Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 2, 2011

Cricket Time Machine

So if you had one, what would you dial up and who would you watch? Recently, following the superb county cricket blog at where conversation is apt to wander, I found myself contemplating the that question and came up with these men.

That grip (click on it for a close-up). I believe the mots justes are WTF.

First choice, miles ahead of anyone else – SF Barnes. How did he do the things he did? Why didn’t anyone else? Could anybody be that bolshie? What were the reactions of opponents? Of team-mates? Would today’s video analysts have worked him out? Was it better to attack or defend; play forward or back; knock him off a length? Who of today’s bowlers could bowl his variety of deliveries?

Second choice – DR Jardine. How did he behave in the field? What was the crowd’s reaction to him and his to the crowd? How did he command the total loyalty of the working class pros but gain the enmity of many of those of his own class amongst the amateurs and administrators? How did he deploy his riches of fast bowling talent? How did he behave off the field, in public and in private? (As an aside, how would the Bodyline Tour play out today? Same tactics, same scorecards, same players – an exact rerun (as if replayed by 22 Pierre Menards) – but with today’s media, Twitter and with the knowledge of the West Indies attack of the 80s? There’s a book there – perhaps).

Third Choice – Frank Tyson. Fearfully fast, but an intellectual, fitting the stereotype of the amateur batsman more than the professional speedster. What made him so quick? Why was so strong a man so fragile? How did he fit into a dressing room still divided between gentlemen and players? How did he tour – presumably not complaining of having done the poverty and the elephants?

Fourth choice – Clarrie Grimmett. How would he measure up against Warne? What did he learn in all those years before getting his chance in Test cricket? How did he keep going under the Australian sun well into middle-age? What would he say about today’s spinners, especially this week’s Australian pick (or next week’s, or last week’s)?

Fifth choice – Frank Worrell. How did he cope with the extraordinary changes underway in West Indian politics and society which he, to some extent, exemplified? How did he fashion such widespread love and respect? How did he play under that pressure and still deliver such fantastic performances? What would he have thought of the imperious West Indies sides that followed his, teams he never saw having been so cruelly taken from us at the age of 42 FFS!

Sixth choice – SK Warne. Yep – I know. I saw a lot of him anyway, but knowing what we know now, how good would it be to watch the whole career, every ball, the ups and downs, the batsmen spun out, the batsmen talked out and the umpires worn (or is that warne) out one more time? Or twice. Or thrice…

If Dr Faustus is at a loose end and wants to offer me these six wishes in return for my soul, I’m listening.


  1. Nice idea.

    Instead of Warne, who is one of not many cricketers I’ve seen beating us far too much, I’d go to see something my generation will always have to go without – a Viv Richards masterclass. Because I simply have to know what you lot are on about, and I get the impression I just had to be there.

    Like your choices, especially the bowling. But when I saw the idea I thought captaincy was a bit of a misuse of the time machine – surely you’d be going back to watch a performance or two, rather than the narrative of a career?

    On that front, I’ll sub out Jardine and Worrell and add in two of my favourite old-school players (that once again, I think had to be seen to be believed): Victor Trumper and Keith Miller.

    • I like Trumper and Miller and I’d be tempted by Jessop.

      I’d love to watch those captains run a team over a series or two.

      Viv was quite a sight, but you do see a lot of imitators these days – the original was still the best though.

  2. I like it Gary!! Tough choice this one, but here I go anyway …

    Sir Donald Bradman – I simply have to see this man who, albeit in a different era, has a record that is so far superior to any other who has played the game.

    Rohan Kanhai – I have heard so many people wax lyrical about the man after whom I was named, a man who no less than my father idolised. He seems to have invented shots that belonged to another era.

    Sir Garfield Sobers – again, I was slightly too young to see him in action but have heard so much about him and his record and reputation are beyond question.

    Barry Richards – the man who they feel would have broken every record in Test Match cricket. I saw the brilliant Pollock, and would love to see how great this man was.

    Malcolm Denzil Marshall – he remains in my thoughts and prayers every day, the biggest inspiration that I have had in this wonderful game, certainly the most complete fast bowler I have ever seen, in an era where there have been many.

    George Headley – Atlas, The Black Bradman – the first true great of West Indian cricket. As with The Don himself, I just need to see it for myself.

    I apologise for a West Indian slant, but I suppose it is our cricketing history upon which I was brought up. Thanks for a great post.


    • Cheers Rohan. Again I can’t argue with any of those.

      I did see Richards get a ton for Hampshire and my memory was that he made the game look easy. Gordon Greenidge was up the other end – and he could play! – but there was a fleetness of foot and a shap of the bat that was absent with Richards. He was like a right-handed Gower with a tighter technique.

      I had George Headley in at first, then subbed him out for Sir Frank because of the extraordinary times through which he lived his short life and his enduring legacy.

      I saw a lot of MD Marshall in real life and on telly – he could do it all. If they had the cameras now to focus on his wrist at release, his working of the crease and a Hawkeye dataset to reveal his variations through the air and off the seam, pace bowling coaches would have nothing left to do.

  3. As a Lancashire lad, I would love to go back and watch Brian Statham, often the overlooked English paceman of the era, to see if 1) he was that fast and accurate and 2) if he was as affable in the face of his talent as has been written.

    Again as a Lanky, Cyril Washbrook. I would relish seeing how he operated with the formidable Len Hutton. How did the partnership work?

    Keith Miller – a physical specimen, talent and man of rare type

    Everton Weekes – often the last remembered of the “Three Ws”. Particularly want see his 141 in the face of being booed by his own fans at Kingston. Averaged nearly 59, yet is often in the shadow of Messrs Walcott & Worrell.

    Malcolm Marshall – I saw him as a kid in the gloaming of his career and he was still the best fast bowler I’ve ever seen. To see him up close in his prime would be something.

    • Yes Lee – seeing how the social classes and inter-county rivalries played out in an England side that truly mixed up men who would otherwise only have met in a trench at Passchendaele would be revealing. Everton Weekes had some runs of form didn’t he?

  4. Having thought of this for several years now…here is my rehearsed list

    KS Ranjitshingji
    MAK Pataudi
    Lala Amarnath
    Douglas Jardine
    Wes Hall

    • Ranji is a helluva call. A batting innovator, a man of one country in another, of Empire and not of Empire and a supreme stylist to boot. Is that the Nawab with sight only in one eye – Tiger Pataudi? I’d have loved watching him too, before and after the accident (I think it was).

      • yes, the Pataudi with one good eye. Son of the man after whom the Pataudi trophy is named. His father played 3 tests for Eng and 3 for India.

  5. Not particular players but the last day of the tied test WI v Aus. I’d love to have been there for that.

    • It’s yours Lou and you’ve five more pulls of the handle.

      • There is a whole other post in that idea TT, maybe next week?

      • That match mentioned below – the WA v Qld one. I actually listened to some of that on the radio at home when I was a teenager. That was when you could listen to domestic cricket all the time.

        Must have been a doozy of a match to be at.

        Oval 1948 the first innings with Lindwall firing and England scattered for 52. I haven’t read many cricket bios but I have read Lindwall’s. I like quicks and he had an idiosyncratic style.

        Michael Holding at the Oval as well.

        And probably some of the bodyline just to watch the quick bowling there.

  6. Ah, good questions…

    Barnes for the reasons you cite, Bradman for the reasons Rohan did.

    Spofforth, to see how quick he really was.

    Trumper and Woolley, probably the highest rated stylists from the golden age. (Tempted to have Hobbs here, but alas).

    And John Bart King, partly because he was genuinely great, and partly to know how good US cricket could be in the early 20thC.

    • Couple of additional comments:

      On Barnes Bolshie-ness too, you have to admire the talent of a player who quit f/c cricket for more money in a league cricket a hundred years before the IPL, and yet was still considered too good to leave out of the test side (when he wasn’t rubbing the captain up the wrong way).

      JB King brings to mind a bunch of players who are under-rated from smaller countries: Learie Constantine (another league star), Aubrey Faulkner, Bert Sutcliffe, and if we are transporting cricketers to a better time, Basil D’Oliveira, who was almost pensionable before he made his f/c debut.

  7. There are so many to choose from, some mentioned above and others not. Here are six of mine, but really you could perm any number from the 2000 or so players who have played Test cricket:

    Harold ‘Dainty’ Ironmonger – I’ve been fascinated for years by the story of the three-fingered spinner and would’ve loved to see how he really did manage to bowl with that mangled hand (even taking into account the resin in his pocket).

    EM Grace – The second most famous Grace who was reportedly an even better player than his brother, but preferred his medical career and other pursuits to cricket

    Maharajah of Vizianagram – ‘Vizi’ was reportedly the worst player ever to lead an international side. I’d love to know just how bad he was

    Archie Jackson – He was reportedly an even better batsman than Bradman. His early death meant that we never found out whether he was. It would be fascinating to see him play.

    Dr Roy Park – Just to see his only ball in Test cricket, and see what his wife reputedly missed

    Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine – bowling in tandem together. Not the original spin twins by any mean, but at what other time in history did the West Indies have two great spin bowlers?

    • I thought about Archie Jackson. His story is so sad, so poignant, especially with Bradman about to be Bradman.

  8. Clarrie Grimmett is a distant relative of mine so I would love to have seen him bowl, in tandem wirth O’Reilly even.

    Trumper. Was he better than Bradman as some said? This article presents a case:

    Ranji leg glancing his way to a century.

    Alfred Mynn tonking a few and bowling his roundarmers.

    Frank Tyson as well, he was the fastest Benaud ever saw.

    Keith Miller, post Messerschmitts up his ass.

    • I’d like to have seen Miller – I’d have liked to go off on the town with him even more.

  9. Gary,

    You’ve seen my six elsewhere, and most (if not all) have been mentioned already by your illustrious guests:

    Barnes, The Greatest
    Hobbs, The Master
    Spofforth, The Demon
    McCabe, The Scrapper, and The Man Bradman Wanted To Be
    Headley, per Rohan above, Atlas, The Black Bradman
    Compton, The Dasher

    The next six on my shortlist were Ranji, Lohmann, Worrell (though any W would do!), RG Pollock, Barry Richards, and WG.

    Great, great post, sir.

    • Thanks Mac. Lohmann is a good call – how did he do that?

  10. FWIW here’s my 6:

    Verity taking seven wickets on the last day of first-class cricket before the 2nd World War.

    Wardle bowling his left-arm wrist spin in test matches, although I’d likely end up fuming at the stupidity of administrators for squandering the talents of potentially one of the best wrist-spinners to have played the game.

    That 1969-70 series between South Africa and Australia. To see Proctor, Pollock and Richards playing test cricket together.

    Being at the WACA and seeing a side with Greg Chappel and Viv Richards losing a one-day semi-final chasing 78.

    That very first win by a side following on in test in 1894-95 and see the look on the Australian’s faces after they’d lost a test by 10 runs despite scoring 586 in their first innings.

    I suppose the final moment I’d like to take a time machine and see is a famous duck made on the 1948 tour of England by Australia, made at Southend by Keith Miller (I wonder if he deliberately picked Bailey out to be the one to dismiss him). I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall when he spoke to Bradman after getting out.

    • Very good as expected from you Paul. None of us would be able to see Verity through the tears though would we?

  11. […] could oh. On the subject of Mr Naylor, this is a fine, fun and imaginative piece, althougH HOW COULD YOU LEAVE VIV OUT DO […]

  12. Wonderful little fantasy you’ve concocted. I’d happily relinquish my soul in deference to such marvellously exhilarating pleasures. After much thought, I’ve chosen six mythical performances:

    1. Victor Trumper: 104 before lunch vs England at Old Trafford in 1902
    2. Gilbert Jessop: 104 in 77 minutes vs Australia at The Oval in 1902
    3. Archie Jackson: 164 on debut vs England at Adelaide in 1929
    4. Harold Larwood: 4-71 at Adelaide in the Bodyline test, the innings in which he successively struck Bill Woodfull and Bert Oldfield, and had the crowd baying for Jardine’s blood.
    5. Frank Tyson: 7-27 in 12 overs vs Australia at the MCG in 1954-55.
    6. Malcolm Marshall: 7-53 with his left hand in plaster vs England at Headingley in 1984.

    • I saw MD Marshall with the broken hand. He had the ball on a piece of string. He bowled like a top class spinner, but at 82mph-85mph.

  13. Mea culpa, Larwood actually struck Woodfull and Oldfield in the first innings of that same match. The 4 wickets he took was in the second innings.

  14. […] Bring them to the bar. What’s the worst that could oh. On the subject of Mr Naylor, this is a fine, fun and imaginative piece, althougH HOW COULD YOU LEAVE VIV OUT DO YOU GET PAID FOR THIS I EXPECT BETTER FROM 99.94 ARE YOU […]

  15. […] Bring them to the bar. What’s the worst that could oh. On the subject of Mr Naylor, this is a fine, fun and imaginative piece, althougH HOW COULD YOU LEAVE VIV OUT DO YOU GET PAID FOR THIS I EXPECT BETTER FROM 99.94 ARE YOU […]

  16. 1. WG Grace in action probably in 1876 but who really cares , id feel he was great entertainment when and where ever.
    2. Yes Barnes , my mental image of him in action is probably all wrong.
    3. Id go back to the first adult competitive game I ever played and persuade the umpire of his shortcomings in firstly not recognising I hit my first ball ( a leg bye indeed ! ) and secondly that there was something amiss about the ball that bowled me ( surely it was a no-ball !)

    • 3. is wonderfully parochial. Well done Sir!

      • well its not like I have had 30 years to get over it !

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