While it is common to see statues commemorating famous sportsmen and women, it is extremely rare, if not unique to dedicate a statue to a spectator. As far as I can ascertain, Yabba is the only sports spectator I know who holds such an honour.
Stephen Harold Gascoigne, or Yabba as he became famously known in Australia was a fanatical follower of both rugby and cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground. His fame developed through his cutting, satirical quips yelled at both players and umpires. His statue now sits on the famous ‘Hill’ at the SCG.
To a visiting English cricket captain Douglas Jardine, who was intensely disliked by Australians due to his perceived unsporting tactics, Yabba quipped as Jardine brushed away some flies from his face, “Leave our flies alone, Jardine. They’re the only friends you’ve got here.”
To a bowler who was clearly giving a batsman plenty of problems and kept missing the ball with his bat, Yabba yelled out, “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!”
And then there was his remark to a player who impressed him little. “I wish you were a statue and I were a pigeon.”
Then to an English cricket player who was batting rather badly. “Those are the only balls you’ve touched all day!” (To an English batsman adjusting his ‘box’ in between overs).
As many readers may know, I’m a ‘cricket tragic’ to quote an Australian Prime Minister when asked about his devotion to the game. But as much as I love the game, the history and the gentlemanly conduct inspired by the Laws of Cricket, it’s the memorable quotes that are probably my favourite part of the game. While Yabba is the all-time king, others, particularly players have contributed to the long list of famous quips.
One I love was when a rather tubby English captain, Mike Gatting, was surprisingly clean bowled by a then unknown Shane Warne, and Graham Gooch caught the moment precisely.
“If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him.”