBC the caps represent the power of the sport down under: "The symbol of Australian cricket is the Baggy Green. It's the heart and soul of the game.

"I've got mine locked away at home but when you look at it, you treat it like your baby."

Mervyn Gregory Hughes is number 332 on the all-time list - his international career spanned a decade from the mid-80s.

The intimidating glare and knock-about sense of humour remain but the hair is much shorter nowadays.

Mark Taylor and Merv Hughes
Mark Taylor and Merv Hughes discuss dress codes

"I used to have a mullet. David Boon had one, Mark Waugh did too. But have a look around now and it's all crew cuts. It's not the same," he joked

The gathering in Sydney is a living history lesson.

Arthur Morris, now 81, was a member of Bradman's Invincibles, still considered by many to be Australia's greatest ever-sporting team.

"My best moment was when we were chasing 404 on the last days in Leeds in 1948 and we did it," the left-handed batsman remembered.

"Don Bradman and myself both scored centuries and that was most satisfying because no-one expected us to win."

A cap worn by Bradman at the end of his Test career was sold last month for 177,000.

Smiling mischievously, Morris said he had a stack of them in his garage and asked if anyone knew a buyer.

The warriors of the past mix easily with the legends of the present.

A relaxed-looking Shane Warne, tanned and lean, believes that although the game had changed, true talent would always shine through.

"Arthur Morris could come in to open the batting now and would be fine. You put Mark Taylor back then, he'd be fine as well," said Warne.

Bill Brown and Justin Langer
Bill Brown, who played in the 1930s, shares a joke with Justin Langer

"I think any good player in any era would always adapt."

Respect for the Baggy Green in this highly competitive and commercial age has been reinforced by the current Aussie skipper, Steve Waugh.

"I just love wearing it," he explained.

"It's got so many great memories. It's been with me for 18 years and has been through the good and bad times."

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck said the green cap was a powerful sporting tradition.

"The All Blacks have their war dance, the Welsh can sing - none matches the power of the cap worn by the Australian cricketer."

For the average Aussie cricketer, it's enough to turn them green with envy.


SEE ALSO
Ruthless Aussies lift World Cup
23 Mar 03  |  World Cup
Australia retain the Ashes
01 Dec 02  |  The Ashes


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