April 9, 2015

Hendrix, De Niro, Monroe and, er, Beckham?

The editor of The Cricketers' Who's Who 2015 picks his five favourite fantasy slip cordons from the book

"Malcolm X would have definitely caught that..." © Getty Images

The slip cordon. Cricket's VIP area, roped off from the hipsters in the covers, the outcasts on the boundary, the masochists at bat-pad.

They are the chosen few fielders who don't spend their day in solitude. Sometimes, though, wouldn't it be nice to choose who you spend your working day with? So, for The Cricketers' Who's Who 2015, we asked every player in English cricket to pick their fantasy slip cordon.

It was a glimpse into the psyche of the English cricketer. Comedians such as Michael McIntyre, James Corden, Ricky Gervais, Will Ferrell, Jack Whitehall and Lee Evans are very popular. David Beckham remains an enormous icon, Ed Sheeran is the cricketers' songwriter du jour, while there are the customary nods for Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali (although there is a rather curious absence of Lance Armstrong, compared to previous years).

As ever, popular culture dominates the choices (so bless Warwickshire's Mark Adair, who selected his mum at third slip - next to Mike Tyson, naturally) but here are five cordons that bucked the trend.

Zafar Ansari, Surrey
Wicketkeeper: Malcolm X, 1st: Rosa Luxemburg, 2nd: Chimamanda Adichie, 3rd: Angela Davis, Gully: Myself

Surrey allrounder Ansari describes himself as "bookish", and boy does he back up that claim. No Beckham or Corden for him, no Taylor Swift or Sheeran. Instead he picks a cordon dedicated to civil rights and political activism. Ansari will be buried in chats about the Nation of Islam with Malcolm X, radical socialism with Rosa Luxemburg, gender and feminism with Chimamanda Adichie and counterculture and communism with Angela Davis. Surrey's overseas signing Kumar Sangakkara, a keen student of politics, will probably approve while Kevin Pietersen could tap up a ghost for his next autobiography.

Ravi Bopara, England and Essex
Wicketkeeper: Robert De Niro, 1st: Ronnie Kray, 2nd: Reggie Kray, Gully: Sachin Tendulkar

In that company, Tendulkar is probably rather happy to be a little removed from the slips at gully. After all, you don't want to say the wrong thing in front of London's most notorious gangsters and Hollywood's greatest gangster impersonator. One thing's for sure: there isn't a batsman in the world who won't take that cordon's word for any disputed catches. Bopara has always moved in his own way - we love him for it - and his justification for his picks is pure Ravi: "They all achieved great things in their respective fields".

Liam Norwell, Gloucestershire
Wicketkeeper: James Corden, 1st: Kurt Warner, 2nd: Me, 3rd: Thor, Gully: Matthew Corbett

Rarely can there have been such a contrast in two personalities in the slips than between Thor, hammer-wielding god of thunder, and Matthew Corbett, puppet-wielding god of children's TV. Thor brings an intimidating presence to the slips not seen since the great Mark Waugh, while questions will be asked about whether Corbett will have Sooty and Sweep on the ends of his arms, which could work both ways: either it makes slip-fielding fiendishly difficult or gives the cordon two extra pairs of hands. At first, NFL quarterback Warner might be better at throwing than catching.

Jonathan Clare, Derbyshire
Wicketkeeper: Alex Turner, 1st: Sean Dyche, 2nd: Me, 3rd: My British bulldogs Humpty and Hilda, Gully: David Beckham

In many ways Clare has chosen a conventional cordon. Like the vast majority of his fellow county players, he has picked Beckham. Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys adds some musical ability (although, as a Yorkshireman, he might rather challenge Jonny Bairstow for the gloves than turn out for Derbyshire) while Sean Dyche is manager of Clare's beloved Burnley FC. But it is Clare's choice for 3rd slip that raises an eyebrow. Many batsmen complain of the constant whining and barking from the slips, so Clare has taken that to its natural conclusion by posting his beloved bulldogs between Becks and Dyche.

Reece Topley, Essex
Wicketkeeper: Jimi Hendrix, 1st: David Beckham, 2nd: James Dean, 3rd: Marilyn Monroe, 4th: Elvis Presley

This is perhaps the classiest slip cordon out of the 450-plus players who responded. Last year, Reece Topley went for Beckham, surfer Kelly Slater, reality TV star Amy Childs and glamorous actress Megan Fox. This time, Beckham remains but he is joined by four giants of American pop culture. Live fast, die young appears to be the theme among the Americans (aside from Elvis, who was more live fast, live a bit slower, die on the loo). Between the five of them they have racked up 74 movies, 22 numbers ones, 17 goals for England … but no runs or wickets. Well, nobody's perfect.

The Cricketers' Who's Who 2015, with a foreword by Moeen Ali, features Q&As with every county player as well as the England women squad and first-class umpires. The book, which has introduced a new comment section, is available through the usual outlets, or direct from the publisher for £12.99

Daniel Brigham is a sportswriter and editor. @dan_brigham