April 4, 2011

All play and some work

Cricketers, especially in the past, had to earn livings separately in order to be able to pursue their love for the game

Undertaker
The Australian wicketkeeper Hanson "Sammy" Carter was an undertaker in Sydney when he wasn't behind the stumps. One of his saddest tasks was to organise the funeral of his beloved team-mate Victor Trumper, who died aged only 37 in 1915. Carter, who was actually born in Yorkshire, played 28 Tests between 1907-08 and 1921-22. As a batsman his repertoire included an unusual shovel shot - not unlike today's Dilscoop - which sent the ball flying over his left shoulder. Legend had it that years of digging graves had helped Carter perfect the shot.

Comedian
Fred Trueman was rarely short of a word during his Test career, so when the first man to take 300 wickets retired, a move to the stage seemed a logical one. Despite a fund of stories about his playing days - and an impressively lurid vocabulary - Fred wasn't a huge success as a stand-up, although he did also host several television shows, usually with trademark pipe in hand and a pint of bitter not far away.

Politician
Several cricketers have tried their hand at politics, most of them unsuccessfully: Ted Dexter famously gave up the England captaincy in 1964 to contest a seat at the General Election. He lost - to the future prime minister James Callaghan - and was quickly restored to the Test team in South Africa that winter. Coming up to date, Arjuna Ranatunga has risen to become a minister in the Sri Lankan parliament, and was recently joined as an MP by a member of his 1996 World Cup-winning side, Sanath Jayasuriya.

Fish-and-chip shop owner
One of the heroes of England's Ashes fightback at Headingley in 1981 - he helped Ian Botham add 67 towards the end of that famous innings - fast bowler Chris Old moved to Cornwall in retirement and, unable to find a job in cricket, ran a beachside fish-and-chip shop. After years of trying to get the batter out, he now had to get the batter right: "It's the key to the fish," he once said, "making sure the batter's not too thick."

Actor
The Sussex right-arm medium-pacer Aubrey Smith - nicknamed "Round the Corner" for his unusual approach to the wicket - captained England to victory in what became South Africa's first Test match, in Port Elizabeth in March 1889. Later the adventurous Smith went to Hollywood and carved out a successful career in more than 100 movies, largely playing British military types. His most famous role was probably as Colonel Zapt in the 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda. Smith - latterly Sir Aubrey - remained keen on cricket, and started up the Hollywood Cricket Club, for which several move stars turned out. Smith played on into old age, once commanding his butler to bring him his glasses after dropping a slip catch. The next ball was edged... and dropped again: "Damn fool brought my reading glasses," fumed Sir Aubrey.

Farmer
Probably international cricket's most famous chicken farmer, the Zimbabwe fast bowler Eddo Brandes now lives in Australia cultivating tomatoes, which are probably quieter but less good for headlines. During Brandes' distinguished playing career - which included a one-day international hat-trick to set up victory over England in January 1997 - casual fans could have been forgiven for thinking that Chicken Farmer was part of Brandes' name, since the words appeared bracketed together so often.

Teacher
Many players have flitted between class room and dressing room. One such was Bill Woodfull, Australia's captain in the 1932-33 Bodyline series, who was a maths teacher at Melbourne High School and later became headmaster there. Just down the road at Melbourne Grammar School, the former Test batsman Paul Sheahan was headmaster until March 2009. He is now president of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Doctor
Cricket's most famous doctor remains the one and only WG Grace, although one has to wonder how much time he had for ministering to his patients during a cricket career that saw him play on till he was well past 50, and score more than 54,000 runs and 124 centuries in first-class cricket. He also took more than 2800 wickets. His brother EM Grace also entered the medical profession, as evidenced by his nickname "The Coroner".

Taxi driver
Being the first New Zealander to take 100 Test wickets didn't guarantee Dick Motz lifelong employment, and among other jobs he had a spell driving a taxi in Christchurch, where the Pakistani journalist Qamar Ahmed was once surprised to recognise his driver on the way to a Test match: "I got a good account of the match, and how the wicket would play, before it had even started!"

Dentist
The great Australian allrounder Monty Noble, who toured England four times, captaining in 1909, was also a qualified dentist. While travelling around the world for cricket he took the chance to investigate local dentistry techniques, and often returned to Australia with pioneering new machinery. Among other cricketing dentists is the Kenyan Dipak Chudasama (see below).

Airline pilot
England's secret weapon for their 1985-86 West Indian tour was supposed to be the young fast bowler Ricky Ellcock, not long out of school. He was blessed with raw pace - but cursed with a bad back: he never played a Test, and took only 117 first-class wickets all told. After retirement he returned to his native Barbados and became a commercial airline pilot. Colin Croft - an air traffic controller during his playing days - was another who moved into the cockpit on retirement from cricket.

And there's an update on last week's XI sporting allrounders - direct from the horse's mouths, too:
The former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell emailed to say: "Tell Steven Lynch I was selected for Australia at baseball [twice - 1964 & '66]. I was actually selected for Australia at baseball before I was picked in the Test side." And the former Kenyan opener Dipak Chudasama, briefly the co-holder of the record for the highest opening partnership in one-day internationals (225 with Kennedy Otieno against Bangladesh in Nairobi in 1997), emailed in: "I played two cricket World Cups for Kenya and also represented Kenya in table tennis for a number of years, playing the 1982 Commonwealth championships in India and the 1980 Afro-Asian Latin-American Games in Seoul, Korea."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2011. And Ask Steven is now on Facebook

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