Revealed: PM Howard a victim of ‘ball-tampering’
Australia has a new 'ball-tampering' scandal, with a bombshell revelation about one of the worst cricket deliveries of all time.
Former Prime Minister John Howard has for the past 15 years lived with the embarrassment of his infamous attempts to bowl to locals during a visit to earthquake-ravaged Pakistan back in 2005.
But the Australian Army sergeant responsible for taping up the ball that was used that day has broken his silence and made a startling confession, which suggests Mr Howard may have been inadvertently sabotaged by a 'sticky ball'.
Just to prove the Prime Minister was not as inept on a cricket pitch as it first looked, rare footage of him batting has also re-emerged after years of being lost beneath the constant replays of his bowling humiliation.
At last week's Bradman Foundation dinner at the SCG, Howard confirmed that his three failed attempts to get the ball any further than a metre up the wicket from the bowling crease is the greatest regret of his political career.
"I've often been asked 'what was the biggest mistake I made as Prime Minister?,'" Howard said.
"And I said, 'allowing the Pakistani army to talk me into bowling!"
Howard had three cracks at trying to bowl, but much to the cricket lover's horror, all three attempts bounced just in front of his feet and rolled meekly off the side of the pitch.
But while talking on stage at the Bradman Foundation annual function last Wednesday, Mr Howard was surprised by an Australian defenseman deployed in Pakistan back in 2005, who - like he did 15 years ago - re-presented the actual taped ball to the former Prime Minister with a shock admission.
"Sir, it's an absolute honour to be up here, it really is," said Sergeant Michael Gunn.
" … I must be held a little bit responsible for the bowling incident, as I taped up the ball.
"There may or may not have been (too much tape) stuck to sir's hand."
@scg last night, former PM John Howard reunited with The Ball he played cricket with, Pakistan 2005 when visiting ADF/RAAF supporting Pakistan after earthquakes. Thanks RAAF's Sgt Michael Gunn presenting the ball to John Howard. @MoAD_Canberra @ParliamentHouse @FoxCricket pic.twitter.com/gJ8eyaQEHb— Bradman Museum Bowral (@CricketHOF) November 14, 2019
Mr Howard looked stunned and amused by Gunn's confession.
Before the speech, host Brendon Julian played rarely - and long forgotten - footage of Mr Howard batting, to which the former Prime Minister responded: "You were gracious to play the batting."
Howard's competent backfoot shot-making indicates he was always a batsman not a bowler, even though it's now emerged he may never have stood of chance of getting the ball down the wicket in the first place.
Australian selectors may feel the answer to their long-term top order batting woes might have been staring them in the face all along.
Sergeant Gunn told Mr Howard it was an inspiration to the serving troops in Pakistan to have him visit back in 2005.
Mr Howard responded that despite the viral footage, nothing gave him more pleasure as Prime Minister than supporting Australia's troops overseas.
"On a very serious note, of all the things I did when I was Prime Minister, none gave me greater inspiration and pride as an Australian than to visit the men and women of the ADF when they were deployed overseas," he said.
"They were absolutely magnificent."
Mr Howard paid tribute to Pakistan cricket great Waqar Younis who was recognised as the Bradman Honouree. Referring to his journey as a "son of Pakistan, and citizen of Australia" to reflect the close bond between two cricket nations who will contest the Test series starting on Thursday in Brisbane.
Mr Cricket, Mike Hussey, likes what he sees in the technique of Mr Howard.
"Pretty impressive actually. I thought there was a bit of Bradman in there. I liked the way he gets off the back foot and plays those pull shots. I reckon in an earlier life he would have been a pretty decent player."
England great Michael Vaughan says the Australian Prime Minister was clearly a batsman all along and wrongly judged for his bowling.
"His batting looks strong. All world class batsmen play off the back foot let the ball come. Looks like he has the cut shot, and then bang, don't bowl short to the PM," said Vaughan.
"He's clearly a batsman. Park the bowling just stick to the batting. Bradman, Steve Smith all play like that. Back foot, let it come, work it into the gaps and as soon as you get the opportunity to climb into it - smack it to the boundary. They're good traits."