June 10, 2013

Vote for me and I'll bat for you

With Pakistan's new prime minister Nawaz Sharif being a former first-class cricketer and Imran Khan in the opposition, it's time for another look at cricketers with a passing interest in politics and politicians who were fans of the game
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Alec Douglas-Home
The only British prime minister to have played first-class cricket, Lord Dunglass (as he then was) took part in ten matches in the 1920s, including two for Middlesex and some on an MCC tour of South America. Gubby Allen, the England captain who was a schoolmate at Eton, thought him a useful swing bowler. In 1966, not long after his year as prime minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home was president of MCC.

Arjuna Ranatunga
The long-serving Sri Lankan captain Ranatunga was a great talker out on the pitch, and it was no great surprise when on retirement he followed his father Reggie - a government minister - into politics. Ranatunga, who led his country to World Cup success in 1996, recently had a spell as Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister for Tourism.

Sanath Jayasuriya
One of Ranatunga's team-mates in that World Cup-winning side, Jayasuriya later joined his captain in parliament too: he became an MP for his native Matara in 2010. There was much muttering - not least from the other players - when ministerial pressure brought about Jayasuriya's return to the national team for the one-day section of the 2011 tour of England: Jayasuriya nearly demonstrated the diplomatic skills he would need in his new career by announcing he would retire for good after the first one-dayer at Lord's.

Wes Hall
Probably the scariest sight for a Test batsman in the 1960s was Hall tearing in, gold crucifix glinting, ready to unleash another bouncer. He took 192 Test wickets, and has kept himself occupied since he retired: he served in both the Barbados Senate and its House of Assembly, and became the island's minister for tourism in 1987. Later he became the Reverend Wes when he was ordained as a church minister, and Sir Wes when he was knighted in 2012.

CB Fry
The multi-talented Charles Burgess Fry played cricket and football for England, good-class rugby, once equalled the world long-jump record, and was also reputedly offered the throne of Albania. In between this, running a naval academy and publishing a sporting magazine, Fry somehow found time for three attempts to enter parliament. All were unsuccessful, but only narrowly.

Ed Balls
Currently the Shadow Chancellor, and a Cabinet minister in the previous Labour administration, the well-padded Balls stood behind the stumps for the Lords and Commons (the British parliamentary team) in a match at Lord's in 2011. He didn't have much time to strut his stuff, though, as rain soon ended play - but the watching Alec Stewart had seen enough: "More shopkeeper than wicketkeeper," he grunted.

Bob Hawke
The Australian prime minister from 1983 to 1991, Hawke was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in the 1950s, and was reputedly 12th man for the university side, although he never played a first-class match. During a break in talks at a Commonwealth summit meeting in Zimbabwe in 1991 he opened the batting (and got onto the cover of Wisden Cricket Monthly) with...

John Major
Britain's prime minister from 1990 to 1997, Major was a promising player in his youth, but dreams of top-class cricket faded when he injured his knee badly in a plane crash. When the Conservatives' defeat at the 2001 general election was confirmed, Major was watching cricket at The Oval; he later became their president, and served on MCC's committee as well. He has also written a book on the early history of cricket.

Ted Dexter
The stylish Dexter led England in the 1964 Ashes series - but gave up the captaincy to contest a seat in the general election. He lost the vote to Jim Callaghan, who later became prime minister. Dexter joined the winter tour of South Africa late, and never did captain England again.

John Arlott
The legendary broadcaster and commentator Arlott was twice the Liberal candidate for the seat of Epping, in Essex, during general elections in the 1950s. He came in third both times, and presumably decided to stick to cricket. His defeat wasn't entirely surprising, as on the first occasion he could only bring himself to knock on two doors - the first occupant said he was a staunch Labour voter, and the second said, "What election?"

The Australian prime minister
Quite apart from Bob Hawke (see above), several other occupants of Australia's hottest political seat have been what one of them, John Howard, called "cricket tragics". Howard himself flirted with the idea of becoming president of the ICC, only for the Asian countries to block his nomination (he once called Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker, which may not have helped). One of Howard's predecessors, John Curtin, famously observed during a wartime visit to Lord's in 1944 that "Australians will always fight for those 22 yards - Lord's and its traditions belong to Australia just as much as to England." And the long-serving Robert Menzies was also a cricket fan, who resurrected the idea of a Prime Minister's XI (he even persuaded Don Bradman out of retirement to play for him in 1962-63), and apparently tried to ensure that meetings of Commonwealth heads of state "accidentally" coincided with Tests at Lord's.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY DavidthePrez on | June 11, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    There's also the former Australian Federal Defence Minister Ian McLachlan who was 12th man for Australia in a test and played 72 first-class matches for Cambridge University and South Australia between 1956 and 1964, scoring 3743 runs (31.72), with 9 centuries. He's also the current President of the South Australian Cricket Association

  • POSTED BY on | June 12, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Arthur Morris was never an elected politician. However two others of this era DID become long-serving State MPs; Sam Loxton (LIB) Prahran VIC & Gil Langley (ALP) Unley SA. Former Sth African captain Clive Van Ryneveld was a United Party then later Progressive Party member of the Sth African parliament between 1957 & 1961.

  • POSTED BY kc69 on | June 11, 2013, 19:43 GMT

    @Pakcricsta99 : Please read the first line (underneath the title) .But its still funny how did the author miss Indian Cricketers turned politicians such as Azhar,Sidhu etc.

  • POSTED BY on | June 11, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    Sam Loxton's another. Gil Langley. Isn't Mohammad Azharuddin an MP, too, now? Carl Rackemann ran for office and lost.

  • POSTED BY SherraPanjabi on | June 11, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    Please do not forget Great Navjot Sidhu and India is first one hatrick claimer -Chetan Sharma.

  • POSTED BY NeazS on | June 11, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    I think the late Guyanese and West Indies opening batsman, Roy Fredricks, has to be added too. He served as a Minister in the Guyana government following his retirement from Test cricket.

  • POSTED BY on | June 11, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    Imran khan is missing in this list

  • POSTED BY Pakcricsta99 on | June 11, 2013, 4:18 GMT

    They seemed to have forgotten Imran Khan

  • POSTED BY Angry_of_Wembley on | June 11, 2013, 2:39 GMT

    It was actually the then Australian captain Mark Taylor who referred to PM John Howard as "a cricket tragic". Howard never disputed the description...

  • POSTED BY Belarius on | June 11, 2013, 0:14 GMT

    Australian test all rounder Tom Vievers was a member of the Commonwealth parliament for a couple of terms. Ian Mclachlan, a minister in the Howard government played Sheffield Shield for South Australia and was 12th man for Australia for one test.

  • POSTED BY DavidthePrez on | June 11, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    There's also the former Australian Federal Defence Minister Ian McLachlan who was 12th man for Australia in a test and played 72 first-class matches for Cambridge University and South Australia between 1956 and 1964, scoring 3743 runs (31.72), with 9 centuries. He's also the current President of the South Australian Cricket Association

  • POSTED BY on | June 12, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Arthur Morris was never an elected politician. However two others of this era DID become long-serving State MPs; Sam Loxton (LIB) Prahran VIC & Gil Langley (ALP) Unley SA. Former Sth African captain Clive Van Ryneveld was a United Party then later Progressive Party member of the Sth African parliament between 1957 & 1961.

  • POSTED BY kc69 on | June 11, 2013, 19:43 GMT

    @Pakcricsta99 : Please read the first line (underneath the title) .But its still funny how did the author miss Indian Cricketers turned politicians such as Azhar,Sidhu etc.

  • POSTED BY on | June 11, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    Sam Loxton's another. Gil Langley. Isn't Mohammad Azharuddin an MP, too, now? Carl Rackemann ran for office and lost.

  • POSTED BY SherraPanjabi on | June 11, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    Please do not forget Great Navjot Sidhu and India is first one hatrick claimer -Chetan Sharma.

  • POSTED BY NeazS on | June 11, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    I think the late Guyanese and West Indies opening batsman, Roy Fredricks, has to be added too. He served as a Minister in the Guyana government following his retirement from Test cricket.

  • POSTED BY on | June 11, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    Imran khan is missing in this list

  • POSTED BY Pakcricsta99 on | June 11, 2013, 4:18 GMT

    They seemed to have forgotten Imran Khan

  • POSTED BY Angry_of_Wembley on | June 11, 2013, 2:39 GMT

    It was actually the then Australian captain Mark Taylor who referred to PM John Howard as "a cricket tragic". Howard never disputed the description...

  • POSTED BY Belarius on | June 11, 2013, 0:14 GMT

    Australian test all rounder Tom Vievers was a member of the Commonwealth parliament for a couple of terms. Ian Mclachlan, a minister in the Howard government played Sheffield Shield for South Australia and was 12th man for Australia for one test.

  • POSTED BY JasOberoi on | June 10, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    How can you not mention Sachin and Azharuddin?

  • POSTED BY MarkFozzle on | June 10, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia, was umpire at the first international cricket riot (i.e. the Sydney Riot of 1879).

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 21:20 GMT

    Major was 1997 Election Steven...!

  • POSTED BY Thomas_Ratnam on | June 10, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    I believe Sri Lanka's (Ceylon in those days) Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake in the 50s and 60s was a Cambridge Blue.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 16:59 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar is a Member of Parliament (Upper House), India.

  • POSTED BY real_gone_gadd on | June 10, 2013, 16:39 GMT

    what cloudmess said...

    I too thought that Imran would right at the top of the list, along with Sachin.

  • POSTED BY nafzak on | June 10, 2013, 16:37 GMT

    Sir. Viv Richards is still "KING VIV" last time I checked. Does that count :)

  • POSTED BY kangaz on | June 10, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    Roy Fredericks was a minister in the Guyana government. Vance Amory who played for the Combined Islands in the West Indies is the premier of Nevis. Dr. Keith Mitchell, who also played for the Combined Islands id the Prime Minister of Grenada.

  • POSTED BY P.B.Mohan on | June 10, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    Let us also not forget Sir Francis Stanley Jackson who captained England to victory against Australia in 1905, headed the batting and bowling average and also won all five tosses for good measure. He later served as the Governor of Bengal and survived a assassination attempt with the nonchalant comment, "Not as bad as facing Ernest Jones in '99"; Deuce Fast", recalling the Aussie paceman's performance in the 1899 Ashes series- P.B.Mohan

  • POSTED BY fleetwood-smith on | June 10, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Former great Australian opening bat and 'Invincible' Arthur Morris was an MP for some time I believe

  • POSTED BY ditsdad on | June 10, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Michael Manley, Jamaican Politician and Prime Minister during 1972-80, and 1989-1992 belongs on the list. He wrote A History of West Indies Cricket.

  • POSTED BY arvin on | June 10, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    writer should have done some homework before writing this or maybe he is biased... some of the most famous cricketer turned politicians are not even mentioned... azhar /sidhu/kirti azad/chetan chauhan all are current or former MP's of india... writer completely ignored sharad pawar... one of most powerful politician in india and also until recently most powerful person of world cricket...

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    Another well-respected commentator and writer who was involved in politics was Alan Gibson. He also stood for Parliament for the Liberal Party, like John Arlott. In his case, it was in Falmouth at the 1959 General Election.

  • POSTED BY Murad400 on | June 10, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    Guys read the title paragraph, "With Pakistan's new prime minister Nawaz Sharif being a former first-class cricketer and Imran Khan in the opposition, it's time for another look at cricketers with a passing interest in politics and politicians who were fans of the game". Steven already mentioned Imran Khan there, and we already have plenty of article on Imran Khan, he has actually targeted those names which is not famous in cricketing world, but i am shocked to not seen one of biggest names like Sidhu, Azharuddin, Sarfaraz and Kirti.

  • POSTED BY nursery_ender on | June 10, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    Given that the article is supposed to be about cricketers with a 'passing' interest in politics or politicians who are 'fans' of cricket it's perfectly reasonable to exclude Imran as he has made a full career out of both.

  • POSTED BY smudgeon on | June 10, 2013, 8:57 GMT

    Anytime I feel down, I just look up "John Howard bowling" on Youtube. That second, mystery ball STILL hasn't been located. Some say the batsman facing Little Johnny suffers nightmares to this day...

  • POSTED BY Seek2Meet on | June 10, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Why Imran got so brief description here? He was among the best captains of history who brought World cup with an average team. After retirement he entered politics and struggled for 15 years and now he form a government in one of Pakistan's 4 provinces.

  • POSTED BY cloudmess on | June 10, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    John Major was injured in a car crash; and he lost the 1997 not 2001 election.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Where are Md Azharuddin, Kirti Azad, Navjot Sidhu, Imran Khan ??

  • POSTED BY SudhyNair on | June 10, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    Kirti Azad, Navjot Singh Siddhu....

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    Sarfraz Nawaz - retired in December 1984 to contest the general election and entered the parliament. He contested again in 1988 but lost.

    Fazal Mahmood did so in 1990 but lost.

    The game in which John Major and Bob Hawke opened the innings was lit up by a blistering display of batting by Nawaz Sharif who hit some massive straight sixes. Nawaz Sharif, at the time, had been playing regular weekend cricket at the Bagh-e-Jinnnah Cricket Ground.

  • POSTED BY TATTUs on | June 10, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    Notable absentees are Md Azharuddin, Imran Khan, Navjot Sidhu, Kirti Azad etc. TENDULKAR is NOT A POLITICIAN. He is NOMINATED member. Thats different from a politician.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 5:31 GMT

    Many are mentioning Imran Khan. If you read the very first paragraph again, you'll notice that he IS mentioned there. However, it is revealing to me how little cricketers of the past are remembered as politicians when people have to keep bringing up Sachin's name as a politician. He's only a honorary politician, and while there have been others that have served, some, perhaps, haven't been quite as prominent as the ones mentioned above. And notice that these are all more or less prominent politicians. Bob Hawke never played a first class match (as stated), yet he's in there because he's prominent. John Howard also never played a first class match, yet was Australia's most prominent cricket tragic for 11 years.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    No Imran... priceless article!

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 5:19 GMT

    Can't believe that the all-knowing Steven Lynch missed out on so many prominent cricketer-politicians from India. Instead many names are mentioned who were not even 1st class cricketers, or won any election.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Tendulkar is not in politics. Prominent members of public are nominated for a few reserved seats in Rajya Sabha ( Upper House). Calling Tendulkar a politician will mean so is Lata Mangeshkar, Bismillah Khan and many other cultural icons.

  • POSTED BY degiant on | June 10, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Who made this list ? The first two should be Imran Khan and Learie Constantine.

  • POSTED BY D-Ascendant on | June 10, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    You also forget Robert Mugabe, a cricket fan. "Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen," he said in Feb. 1984.

  • POSTED BY ToTellUTheTruth on | June 10, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Where is Mohammad Azharudding, Kirti Azad on this list? And for that matter, how about the little matter of SRT?

  • POSTED BY ras on | June 10, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    I think you have missed Kirti Azad, who is a prominent politician now-a-days. He has been MP for several years, and if I remember correctly was even a junior minister.

  • POSTED BY Testcricfan on | June 10, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    few others who I know were/ are active politicians involved earlier with Cricket: Sachin Tendulkar,Kirti Azad, Navjot Sidhu, Mohammad Azharuddin, Chetan Chauhan, Manoj Prabhakar, Hashan Tillakaratne,Frank Worrell.

  • POSTED BY janjuaz on | June 10, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    The one more successful than all of the above mentioned - in both arenas of cricket and politics - IMRAN KHAN, deserves the first spot on this list. The most revered captain of all times shall become the most revered 21st century leader of Pakistan.

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    WOW, I can't believe you forgot Imran Khan. He is de facto chief Minister of a province in Pakistan and with his charisma have changed the political dynamics of the country, for ever.

  • POSTED BY rangaram on | June 10, 2013, 3:51 GMT

    Navajot Singh Siddhu is a member of Parliament in India for about 10 years

  • POSTED BY rv.subbu on | June 10, 2013, 3:49 GMT

    Didn't Roy Fredericks serve as a minister in the government?

  • POSTED BY IndiaGoats on | June 10, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    This is the first time I am disappointed with one of Steven's lists. How about Kirti Azad, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin? Why is Imran Khan not in the list?

  • POSTED BY IndiaGoats on | June 10, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    This is the first time I am disappointed with one of Steven's lists. How about Kirti Azad, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin? Why is Imran Khan not in the list?

  • POSTED BY rv.subbu on | June 10, 2013, 3:49 GMT

    Didn't Roy Fredericks serve as a minister in the government?

  • POSTED BY rangaram on | June 10, 2013, 3:51 GMT

    Navajot Singh Siddhu is a member of Parliament in India for about 10 years

  • POSTED BY on | June 10, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    WOW, I can't believe you forgot Imran Khan. He is de facto chief Minister of a province in Pakistan and with his charisma have changed the political dynamics of the country, for ever.

  • POSTED BY janjuaz on | June 10, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    The one more successful than all of the above mentioned - in both arenas of cricket and politics - IMRAN KHAN, deserves the first spot on this list. The most revered captain of all times shall become the most revered 21st century leader of Pakistan.

  • POSTED BY Testcricfan on | June 10, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    few others who I know were/ are active politicians involved earlier with Cricket: Sachin Tendulkar,Kirti Azad, Navjot Sidhu, Mohammad Azharuddin, Chetan Chauhan, Manoj Prabhakar, Hashan Tillakaratne,Frank Worrell.

  • POSTED BY ras on | June 10, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    I think you have missed Kirti Azad, who is a prominent politician now-a-days. He has been MP for several years, and if I remember correctly was even a junior minister.

  • POSTED BY ToTellUTheTruth on | June 10, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Where is Mohammad Azharudding, Kirti Azad on this list? And for that matter, how about the little matter of SRT?

  • POSTED BY D-Ascendant on | June 10, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    You also forget Robert Mugabe, a cricket fan. "Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen," he said in Feb. 1984.

  • POSTED BY degiant on | June 10, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Who made this list ? The first two should be Imran Khan and Learie Constantine.