May 13, 2013

Name-dropped by Wisden

People who have made unexpected appearances in the cricket bible

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew - now the Duke of York - topped the bowling at his Scottish school in 1979 with an eye-popping average of 4.54 (11 wickets for 50), which didn't stop Wisden's schools' reviewer from grumbling that Gordonstoun's bowling "lacked penetration". The prince was also second in the batting (212 runs at 23.55).

Samuel Beckett
An old chestnut of a quiz question, as the only Nobel laureate to feature in Wisden, the renowned playwright and novelist turned out for Dublin University in two matches against Northamptonshire in 1925 and 1926, which rather mysteriously count as first-class. Beckett was a left-hand bat, who scored 35 runs in his four innings, and a left-arm medium-pacer who failed to trouble the county batsmen. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, and "never lost his affection for and interest in cricket", according to his obituary in Wisden 1990.

President Eisenhower
The Almanack hailed "an historic day for cricket" in December 1959, when Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, "graced the third Test of the series between Pakistan and Australia at the National Stadium, Karachi. It was the first occasion that the head of the United States has witnessed a Test match, and he was seen in a very happy mood applauding attractive strokes by the batsmen and good work by the fielders."

Gary Lineker
A prolific striker for England - only Bobby Charlton (by one) has ever scored more than his 48 goals for the national team - Lineker was also a keen cricketer, who once played a match at Lord's in defiance of his Spurs manager Terry Venables. A few years later he played, more legally this time, for MCC against Germany and, as Wisden 1993 reported, "was out for one and was thus able to say that he always scored one against Germany".

The Master
No, not the nickname of Jack Hobbs, who has received innumerable mentions in Wisden, but Anthony Ainley, the actor who played Doctor Who's arch enemy in the long-running TV series. He was also a keen club cricketer, who received an obituary in the 2005 Wisden: "At one club game, Ainley's fame preceded him, and the Sutton & Cheam Herald ran a headline above its match report proclaiming that 'Inter-Galactic Terror' had been visited upon Surrey. A complex character, he usually took his cricket teas alone in his car - possibly because, according to one report, he 'despised cheeses of all kinds'."

Harry Judd
Pop stardom interrupted a promising cricket career in 2004, as the following year's Wisden schools' section soberly recorded: "Harry Judd, who scored 252 runs last season, left Uppingham to become a full-time drummer in the pop group McFly. The summer ended well for the side, with four wins in the last five matches, but even better for Harry Judd: McFly topped the UK singles chart twice, with 'Five Colours In Her Hair' and 'Obviously'."

John Fowles
The renowned novelist was a schoolboy cricketer who was good enough to have trials with Essex. He retained an interest in the game, as his obituary in Wisden 2006 noted: "While watching England nervily bat to victory over West Indies at Lord's in 2000, he was joined in his living-room in Lyme Regis by a stranger asking the score. When Fowles told him, his visitor sat down and watched with him until Dominic Cork had hit the winning runs. Only when he subsequently asked how much Fowles charged for bed and breakfast did both men realise that the stranger had walked uninvited into the wrong house."

Jonny Wilkinson
England's rugby superstar was also a handy cricketer, as the 1998 Almanack noted in its account of Lord Wandsworth College - which coincidentally is not far from Wisden's Hampshire office - in 1997: "In an experienced side, boosted by a successful winter tour to South Africa, Jonny Wilkinson continued his outstanding form, although his rugby commitments with England Under-18 and Newcastle prevented him from playing in more than seven games. He left the school with 85 wickets to his name." After England won the rugby World Cup in 2003 the school was temporarily renamed (unofficially) "Lord Wilkinson College".

John Cleese
While at Bristol's Clifton College the future actor and comedian Cleese was quite a handy bowler, who once dismissed Denis Compton in the school's annual match against MCC. That didn't make it into Wisden, but his performances against Tonbridge at Lord's did: in 1957, JM Cleese made 13 not out in both innings, but failed to take a wicket in nine overs, then the following year he was out for a duck and again failed to strike with the ball - but did take a catch. Michael Palin, Cleese's fellow Monty Python star, had to wait a little longer for his Lord's moment: he gave a well-received speech at the launch dinner for the 150th Almanack in 2013.

Harold Wilson
An earlier speaker at a Wisden function was Wilson, the future prime minister (whose interest in cricket was, I have to confess, news to me). In 1950 he spoke at a lunch celebrating the centenary of John Wisden & Co., and regaled those present with an account of some recent trade talks in Moscow. During a break, the English delegation apparently attempted an impromptu game of cricket in some nearby woods - but an undercover policeman was not keen on such a dangerous pastime. Mr Wilson explained: "I persuaded him, after some negotiation, to take up his position at square leg, out of the way of even my bowling."

A man dressed as a cigarette
Wisden 2008 reported on an unusual interruption in Surrey's match against Bradford/Leeds UCCE at The Oval the previous April: "Play was held up when a man dressed as a cigarette walked behind the bowler's arm, forcing the announcer to ask 'Would the cigarette please sit down?' The miscreant had been engaged to promote Surrey's smoking ban."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013