December 1, 2009

Family men (and woman)


Phil Hughes, of Hughes XI, Australia and Middlesex fame © Getty Images

The clan Hughes has been synonymous with the sport of bat and ball since the Viking king Harold Hughdrada brought back a spherical shrunken head and a granite bat from the Pacific island of Crigit in 405AD. But the extent of the Hughes contribution to the great pastime has remained unfathomed. Until now.

Back in June I assembled a panel of experts (myself, my great aunt and her secretary Lavinia). We met in the gazebo, with just a bottle or two of Bollinger, a platter of cucumber sandwiches and a picnic hamper full of dietary pills to aid us. To be frank, Lavinia is 97 and not as nimble-fingered as she used to be but she has at long last finished typing up our deliberations. Here then, is the all-time Hughes XI.

1. Phillip Hughes My aunt had not come across this young man, so for her benefit I tried to illustrate Phillip’s idiosyncratic technique by vigorously brandishing a sponge finger whilst hopping backwards into the begonias. She announced herself unimpressed but was persuaded when I reminded her that he played for Middlesex.

2. Kim Hughes Lovely cover drive, lovely crinkly hair, beastly team-mates. After a slow start, would undoubtedly have won everything it was possible to win, were it not for his mutinous crew. But then it has been the Hughes way to rouse the jealousy of lesser mortals. For centuries, we have been burdened with particular genetic traits: immaculate hair, a certain youthful joie de vivre and a tendency to burst into tears.

3. Merv Hughes As a player, Mervyn Aloysius St John Hughes was famous for his gentlemanly spirit and fastidious fitness regime. However, whilst he was a kind-hearted soul on the field of play, once he crossed the boundary rope and removed his plastic moustache, he had a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and impulsive, ill-advised decisions. He has since found work as a national selector.

4. Hugh The Stick One of the foremost thrashers of the 18th century, Hugh achieved notoriety when he married a stick that had fallen into the River Severn. Though they chuckled at first, the villagers of Much Hughes soon changed their tune as Hugh and his wife scored 15,000 runs between 1729 and 1732 and put Much Hughes on the cricket map. Sadly, Hugh left his wife for a younger splice of willow and though they nicked the odd single together, he was never able to recapture the glory days.

5. Patience Hughes Provoked consternation at Lord’s in 1912 by marching onto pitch during a game between Gentlemen and Players and standing at the crease with a placard that read, “Votes for Women”. When WG Grace tried to intimidate her by bowling a beamer, she belted it over his head for six. She went on to make 157 not out, and six short years later women got the vote.

6. The Maharaja of Hughpur Caused havoc in the world of cricket in 1921 when he invited the world’s leading players to take part in his tournament, providing they obtained No Objection Telegrams from their governments. At the time, critics said that it was the end of Test cricket as we knew it. “This is the end of Test cricket as we know it,” said the Yorkshire professional, Jack Grumbler. “Now where do I sign?”

7. Henry Harmsworth-Fortesque-Hughes, Earl of Hughestown Described by friends as obnoxious, rebarbative, devious and left-handed, the Earl was a reckless gambler and a cheat, known for paying off opposing players with leather britches. He regularly consumed a bottle of port between overs and finally met his end in a duel with an umpire over a no-ball.

8. Able Seaman Hughes Serving under Captain Cook on the Endeavour, he stowed a bat, a ball and a set of stumps in the hold, which helped the crew to pass their time during the seven weeks they were stranded on the newly discovered Australian continent. Unfortunately, the absent-minded Hughes left the kit on the beach. The rest of the world has paid a heavy price for his forgetfulness.

9. Sid “Hit ‘em in the head” Hughes An irascible fast bowler for Little-Hughton-on-the-Hughes, Warwickshire and England, his bowling average of 0.5 was testament to his ability only to turn up when the wicket was dodgy. Caused outrage on the tour to Australia in 1912-13 when he sat down at the end of his run-up and blew raspberries at the crowd. Only when a local businessman wrote him a large cheque did he finish his over.

10. Emperor Hughsimus Maximus Not one of the most successful of Roman Emperors, Hughsimus was a sports fanatic and even experimented with an early form of cricket in the Coliseum. Sadly, it proved a failure as the lions repeatedly moved before the ball was bowled and kept eating the umpires.

11. Captain Horatio Hughes A cavalry officer who served at Waterloo, Captain Hughes struggled to reintegrate into society. An umpire of some distinction, he kept a loaded pistol in his coat and if he felt a bowler’s appeal was unnecessarily insistent, would shoot off their cap. Sadly, his umpiring career ended in 1821 when he accidentally incapacitated the Duke of Kent and henceforth, the rule permitting firearms on the field of play was abolished.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England