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Just For Laughs

The Michael Slater cap number misunderstanding and a tattoo almost gone wrong

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

When Michael Slater flaunted his Australia Test cap number 356 everywhere, little did he know what was in store for him later.

Slater made his debut in the 1993 Ashes series at the Old Trafford alongside another debutant, Brendon Julian. With Australia batting first, and Slater, an opener, being the first of the two debutants to play a role in the game, it was communicated to him that he was Test cap number 356.

A passionate individual, Slater was desperate to display his love for the Baggy Green. He tattooed the number on his body and ordered a special number plate inscribed with “MS356” for his brand new Ferrari.


Slater became a dependable Test opener for Australia over the next few years, espousing an aggressive approach in red-ball cricket. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Slater started to lose his touch and his patchy form, compounded by the rise of good openers in the Shield, forced Australia to sideline him.

Although Slater was vocal about making a comeback, it never materialised as Justin Langer took to opening the batting seamlessly. To add salt to the wound, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) told him in late 2001 that he was actually cap No.357, as it wasn’t the batting order that determined cap number; instead it was the alphabetical order.

The ACB called up the debutants from the game and after a discussion settled upon making an exception for Slater.

James Sutherland, the ACB CEO at the time, stated, “We understand that Michael was told he was 356 and as a result has always behaved accordingly. He has obviously gone to great lengths to demonstrate his pride not only in that cap number but also in playing for Australia and that is something to be applauded. Given these fairly exceptional circumstances, we are happy to allow Michael to retain the number 356.”

Saucy, spicy and sweet in the end, just like Slater’s career.

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