On a day of four zeroes at MCG, meet the man who made the duck walk

On Friday morning, batting on a tough MCG pitch, India and Australia lost wickets in a flurry, with captain Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood getting out for noughts. However, there was no duck strolling across the screen to rub salt on their wounds.

In India's second innings of the MCG Test, Virat Kohli was snared by Pat Cummins for a duck.   -  Getty Images

When it comes to cricket, the world experienced two path-breaking disruptions in the 1970s that, in retrospect, forever changed the way the game was played and consumed: Australia media mogul Kerry Packer's revolutionary World Series Cricket and Daddles, the animated duck, that accentuated the shame of the departing batsman.

"Richie Benaud was as outspoken as he could possibly be. He hated it. I think he looked at is really garish, and a blight on what cricket should be," cartoonist Tom Kerr, the original creator of Daddles, told Sportstar.

"It made my day when I heard his comments since I always thought he was pretty snooty.  His 'Englishness' was one of the reasons that the battle for the Ashes was such a big deal to anyone who had an ounce of Aussie pride," he added.

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The reactions to Daddles were mixed between traditional purists and cricket fans. Most viewers thought it was pretty funny. Tom feels Packer understood the pulse of the public.

"The reality is that cricket was evolving, and men like Packer actively looked at making the sport more attractive to a broader segment of the population. He saw that adding colour, energy and gimmicks like Daddles made cricket better entertaining and more appealing to a younger fan base. It was also designed to make it more profitable. I think it showed real vision" he explained.

The producers, at the time, even made a little cutout of Daddles that included thermometers, hydrometers and the like to help set the stage for the broadcasters.

"I thought that was a little silly when I saw it," Tom said before adding, "But it really spoke to how the character was being received by the viewers."

Tom, an American who moved to Australia, so cricket was something "I grew to love as I lived there."

"The whole game intrigued me as a former baseball player - a match went on for four days, and innings were wholly different from their American cousins. LBW was a concept that was hard to communicate to cricket neophytes."

He recalled the time he first saw a duck waddle across the screen.

"When GTV9 tried to up their broadcast game, they had a duck that went across the bottom of the TV screen when someone went out for a duck, but it was more like a character out of Pac-Man.

"I recall thinking that it was really pretty lame looking. I was animating as well as cartooning in those days, and I thought that a cartoon character would add a lot more personality than the visual that they had been running.

"So I set about sketching until I came across a character I thought could look appealing and fun."

A screengrab of the duck during the Channel Nine coverage.

 

Part of the idea that Tom worked with is the three phases of going out for a duck: 'the ritual of setting up the wicket, the anguish of losing the wicket, and the humiliation and sadness at having to trudge across the pitch back to the locker room.'

"I presented a storyboard to the GTV9 producer (our TV writer from the Melbourne Sun got me his direct contact), showing the little duck that I had developed in my studio. To my surprise, I got the nod and set about animating the character. It was GTV9 that named the character “Daddles”," he reminisced.

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The original Daddles is still remembered by those who loved it. According to Tom, "people could relate, and I think that is what worked" for the little cartoon duck.

"One of the things that I built into the character was all too human traits that the viewers could all recognise in themselves.  He was also pretty silly, and that added to his appeal. He was the literal personalisation of going out for a duck," he said.

Tom's first reaction to seeing the duck was pride.

"It was really fun to see Daddles march across the screen. I remember thinking with a broad smile to myself: “I did that”.