John Howard at the presidential lectern in the White House with George W Bush. John Howard at the Pentagon with Donald Rumsfeld. John Howard being praised by Rupert Murdoch at a black tie dinner. John Howard with Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. John Howard visiting Aussie blast victims in a London hospital. John Howard chatting with John Major in the member’s pavillion at Lord’s. John Howard with headphones and mike in the CCCP (Central Cricket Commentary Position) live to air on the Beeb.
Never more than this week has the Australian prime minister reminded me so much of Woody Allen in “Zelig”.
Or maybe Forrest Gump.
It was such an amazing coincidence for the England and Wales Cricket Board to stage a Lord’s Ashes Test in the very same week that JWH should be checking in with the boss in Washington and with the brethren in Mother England. Just another opportunity for the Walter Mitty of Australian politics to act out his fantasy as Bob Menzies’ long lost love child.
For once, at least some of the British media had advance warning. Marina Hyde’s piece is a tad inaccurate in places (President Lagos of Chile completed his state visit to Australia a week before her article was published), but the drift is there.
Saturday afternoon, tea-time, and time for the inevitable – John Howard hits the air waves on Test Match Special. (At least they had the good sense not to put him on while play was in progress.) For fifteen minutes a fawning Jon Agnew, ever the post-Johnners tory, talked terrorism with JWH, talked Zimbabwe with JWH, and even talked cricket.
We heard of the one and only time he saw Bradman bat, we heard of the merry late night DVD screenings of Steve Waugh’s 2003 SCG hundred, we were told that Glenn McGrath is, along with Dennis Lillee and Ray Lindwall, one of Australia’s three great fast bowlers. (Run that speed gun past me again.)
Howard told us that Ian Chappell was one of Australia’s finest captains. An interviewer with more research and more chutzpah could have asked if he thought the same of Chappelli’s efforts in opposition to the government’s refugee policies.
Fifteen minutes are up, the players are back on the field, and the interview is mercifully over. But let’s bump into Merv Hughes and have a cackle at the back of the commentary box while CMJ is trying to describe the start of the next session.
Sadly no transcript of the interview ever made its way to the Prime Ministerial website.