September 17, 2012

Look, ma

Famous cricketing mothers (and others who ought to be)

Jeanne Chappell
Jeanne Chappell, who died recently aged 91, was the daughter of one Australian cricketer - Vic Richardson - and the mother of three more: Ian, Greg and Trevor Chappell. All of them except Trevor captained Australia too. Greg estimated that she must have washed more sports gear than the rest of their clothes put together, while Ian, in a heartfelt tribute on ESPNcricinfo, remembered her spirit: "When I was captain, an Australian cricket administrator complained about how difficult I was to deal with. I told him, 'Mate, you're lucky... you could be dealing with my mother.'"

Jane Boycott
One of the few non-playing mothers whose names regularly crops up in cricket commentaries, Jane Boycott - or more specifically her pinafore - is often mentioned by Geoff Boycott to illustrate a point. Many people play a special form of "cricket bingo", in which they collect runs for words and phrases used by the commentators - and Sir Geoffrey's trenchant announcement that "My moom would've caught that in her pinny" is a big run-scorer.

Hillie Ambrose
Whenever Curtly Ambrose took a Test wicket, his mother, Hillie, would run out of their house in Swetes Village, Antigua, and ring a bell in the street. "She would stay awake all night listening to her transistor," explained Ambrose. "I didn't know about the bell thing till I read it in the paper, and when I came back and asked her, she showed me the bell." The neighbours might have been a bit fed up the day Curtly demolished England with 8 for 45 in Bridgetown in April 1990.

Martha Grace
For many years the only woman to feature in Wisden's famous Births and Deaths section, Martha Grace was credited by WG and his brothers (two of whom also played for England) for teaching them the rudiments of cricket. "Until her death," recorded Eric Midwinter in his biography of WG, "she maintained logs and scrapbooks of all her sons' doings."

Ameer Bee Mohammad
Ameer Bee was a gifted sportswoman herself, winning trophies for badminton and carrom (a form of billiards), and she passed those genes on to her five sons, all of whom played first-class cricket. Four of them - Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq Mohammad - had distinguished Test careers for Pakistan, while the fifth, Raees, just missed out - he was 12th man for a Test against India in Dacca (now Dhaka) in 1954-55. Hanif wrote: "My mother was the real motivation and an inspiration behind all the success that we achieved as cricketers."

Bev Waugh
The mother responsible for the most Test runs isn't Rajni Tendulkar but rather Beverley Waugh, who produced twins Steve (10,927 runs) and Mark (8029), as well as two other sons (Dean and Danny) who were handy cricketers too. A talented tennis player in her youth, Bev later became a schoolteacher and a swimming instructor. "The birth of twins before their 20th birthdays put paid to their sporting ambitions," wrote Steve of his parents. "In a funny sort of way, knowing that Mum and Dad had relinquished their personal sporting dreams drove Mark and me to achieve as much as we could."

Barbara Fairbrother
When cricket fan Barbara Fairbrother gave birth to a son late in 1963, she named him after her favourite player, the stylish Australian batsman Neil Harvey, who had just finished a glittering Test career that brought him 6149 runs in 79 Tests. Surprise No. 1: Neil Harvey Fairbrother grew up to be a left-hander too. And - surprise No. 2 - he was a pretty good one, playing ten Tests and 75 one-day internationals in a long career that also featured a triple-century for Lancashire.

Lilla Hadlee
The first lady of New Zealand cricket, Lilla Hadlee - the wife of Walter, who captained on New Zealand's famous 1949 tour of England - gave birth to five boys, three of whom played for New Zealand. Richard, who ended up with 431 Test wickets, was the most famous, and sometimes opened the bowling for his country with Dayle; Barry, a batsman, played alongside them in the 1975 World Cup. Another brother, Martin, was a handy club cricketer and, apparently, the best golfer in the family, although the youngest, Christopher, seems to have suffered from having two big-brother fast bowlers - he soon gave up cricket and became an architect. Walter wrote of his long-suffering wife: "She dedicated herself to the demanding task of looking after the varied needs and interests of six males. Yet somehow she managed to cope."

Donna Trott
As Jonathan Trott completed his vital century on Test debut in the Ashes decider at The Oval in 2009, the TV cameras zoomed in on his mother, who was watching in the stands. Touchingly, she was shedding a tear as her son celebrated his milestone. Donna Trott had been a fine athlete herself, a hockey player who also represented South Africa at softball.

Maureen Joyce
There couldn't have been much room for anything non-sporting in the Joyce household in Dublin: proud parents Maureen and James (yes, really) Joyce produced five children, all of whom played cricket for Ireland. Gus did so before Ireland received full one-day international status, but Dominick and Ed made their debuts (and both opened the batting) in the same match in 2006 - Ed for England, although he later returned to play for the country of his birth (he played for England in the 2007 World Cup, and for Ireland in the 2011 one). And the Joyces also had twin daughters - Cecelia and Isobel - who have played for Ireland's women's team.

Mrs Ngoche
Just shading the Joyces for the award for begetting the most international cricketers are the Nairobi Ngoches. Four of their sons - Shem and James Ngoche, Lameck Onyango and Nehemiah Odhiambo (the last two also have the last name Ngoche) - have played official one-day internationals for Kenya. And two daughters, Mary Bele and Margaret Banja, have played for Kenya's women's team (which does not as yet have official ODI status).

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012