IN his typical laconic manner, cricket great Max Walker AM was spruiking the health and cricket message at South Tamworth Public School yesterday.
The affable medium-fast bowler was in town as part of the Teachers Health Funds’ Tour for Teachers, promoting the benefits of sport and a healthy lifestyle.
The tour also took him to Armidale earlier in the week to visit primary schools and high schools there.
Yesterday, after addressing the teachers he spent some time with the school’s cricketers and shared some words of wisdom on the game that he played for more than half a decade at an international level.
And of course there was plenty of cricket talk with the international season just around the corner.
The summer starts with Australia hosting world number one South Africa in a three-Test series.
“It’ll be an amazing test for us,” Walker said.
“It wasn’t too long ago we were bowled out for 47 against pretty much the same team.”
He said it probably isn’t something the Aussies would want to be reminded about but would no doubt be in the thoughts of the South Africans heading into the First Test starting at the Gabba next Friday.
There is a lot to like about them, especially with the ball.
“With their attack, you look at (Dale) Steyn. He is probably the world’s best (paceman). (Morne) Morkel is awesome and (Vernon) Philander is terrific,” Walker said.
On the batting front they have a very solid batting unit.
“They’ve got five really classy settled batsmen in the team,” he said.
“For our team all eyes will be on Ricky (Ponting). He’s in form, which is good to see.”
“(Shane) Watson at three will be interesting.”
But with the likes of Phil Hughes chalking up some runs there is pressure to perform.
There has been talk of playing an all-pace attack and designating spinner Nathan Lyon to drinks duties but Walker indicated he wouldn’t go that way, even if the Gabba has been traditionally bowler-friendly.
“Over history, three fast bowlers and a spinnner, and six good batsmen and a keeper has worked,” he said.
Without Lyon, that would leave Michael Clarke as the main spinning option if the wicket does dry out, which probably isn’t that desirable.
As for the make-up of the pace attack, Walker said Peter Siddle picks himself and Mitchell Starc is hard to go past on the form that he’s in.
That then leaves Ben Hilfenhaus or James Pattinson for the third pace bowling spot, with Watson an option should the need be.
“Probably given the workload I’d gamble with Pattinson,” Walker said.
He will be following from his loungeroom and felt the batsmen really had to stand up for the Aussies to do well.
“The batsmen as a group haven’t consistently been scoring big scores,” he said.
“They’ve been relying too much on Ricky and (Michael) Hussey.”
“There’s a real opportunity for a couple on the outskirts now to put their hands up.”
“But it’ll be tough.”