Don't marry a cricketer, 2003

Cricket and marriage: a few glimpses



Love, Ricky: Ponting blows his wife, Rianna, a kiss after getting to 200 at Adelaide in 2003 © Getty Images
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"Playing for England can seriously damage your wedlock." - Mike Walters, Daily Mirror, 2002

The record for the Test cricketer with the most marriages is believed to be shared by two players: Bill Edrich, the England batsman of the 1940s, and Hugh Tayfield, the South African offspinner of the 1950s, with five each.

Dr Roy Park played his only Test for Australia at Melbourne in 1920-21, as a replacement for the injured Charles Macartney. Legend has it that Park's wife dropped her knitting as he faced his first ball, bent down to pick it up, and missed his entire Test career - he was bowled by Harry Howell, and never played again.

Leslie Hylton, a Jamaican fast bowler who played six Tests for West Indies in the 1930s, shot his wife Lurline dead in 1954 after she admitted to adultery. Hylton was sentenced to death and hanged in Jamaica in May 1955. Australia were touring the West Indies, and when the Jamaican opener JK Holt followed a run of low scores by dropping two catches in the Test at Bridgetown, a placard urged "Save Hylton, hang Holt."

Contrasting views from the mid-1970s on whether wives should go on tour are recorded in A Century of Cricket Quotations, by David Hopps. "It is no more the place for them than a trench on the Somme," wrote John Woodcock in the Times. "Wives and families must never tour again," said Keith Miller, the former Australian star (referring to England in 1974-75). But Alan Knott, one of England's greatest wicket-keepers, said in 1977: "I have played my best cricket when I have been with my wife."

In 1986, the lid was lifted on life in the England camp by a bestselling book - Another Bloody Tour by Frances Edmonds, wife of the slow left-armer Phil. As Frances's fame grew, the Australian wicketkeeper Tim Zoehrer reputedly said to Phil as he batted in a Test: "At least I have an identity. You're only Frances Edmonds' husband."

In November 1999, Steve Waugh's wife Lynette showed signs of going into labour in Sydney as Australia were rounding off a Test win over Pakistan in Brisbane. Quizzed about it, Waugh replied: "Once you guys stop asking questions, I'm in with a chance of getting home." His son Austin was born two days later. Back at Brisbane in November 2002, ahead of the Ashes, Steve was joined in the nets by Austin, now three. In between, while playing for Kent in 2002, Waugh broke off from an interview to sing "Happy Birthday" down the phone to his one-year-old daughter, Lilian.

The first cricketer to be given proper paternity leave is thought to be Jonty Rhodes, who was allowed to miss South Africa's tour of India in 2000 (the one on which his friend Hansie Cronje was overheard by the police) for the birth of his first child. "Jonty has always kept his priorities straight," said his wife Kate. "God and myself before cricket."

In 2002, Australia's one-day captain Ricky Ponting, 27, married Rianna Cantor, a 23-year-old law student, in Sydney. His father, Graeme, said Rianna was "a very special woman" who had helped give Ricky the maturity to lead the national team. A hundred guests dined on oysters and Tasmanian champagne at a reception paid for by a women's magazine in exchange for exclusive access. The couple had met at a Melbourne restaurant on Boxing Day 2000. "I had no idea who he was," Rianna said. "I hate cricket with a passion."

© John Wisden & Co