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Cricinfo has set out to demonstrate with this list of (mostly) talented and well-rounded cricketers
February 22, 2007
In the same week that Australia's sporting fortunes took a nosedive, a health expert has warned that the nation is in the grip of an obesity epidemic, with "the number of overweight children set to rise to 60 per cent within 30 years." Still, it need not be all doom and gloom, as Cricinfo has set out to demonstrate with this list of (mostly) talented and well-rounded cricketers
Aislabie was remarkable on two fronts. Not only was he a quite dreadful cricketer - in 56 first-class matches as a specialist batsman he averaged 3.15 with a career best of 15 - but he was also one of the fattest. The two are quite possibly connected. So large was he towards the end of his career that he had to have someone to run for him, and he was also utterly immobile in the field, to the extent he needed another person to field in his place. A wine merchant by trade, he wasn't much cop as secretary of MCC, the club lurching from one financial crisis to another under his tenure.
There's fat obese and fat plain roly-poly. India's offspinning allrounder, Ramesh Powar, is defiantly in the latter category. "I've never thought that being fat was a negative point," he told Cricinfo last year. "Why can't people realise that my extra strength is because of that? I don't want to lose weight for the sake of it, to look like a model. I am not a Mohammad Kaif or a Jonty Rhodes. And neither of them bowl offspin." This last point is the most valid of all. Powar is quite possibly the slowest bowler in international cricket, but that's hardly a criticism when he is tweaking his flighty pies high into the air, but landing them on a perfect length over after over with improbably sharp side spin. "I have been fit enough to play for a competitive side like Bombay for six to seven years," he added. "I've never missed a game owing to fitness problems."
At the age of 24 and on his first England tour, the Surrey swing bowler, Jimmy Ormond, should have been at the peak of his powers. He certainly had the talent, and an attitude to match, as Mark Waugh discovered on Ormond's debut at The Oval in 2001. After enquiring about his right to a Test cap, Waugh was informed: "at least I'm the best player in my family." But Ormond managed just one more Test, at Chandigarh the following winter, before incurring the wrath of Duncan Fletcher for his slovenly fitness standards. Instead of taking the hint and beefing himself up during the one-day leg of the winter, he morphed steadily into a tub of lard and rejoined the Test squad with what appeared to be a sack of spuds strapped round his midriff. This was memorably depicted in a gruesome training-ground photo that was flashed onto the back pages of every newspaper in England, and there ended a budding international career.
Slim in his early career, Armstrong piled on the pounds as readily as he antagonised opponents and the authorities. By the time he was appointed Australian captain after the Great War, the man known as "The Big Ship" was almost 22 stone, his bulk largely due to his appetite for whiskey. On the way to tour England in 1921 he spent the six-week voyage helping to stoke the ship's boilers to get fit. It worked, but he hardly shed a pound. The Sportsman noted that he was "so greatly increased in bulk, without becoming the least bit corpulent, that he dwarfs all his neighbours."
Bill "Fatty" Foulke
Without much doubt the fattest allround sportsman of all time, Foulke established a fearsome reputation as one of the top goalkeepers in England in the first decade of the 20th century, playing for Chelsea and Sheffield United among others. He was a massive man by modern standards - standing over six feet tall and topping the scales at well over 20 stone - but in his day he was a Goliath. He played four times for Derbyshire in 1900.
Gatting was plagued throughout his career by jibes about his weight, but while few would deny he carried an extra pound or two, he remained deceptively fit. He wasn't helped by playing his home matches at Lord's, where the old-fashioned, no-nonsense cooking of Nancy Doyle contributed to his downfall. He often started the season lighter after a winter of training, but within a month or two Doyle's pudding had taken their toll. When he was bowled by Shane Warne's ball of the century at Old Trafford in 1993, The Independent's Martin Johnson wrote: "How anyone can spin a ball the width of Gatting boggles the mind." Graham Gooch, the non-striker at the time, added of Gatting's baffled expression: "He looked as though someone had just nicked his lunch."
A throwback to a long-lost era, Bermudan policeman Dwayne Leverock is large by any standards, and one of the politer observations from a journalist at the recent World Cricket League was that he was "massive". A talented and naggingly accurate left-arm spinner, he struggles with the bat in that he cannot really run more than a single, and hiding a man closing in on 20 stone in the field is a captain's nightmare.
Ranatunga was the pint-sized pot-bellied general who transformed Sri Lanka from a team of mild-mannered whipping boys into a side with sufficient strut to win the 1996 World Cup. But he wasn't the most popular man with his opponents - least of all the Australians whom he beat on that memorable evening in Lahore. Once, when Shane Warne was pondering out loud how to draw Ranatunga out of his crease, Ian Healy piped up from behind the stumps, "put a Mars Bar on a good length, that should do it." And it was Healy again, during a day-nighter in Sydney, who was overheard on the stump microphone informing Ranatunga, "You don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat ****!" Warne, at a press conference in 2004, suggested that his overweight nemesis had "swallowed a sheep", although Ranatunga had the last laugh on that occasion, remarking that he'd sooner swallow a sheep than the diuretic pills that had led to Warne's one-year drugs ban.
Nicknamed "Baby Boof" for the uncanny similarities he holds with his South Australian captain and fellow ample-girthee, Darren Lehmann, Cosgrove underwent a very public humiliation in September 2005, when - after a sojourn in English club cricket - he was deemed too fat to play by his state side, and suspended for a month. He responded in outstanding fashion, clobbering 736 runs at 66.90 in the Pura Cup and another 591 at 73.87 in Australia's domestic one-day competition, a tally that earned him the accolade of One-Day Player of the Year. Still only 22, and still rounder than your average international athlete, a bulky future is in prospect - both in terms of runs and pounds.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo, Andrew Miller is UK EditorFeeds: Martin Williamson
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?