Thursday, November 24, 2016

Team of Oddballs

Everyone’s been so blinded by the inclusion of four British Asians (Moen Ali, Haseeb Hameed, Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari) into the English test team, that they’ve missed one little gem.

Among the other members of the squad is a six foot medium pacer and batsman by the name Jacob Timothy Ball. Jake has an elder brother – Jonathan Joseph Ball. He is an off-spinner who plays for Nottinghamshire. Together they are the Balls of England.

If that tickled you, you must savour some of the quirkiest names in the pommie cricketing history. My first exhibit is a left-arm bowler named Edward William Bastard. Apparently, one critic who thought he was undeserving to play for Oxford University, may have coined the term ‘Lucky Bastard’. Another fascinating county cricketer is Christopher Beech. Rumour has it that whenever he notches a poor score for his team Staffordshire, his mates refer to him as ‘Son of a Beech’. Harry Butt had similar problems. He was the wicketkeeper for Sussex for nearly 20 years. A dropped catch or missed stumping made him the Butt of all ridicule.

One can only blame the mockery on the surname. Charles Allcock, the right hand batsman who donned the jersey of Cambridge University in the 1880s, would have certainly vouched for it. When he was going through a lean patch, he must have been introduced as ‘Meet Charles. He’s all cock’.

Two test players of yore, Leslie Gay and Arthur Fagg, would have faced a lot of ribbing had they been born in our times. I can imagine a Tony Greig screaming, ‘Got it, got it, Faggot it!’ It would have been even more difficult to fill the large shoes of elegant batsman Joe Hardstaff (played from 1930 to 1955). His captains couldn’t have resisted the urge to slip in a cheeky ‘Hard on or not?’ query during team selection meetings.

Cheesy double entendres aside, for every Ryan Sidebottom, there’s a family friendly name like Christopher Batchelor. But I’ve always wondered if Batchelor only dealt in singles.

A popular anecdote among cricket buffs concerns a county game between Kent and Durham in 2007. The bowler was Graham Onions and the batsman Simon Cook. When Cook nicked one to the keeper, the scoreboard read: Cook c Mustard b Onions. One could have easily mistaken that for a MasterChef moment. Let me sign off with a delightful piece of trivia. Charles Marriott and Malcolm Hilton have played tests for England. With a Marriott and Hilton, you can’t get more five star, can you?