Honey, I broke the razor

From WG to Amla: cricketers (and a statistician) with impressive beards

Steven Lynch

September 12, 2011

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Captains Mike Brearley and Greg Chappell have beer together, Australia v England, second Test, Sydney, 8 January 1980
Mike Brearley and Greg Chappell: beards-in-arms © Getty Images
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WG Grace
You can't start anywhere else: Dr WG Grace was probably the most recognisable face in Victorian England, excepting the dear old Queen herself, and much of that was due to his prodigious whiskerage, which he maintained almost throughout his adult life. Legend has it that the rough-diamond Aussie fast bowler Ernie Jones once whistled a bouncer through the beard, although there are doubts about whether leather actually made contact with bristle. Some reports suggest this was in a Test, but according to the Hon FS Jackson - a future England captain himself - it was during the first match of the Australians' 1896 tour of England, at Sheffield Park in Sussex (near where the Bluebell Railway now chuffs). Writing in Wisden 1944, Jackson took the blame for starting the story: "I went in first with WG Grace and we had to dance about a bit. One ball from Jones hit WG under the arm, and later another one went head-high past him and over Kelly's head to the boundary. This was the ball about which the Beard Story originated. I can see WG now. He threw his head back, which caused his beard to stick out. Down the pitch went WG, stroking his beard, to Harry Trott [Australia's captain] and said: 'Here, what is all this?' And Trott said: 'Steady, Jonah.' To which Jones made that famous remark: 'Sorry, Doctor, she slipped.' I do not think the ball actually touched WG's beard. That story was told afterwards, and I believe I was responsible. When I was out and returned to the pavilion, I said: 'Did you see that one go through WG's beard?'"

Ian Botham
"Beefy" didn't always have a beard, and when he did, it wasn't much more than a light covering - but, importantly, it was in place during the series with which he will forever be associated - the 1981 Ashes. There seem to be about a million pictures of that heady summer - and almost all of them feature the hirsute hero, a half-smile gleaming through the foliage as he swipes another six off his nose, or demolishes another set of Aussie stumps.

Hashim Amla
Arguably the best beard in modern-day cricket, Amla's luxurious number is all the more striking because of the lack of hair on top of his head. He's a worthy successor to WG Grace, who was also a little thin on top in later life.

George Bonnor
Many of Australia's cricketers in the 1880s sported beards . One of cricket's best at the time belonged to Bonnor. His seemed all the more striking because his height - six foot six - meant it was more visible at a time when tall men were scarcer than they are today. Bonnor was immensely strong, and could be a prodigious hitter: during the 1880 Oval Test he had nearly completed a third run off a monstrous skier when a rather worried Fred Grace (WG's brother) clung on to a catch in the outfield: "My heart stopped beating as I went on waiting," said Fred later. Pictures of the youngest Grace - who sadly died a fortnight after that match, the first Test ever played in England - show him with luxurious side-whiskers but no beard.

Mike Brearley
England's cerebral captain Brearley was usually clean-shaven, but for the 1979-80 series in Australia - hastily arranged after peace was brokered between Kerry Packer and establishment cricket - Brearley decided that he needed a spikier image, and cultivated an impressive beard. It wasn't a great success: he quickly acquired the nickname "Ayatollah" (after the bearded Iranian leader at the time), and also lost all three Tests. His opposite number, Greg Chappell, also had a beard at the time, making this the first time since 1893 (WG Grace and Jack Blackham) that both captains in an Ashes series were thus decorated.

Mohammad Yousuf
After his conversion to the Muslim faith Yousuf grew a luxurious beard that is Hashim Amla's only serious rival for the best in world cricket at the moment. Somehow it bestows even more grace on Yousuf's shots, which were already among the silkiest on show.

Bishan Bedi
It's a classic memory of the 1970s: Bedi gliding serenely in to bowl his teasing left-arm spin, ball seemingly on a piece of string, brightly coloured patka sitting above a full beard - one that often split with a wide grin as Bedi ensnared another victim... or applauded generously when he was hit back over his head for six. That always seemed a good ploy, to encourage the batsman to try it again, and 266 of them fell to Bedi in Tests all told.

Graham Gooch
Gooch never seemed quite sure about his facial-hair arrangements: when he started in Test cricket in 1975, he sported an impressive moustache, predating Merv Hughes' by about a decade, then after alternating between bushy beard and clean-shavenness, he went for the designer-unkempt look, somehow maintaining what looked like five days of stubble without it ever getting any longer (maybe he just didn't have a very good razor). Anyway, that was what was on display when Gooch enjoyed his finest innings - 333 against India at Lord's in 1990 - in the middle of his finest season (over 1000 runs in Tests alone, and a first-class average of more than 100). After that it never looked quite right when he was stubble-free.


Composite: Mohammad Yousuf and Hashim Amla
Mohammad Yousuf and Hashim Amla: Whose is bigger? © Getty Images
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Greg Chappell
As mentioned above, Chappell tried to match Mike Brearley for facial hair in the 1979-80 Ashes series. He'd always had a moustache - most of his contemporaries in the boisterous Australian side of the '70s did - but now he threw the razor out completely. He seems to have got rid of the beard after a horror run in 1981-82, when a string of ducks (four in a row in internationals, and six in all that summer) led to the temporary nickname "Chappello", taken from the entries on Australia's informative scoreboards.

Saeed Anwar
Pakistan's elegant left-handed opener Anwar made up for a poor start in Tests - a pair against West Indies in 1990 - to finish with more than 12,000 runs in international cricket. The last few of those were compiled while wearing a long beard, which he started in sad circumstances after his daughter died. Anwar's run tally was threatened one day in Sharjah when the gatemen didn't recognise the bearded batsman and refused to let him in for a while.

Bill Frindall
What was almost certainly cricket's most famous beard since WG's day was not attached to a player (not an international one, anyway). It belonged to the BBC radio scorer Frindall, a permanent presence in the Test Match Special commentary box from 1965 until his sudden death early in 2009. Frindall's famous growth, coupled with his ability to conjure up facts seemingly from nowhere, earned him the nickname "The Bearded Wonder" from Brian Johnston.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011.

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Posted by RogerC on (September 15, 2011, 10:54 GMT)

Wasim Raja, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq had better beards than some of the guys in this list like Botham or Greg Chappell. I would say that Mike Gatting was also very famous for his goaty beard.

Posted by AnthoniJi on (September 14, 2011, 20:54 GMT)

Now we talk about their beards? pathetic.

Posted by DEDKIK on (September 13, 2011, 14:24 GMT)

Last but not least, Test players Donald Beard of New Zealand and Graeme Beard of Australia.

Posted by   on (September 13, 2011, 13:31 GMT)

More than the beard, I think Hashim Amla's credentials are as a very attractive, and elegant modern-day batsman who is a pleasure to watch when in full flow. The gracefulness of his wristy strokes is reminiscent of Zed Abbas, Gundappa Vishwanath, even Mohd Azharuddin and Mark Waugh. Very few in contemporary cricket have his elegance perhaps barring VVS and Mahela. He is one for the sore eyes in this era where emphasis is on slogging the ball rather than caressing it.

Posted by Farhan166 on (September 13, 2011, 12:17 GMT)

How can the writer fail to mention the most dashing and handsome bearded cricketer of all times - WASIM RAJA. I had seen him in person he was a class. May Allah rest him in Paradise.

Posted by Haleos on (September 13, 2011, 10:41 GMT)

Crusader1980 - Bhajji never had long beard. Why u guys bringing religion into picture. Sports is not the place to display religion.

Posted by shahidk on (September 13, 2011, 7:17 GMT)

another name is missing.Saqlain Mushtaq of doosra fame.he is also wearing a very long beard.

Posted by van_hauz on (September 13, 2011, 5:58 GMT)

For the first time in a long time, I'm disappointed in Cricinfo. I was smiling in anticipation expecting number 11 to be Parthiv Patel or someone similarly ludicrously UN-hirsuite, put in as a tongue-in-cheek joke as most such articles are. Sadly, I was left wanting...

Posted by Mob_King on (September 13, 2011, 1:20 GMT)

"Somehow (his beard) bestows even more grace on Yousuf's shots, which were already among the silkiest on show."

Of course it bestows more "Grace", it downright invokes the grand master himself!

Echoing above requests for photos alongside the profiles!

Brilliantly fascinating literature, Steven. Thanks once again.

Posted by   on (September 12, 2011, 16:57 GMT)

1979-80 Aus vs Eng was not a Ashes series. M yousuf grew a beard in 2006 and scored nearly 1800 runs and 9 centuries in 2006

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Steven LynchClose
Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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