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With England in the midst of an arduous series in India, habitually a difficult place to tour for less gastronomically adventurous souls, this is a good time to look at some food-related cricketing stories, starting - where else? - with an excuse for a poor tour of India…
As idiosyncratic an administrator as he was dashing a middle-order strokeplayer, "Lord" Ted Dexter's tenure as England chairman of selectors was never dull. Take the Madras Test in 1993, on the eve of which several members the England squad dined on prawns (Chinese style, not Madras), skipper Graham Gooch waking up dizzy and nauseous and having to sit out the game. Having blamed the loss of the first Test in Calcutta on smog, now it was the "dodgy prawns" what done it, officer.
When a team-mate insists you be blindfolded if you wish to pop round for a cuppa tea (and with Jack Russell having a 20-a-day habit, often with the same teabag, there's a pretty good chance he'd have a brew on), it's safe to assume you're in the presence of eccentricity. The Gloucester and England gloveman packed suitcases of baked beans for trips to Asia and ate chicken cashew five nights straight in Perth (without the cashews), but it was insistence that his lunchtime Weetabix were soaked for exactly eight minutes - how else do you eat them? - that suggests his fridge is light on sushi, foie gras, ostrich steaks and oysters.
In 2007, an Indian team that had long since cast off its diffidence played out a tetchy series in England, the nadir of which came at Trent Bridge when England's close fielders famously welcomed the incoming Zaheer Khan by sprinkling jellybeans on a length. An unamused Zaheer first remonstrated with Kevin Pietersen (and not because he preferred fruit pastilles) before the umpires intervened. Alastair Cook and Matt Prior were prime suspects, but it later emerged that the culprit was angel-faced Ian Bell.
What might be found on a length for a subcontinental batsman - at least if a famous sledge by Ian Healy is anything to go by - is a Mars bar, especially when a crease-bound Arjuna Ranatunga is defying the best efforts of Shane Warne to remove him on a turning pitch in Sri Lanka. With bowler wondering what might tempt batsman down the pitch, Healy, never shy of an acerbic quip, suggested they should "Put a Mars bar on a length. That ought to do it". (Eddo Brandes' biscuits fall into this category, too.)
In Graeme Swann's autobiography, The Breaks Are Off, he recounts how Luke Wright and Stuart Broad went down with food poisoning in the build-up to the Stanford $20m T20 match in Antigua. They were excused training, as was Samit Patel when he too "claimed" the same ailment. However, returning from practice that evening "we spotted him coming back from the hotel shop with two dozen Bounty bars. 'I've been so ill, I can't keep anything else down,' he explained. 'The only thing that will stay down are these things.' So there you are - if you ever have horrendous food poisoning, or even a hangover, try it; apparently it's the way forward".
Called "Banger" because of a childhood love of sausages, Marcus Trescothick's ball supervision and the properties of his saliva were at the centre of England finally overturning 18 years of cap-doffing to the baggy green. It was later revealed that the sugary residue from sucking Murray Mints had been crucial in allowing England to swing the ball - not only conventionally but also "Irish" as it was called by the procession of Aussie batsmen dumbfounded by Troy Cooley's Fab Four: Harmison and Hoggard in the rhythm section; Fred Flintoff and Simon Jones as John and Paul.
Famously dubbed "the bank clerk who went to war" after being plucked from an unspectacular county career in 1975 to repel the pace barrage of Lillee and Thomson, the silver-haired, bespectacled David Steele is without doubt the most unlikely winner of the BBC's prestigious Sports Personality of the Year Award. Equally unlikely was the carnivorous coup he pulled off for his benefit that same year, persuading a Northampton abattoir to give him a lamb chop for every run he scored up to 50, and steaks thereafter. He finished with a banquet-facilitating 1756 slabs of prime cut that took three years to get through.
With today's hi-tech sporting apparel simultaneously able to keep you cool when it's warm and warm when it's cool, safe to say cricket kit has evolved a fair bit from the era when wicketkeepers would place raw meat in their gloves to protect their hands from a day-long pummelling from the pacemen. The practice is believed to have started with South Africa's Ernest Halliwell at the turn of the century and carried right through to the twin Kentish geniuses, Godfrey Evans and Alan Knott.
Beefy and Lamby's stew
Whoever it was that suggested to England's middle-order batting butchers that they take the meaty theme of their nicknames and turn it into a brand had quite possibly been on a heavy drinking session with the carousing compadres. Nevertheless, a TV advertising campaign was launched featuring animated Botham and Lamb, risqué meat-based puns and Henry Blofeld's plummy voice over. The food? We are reliably informed that it was hearty fare.
Impassive and imperturbable for much of his career - notwithstanding the odd sit-in or rule-changing run-out - Inzamam-ul-Haq cracked one day during a meaningless ODI against India in Toronto. Having been barracked incessantly about his none-too-svelte physique by a megaphone-wielding expat Indian in the stands, he waded in with a bat that had strangely appeared at third man. The trigger word was aloo, which, of course, means potato in both Hindi and Urdu. It was never confirmed whether or not the spectator was mashed.
Once a staple of the English diet, rhubarb had long been out of fashion and was thought to be going the same way as quince, turtle soup, and stodgy opening batsmen. Edible both sweet and sour, this versatile species is evidently a more than useful substitute for a cricket bat should you come across a popgun bowling attack - indeed, when Geoffrey Boycott (born just outside Yorkshire's Rhubarb Triangle, source of 90% of the world's winter crop) wasn't taking catches in "me mother's pinny" he was playing bowling "wi' a stick o' rooo-barb".
Scott Oliver tweets here
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