I’ve been too busy this week to think about the ODIs. Sorry. With all the rain around they sound like a damp squib anyway – although it was good to see the lads pick up a win in a T21 yesterday. In the meantime Alan Gibbs is back with an article about Duncan Fearnley. Remember their bats? What was your favourite brand back in the day? Alan has picked out his …

With cool stripes at the bottom, names like ‘Magnum’ and ‘405’ adorning it, owning a Duncan Fearnley was like owning a Ferrari for schoolboys. They were coolest bat an aspiring cricketer could have. Some had the Gray Nicolls Dynadrive, some had the GM, but the one that looked the best was always the DF.

Since I was an awful cricketer , I didn’t own one – preferring wielding the V Caribbean that I had neither the strength or skill to hold. I didn’t consider myself worthy of a DF ‘Attack’ let alone a Magnum.

When Graham Hick smashed 405 for Worcestershire against Somerset in 1988, he did so with a Duncan Fearnley. The celebration was making a bat for him, and we all thought he was going to be England’s saviour. He’d blossomed at the one-day level, but could succeed at the Test level? Hell no. This was England in the 1990s. Hopes turned to despair faster than a can of Shandy Bass went flat.

But it wasn’t all about Hick. In the 1970s and 1980s cricketers like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, and Ian Botham all used DFs at one point. And they smashed people round the park with them. Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border, Allan Lamb, Graeme Pollock, Wasim Akram and Martin Crowe … the names go on. All of them scored runs for fun with DF-adorned willow.

On a county level, Duncan Fearnley will always be associated with Worcestershire. The brand, named eponymously after its owner, had an ordinary career with the home team (20.58 in the late 60s). But when he based his bat factory in Worcester, and later became the county’s chairman in 1986, his place in Worcestershire folklore became assured. After he took over at the top job, Worcestershire ruled the roost, helped itself to two County Championships and numerous one-day trophies.

Unfortunately, however, as time wore on, the Fearnley brand began to struggle. It became more difficult to compete in a world where the Indian willows were cheaper, and the Indian market was expanding at such a pace that no-one could keep up. When you go from Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards to Vikram Solanki you know things are falling away.

In 2018, some international sponsorships still maintain their relationships with teams. Sandpaper or not, Gray Nicolls still gives their cash to the Australian team. GM and the South Africa team is a partnership. Sareen Sports has the Indian market, for the most part.

England – a local team – prefers its kits to be made by Adidas and its players play for the highest bidder. And Virat Kohli, the current god of cricket, doesn’t need your cricket sponsorships. MRF, a tyre maker, is taking care of that.

Right now, Duncan Fearnley seems to be battling it out merely to survive, so big-time sponsorship is out of the question. In a world where bigger brands are keeping their relationships they simply can’t afford it. It’s a shame.

But when the world gets nostalgic about their cricket, the Three Stumps and their sponsees made an unbeatable team. Just look at this DF XI:

  1. Sunil Gavaskar
  2. Graham Gooch
  3. Viv Richards
  4. Martin Crowe
  5. Allan Border
  6. Ian Botham
  7. Wasim Akram
  8. Ravi Shastri
  9. Stephen Rhodes (WK)
  10. Graham Dilley
  11. Joel Garner

12th Man: Graeme Pollock

Even though he had a bat named after him, Graham Hick wouldn’t get anywhere near the side. We also went for Rhodes because he was part of a successful Worcestershire side, but we couldn’t find another keeper. If anyone’s got better ideas for a DF-sponsored wickie, please let us know.

Alan Giggs