Howard plays a straight bat

CRICKET was the only thing on the mind of a relaxed John Howard as he waited to board a delayed commuter flight to Sydney at Lismore Airport yesterday morning.

The former prime minister snuck into Lismore on Tuesday to take the podium at Invercauld House as the special guest at the Lord's Taverners Northern NSW annual fundraising dinner.

Speaking to The Northern Star, Mr Howard fended off any political questions in a classic defensive effort while letting anything even vaguely to do with the carbon tax, refugees or republicanism slip straight through to the keeper.

"I'm not giving a political interview," he said flatly.

"You can record the fact I certainly continue to follow things closely and, if my advice is sought, I give it, otherwise I don't and I wish them well."

A quick question about the state of the current Australian Test squad steadied the conversation and saw Mr Howard open up with a sweeping reply.

"I don't think anybody should be slitting their wrists or relapsing into depression," he said, metaphorically.

"We're going through a rebuilding process; that happens to all teams.

"We had a high for a long time then we lost all those great players ... you can't lose a group of such talent and expect things to be the same."

Local Lord's Taverners' member Stan Gilchrist pulled off the guest coup last year at a dinner when his son Adam and Indian superstar Sunil Gavaskar were inducted into the Bradman Hall of Fame.

"My wife and I were sitting beside Mr Howard and when he told me he was a Taverner too I asked, 'how would you like to come and speak to our group?'," Mr Gilchrist said.

"He said, 'I'd love to', and it's all gone from there."

On Tuesday night Mr Howard spoke solely about cricket and sport for about 40 minutes without notes to a packed Invercauld House audience, who lapped up every word.

The wily former PM, master of decades of doorstops and probing press conferences, would not be drawn on the Federal leadership, governance or who might take power at the next Federal election.

"Look, I just don't want to get into it," he said by phone from Lismore Airport yesterday.

"I've got enough to do, it keeps me busy. I'm happy and I've adjusted to the new life and it's all good.

"I'm naturally interested in good governance and I think the Liberal Party always provides good government, but I'm not going to say anything else about that."

Mr Howard said he had been an active member of the Australian chapter of the Lord's Taverners - a benevolent association of self-confessed cricket tragics - for a number of years.

"It's a good organisation and I've been to various functions and it's great to know it's got such an active branch on the Northern Rivers," he said.

"It was a good night, I always enjoy coming - we had a lot of cricket-lovers and really nice people and I enjoyed myself."

But does he think his protege, Tony Abbott, has what it takes to be PM?


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