Phillips throws light on a binding force called Border

Wayne Phillips did a bit of everything for Australia in the mid 80s. He kept wickets till Ian Healy emerged, opened the innings till David Boon and Geoff Marsh arrived, and batted in the middle-order to fill the gap left by the retirement of the likes of Greg Chappell.

The South Australian gave indications of a longer and more successful career on his debut when he cracked 159 at Perth against Pakistan in 1983. “Yeah, that was pretty good day for me. I got my Baggy Green, and then went on to make a hundred at the WACA, my home ground. Your debut wouldn’t get much better than that,” Phillips told Deccan Herald.

Reminiscing on that knock and Test, Phillips went on, “It was my debut, and was thrilling to walk into the WACA to a cheering crowd. Kep (Kepler Wessles) was my partner, who got out pretty early, but (Graham) Yallop too made a hundred. Pakistan didn’t have Imran Khan with them, and their attack was made up of a few newcomers. But it wasn’t easy on a WACA flier for a debutant, and Carl Rackemann took some 11 wickets for us as we comfortably won,” Phillips said.

But since that Test, Phillips played just 26 more Tests in a little over two years. In that time he had to accept multiple roles as opener, wicketkeeper and middle-order batsman. So did that hamper his progress?

“I don’t think so. I was asked to keep wickets during our tour of the West Indies during a tour game against Guayana, and the team management was quite happy with my job. So, they decided to continue with me in Tests against the West Indies,” Phillips said. But the mention of that Test series in the Caribbean brought some bitter memories back.

“It was a tough time for all of us. Greats like Chappell, Marsh and Lillee had retired by then, and Kim (Hughes) captained us there. We didn’t win many matches there, and it added to some of the tensions that were already there, finally Kim quit once he came back to Australia, and AB (Allan Border) took over,” he said.

“Back to my career, towards the mid 80s, Ian Healy emerged as a long term prospect, while we found Booney and Marshy for the opening slot. So, somebody needed to move on and give the space. I can’t hold grudge against those guys because they deserved a break at that stage, and they made a good group under AB,” Phillips said.

Phillips gave full credit to Border for navigating Australia through a tough period, and taking them to the top of the world. “AB was a tough character, someone always insisted on hard discipline on and off the field. Sometimes we secretly called him Mr Grumpy, and we juniors weren’t reluctant to ask him to join us for a beer. But he commanded a lot of respect in the dressing room. AB was our binding force,” he noted.

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