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Cricketing knights

Cricketers who have received knighthoods

Martin Williamson

June 16, 2007

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Arise Sir Garry ... Sobers is knighted by the Queen in Barbados in February 1975 © Cricinfo
The knighthood awarded to Ian Botham means that he joins a distinguished list of players, administrators and authors connected with the game who have received such an honour.

Until recently, most knighthoods have come near the end of players' lives, and until Don Bradman was awarded his CBE in 1949, it was the domain of the administrator. A further barrier was broken down in 1953 when Jack Hobbs, by then 70, became the first professional to be knighted, followed three years later by Len Hutton. Since then, with the exception of Gubby Allen in 1986, it's been professional players who have ruled the roost.

Most have to wait until they have hung up their boots. The first exception was the Rajkumar of Vizianagram, known as Sir Vijaya Ananda, or more simply Vizzy. He was knighted on June 15, 1936. It was a memorable month for him as 12 days later he made his Test debut as India's captain at Lord's. The fairytale ended there. An indifferent player, his captaincy owed more to his breeding and immense wealth and he undermined his team to such an extent that he was effectively ostracised from the game on his return home.

Bradman's Test career was over when he was made a Knight Batchelor on January 1, 1949 but he played two more first-class games as Sir Donald. He is the only Australian to be knighted, although it is reported that his predecessor as captain, Bill Woodfull, turned it down.

In 1990 Richard Hadlee was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours on June 16 and five days later played for New Zealand in the Lord's Test. However, like Bradman, he had not actually had his knighthood conferred on him while a player.

The first person to be specifically honoured for services to the game was Francis Lacey, a fair cricketer but a powerful administrator and for 28 years the secretary of MCC. At least he had played the game.

He was followed by the most anonymous name on the list, and one who had not played the game to any degree - Frederick Toone. His award was for fostering relations between "the Dominions and the Mother Country". He had managed the MCC tours of Australia in 1920-21, 1924-25 and 1928-29. Sadly, he enjoyed the prestige for less than 14 months, dying in 1930.

Arthur Mailey dryly noted that "the last bowler to be knighted was Sir Francis Drake", and he was right until 1996 when Alec Bedser became the 16th cricket-related person but the first bowler to be knighted. Some pointed out that Gubby Allen was a bowler, but he was a good rather than outstanding player and was recognised for his administrative work.

Neville Cardus was knighted for his services to journalism, not only for his cricket reports in the Manchester Guardian and his books, but also for his writing on music.

Learie Constantine was knighted in 1962, primarily for his services as a barrister, politician and diplomat, and seven years later was made a life peer. Colin Cowdrey, knighted in 1992, was elevated to the peerage (Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge) five years later and remains the only peer created on the basis of his services to cricket. Lord Botham of Taunton is still some way off.

People awarded knighthoods for services to cricket

Sir Francis Lacey, 1926
Sir Frederick Toone, 1929
Sir Vijaya Ananda (The Rajkumar of Vizianagram), 1936
Sir Pelham Warner, 1937
Sir Donald Bradman, 1949
Sir Henry Leveson-Gower, 1953
Sir Jack Hobbs, 1953
Sir Leonard Hutton, 1956
Sir Learie Constantine, 1962
Sir Frank Worrell, 1964
Sir Neville Cardus, 1967
Sir Garfield Sobers, 1975
Sir George Allen, 1986
Sir Richard Hadlee, 1990
Sir Colin Cowdrey, 1992
Sir Clyde Walcott, 1994
Sir Everton Weekes, 1995
Sir Alec Bedser, 1997
Sir Conrad Hunte, 1998
Sir Vivian Richards, 1999
Sir Ian Botham, 2007

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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