The PM’s XI was almost the GG’s XI

The PM’s XI was almost the GG’s XI

PM&C Government
Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

PM’s XI captain Jack Fingleton, Prime Minister Menzies and the West Indian captain, John D. Goddard

Photo: PM’s XI captain Jack Fingleton, Prime Minister Menzies and the West Indian captain, John D. Goddard in 1951

(Courtesy ACT Heritage Library, Prime Minister’s XI Cricket Match, 22 October 1951, Ref. 001390)

If Governor General Sir William McKell hadn’t been on his way to London in October of 1951, cricket fans may well have been watching the GG’s XI play South Africa today at Manuka Oval in Canberra.

The creation of the PM’s XI began at a chance meeting in the library of what is now Old Parliament House in August 1951 between then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies and W.I. Emerton, Deputy Clerk of the Senate.

On that occasion, cricket loving Prime Minister Menzies asked Mr Emerton, also President of the ACT Cricket Association, about the association’s plans for the coming cricket season.

‘We are very disappointed,’ Emerton replied.

‘The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) has just released the program for the West Indies tour which starts in October, and they haven’t included a match in Canberra.’

This was despite Canberra having previously hosted matches involving international touring teams.

During that conversation Emerton said he had earlier hoped the PM could ask the Governor-General to invite the West Indies to play in Canberra during their tour. He knew the ACB wouldn’t refuse such a request.

But news of Sir William McKell’s trip to London for the whole summer had quashed that idea.

The PM thought for a moment and then responded.

‘Emerton, what about a Prime Minister’s XI playing the West Indies in Canberra,’ he asked.

‘I know most of the Board. Leave it to me.’

And thus was born a tradition which has lasted for more than 50 years.

Though games were not played annually at first, Prime Minister Robert Hawke, also a cricket lover, reinvigorated the fixture and they have been played every summer since 1984.

From the days of Prime Minister Menzies, teams have included veterans and rising stars. This year’s team is no different.

George Bailey will captain the team and Faf du Plessis will captain South Africa.

In a speech last night at the Lodge, Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed both teams and today at Manuka Oval, will toss the coin to begin the match.

History and quotes from The Prime Minister’s XI – The Story of the Prime Minister’s XI Matches, Menzies to Hawke by Don Selth, 1990.