IN HIS never-ending search for teams with a certain difference, GEOFF POULTER lines up a team of hearty diners who also happened to play cricket pretty well:
YOU don’t see too many overweight Test cricketers these days. Fitness regimes are too demanding. They’re too professional and full on to spend a lot of time tucking into a banquet or hitting the fizz in a big way – with all the preparation required. A responsibility to present oneself in pristine condition no matter what one’s original shape.
But that was not always the case. Back in the day, as they say in the classics, cricket was a little more leisurely pastime and one could carry a bulge or two and not be frowned upon. After all it was basically amateur compared to today’s cracking pay rates.
Me pontificating about the days of overweight cricketers? Talk about the Poulter calling the kettle black! But down through the ages there have been plenty of fine, portly (oxymoronic?) cricketers, some even bordering on the obese, by today’s standards, most merely enjoying the good life. How about a team of Test cricketers, some a little podgy, which would hold its own against any team going around in any era?
Dashing England opener Colin Milburn averaged 46.71 in nine Tests before he lost an eye in a car crash. Partner in this team MCC (Colin) Cowdrey played 114 Tests (average 44.06) and was an excellent slipper, often placing a catch deftly in his pocket and peering quickly to third man to try to confuse the crowd. He was known in some quarters as “The Pear”.
Queenslander Peter Burge was a big man and powerful hitter while Mike Gatting (79 Tests), at one stage looked a Henry VIII double. Pakistani Inzamam-ul-Haq was a larger-than-life figure who averaged 51.24 in 111 Tests. Needless to say, “Inzi” wasn’t the fastest between wickets but he was a craftsman with the bat. Sir Lankan Arjuna Ranatunga (5,105 runs in 93 Tests at 35.69), short and squat, is next in the order.
At No 7 in our team is Warwick Armstrong known as “The Big Ship”, all 22 stone of him. He gathered 2,863 runs in 56 Tests at 38.68 and took 87 wickets at 33. He was captain in the Aussies unbeaten 1920 tour of England. In one Test, at the fall of a wicket, he grabbed a newspaper blowing across the ground, and lay down to peruse it. Asked later what he was reading, he impishly replied: “I was trying to find out who we were playing.”
Ian Botham who was, and still is, known as “Beefy” snared 383 wickets at 28.4 and made 5,200 runs at 33.54. At one stage Shane Warne was no “Twiggy” while a baked beans order for a tour of the sub-Continent may well be an irrelevant aside. Merv Hughes was on the heavy side in his early days.
No 11 is Eddie Hemmings, the Englishman who toured here as a veteran and was the subject of a labelled pig that was let loose on the SCG in a prank during a one-day international. Our 12th man would have to be Queensland’s Greg Ritchie, nicknamed “Fat Cat”, just ahead of Tasmanian stalwart David Boon.
Hence the all-time well-fed side is: C Milburn, C Cowdrey, P Burge, M Gatting, Inzamam-ul-Haq, A Ranatunga, W Armstrong, I Botham, S Warne, M Hughes, E Hemmings. 12th man: G Ritchie.
GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!