With the rain ruining what might have been an interesting finish to the Test match, there’s very little on-field action to talk about. Consequently, Srinivas resorted to making his own entertainment. Enjoy…
While going through the archives of The Cricket Monthly, I came across a fascinating article, published in August 2018. Written by Anuj Vignesh, it discussed the prospect of five popular comic book heroes playing cricket. Inspired by that article, here is a cricketing eleven, composed of some well-known, and some lesser known, characters from the world of fiction.
(1) James Bond: Stylish and (in)famously insubordinate, Britain’s famous fictional secret agent will play his natural game at the top of the order regardless of the situation. Consistency may therefore not be his forte, but he is, to use the phrase in currency these days, an ‘impact player’. He is a brilliant fielder, too, especially at slip, where he makes tough catches appear as easy as loosening a tie under water (a la The World is Not Enough).
(2) Mycroft Holmes: Mycroft Holmes is reputed to be even more brilliant than his brother Sherlock, the consulting detective, but it is his bureaucratic staidness that makes him an ideal opening foil to Bond. Furthermore, his distaste for field work means he can field close to the bat all day – even if that in turn means fielding at silly point, or forward short-leg, positions usually reserved for a rookie.
(3) Johnny English: He may be booed every now and then, as Rahul Dravid was at the Oval in 2007, for the sort of go-slow approach he proudly showcased in Johnny English Strikes Again but his loyalty to the team cause is beyond question. That and his conventional methods make him a sound first-drop in this team, especially if Bond falls early on a tricky wicket.
(4) Byomkesh Bakshi: Coming from the same Indian state as Sourav Ganguly, Byomkesh Bakshi bats left-handed and at no. 4. A part-time leg spinner too, Bakshi probably has a golden arm and knows, having regularly pitted his brains against criminal minds, when to use his googly to stop a marauding batsman in his tracks.
(5) Mike Martin: Tall and athletic – and a master of disguises because of his strong Asian features in Fredrick Forsyth’s novels, The Dogs of War and The Afghan – Martin is the premier all-rounder in this team. A left-handed batsman and a right-arm fast medium bowler like Ben Stokes, he can also bowl serviceable off-spin on turning tracks like Colin Miller used to do.
(6) Claude Lebel: Mild mannered at home and at work, Claude Lebel was, as a policeman, still able to stop the master assassin codenamed Jackal in Fredrick Forsyth’s bestseller The Day of the Jackal. Persuasion and man-management are his strong suits, and it is hoped that he can coax the tail to bat with him, either to stretch a lead, or to save a match. The fact he is French adds an interesting dimension to this essentially English team.
(7) Harry Potter (wicketkeeper): For someone used to pouching the snitch in a game of quidditch, catching a cricket ball must be a piece of cake. Potter may not be like Rishabh Pant with bat hand, but the boy-genius is resourceful enough to contribute crucial lower order runs. Aside: one just hopes he keeps wickets while wearing his trademark spectacles, and does not shed them like Jack Leach has done, or as Anil Kumble did during the latter half of his career.
(8) Arthur Hastings: Though Hercule Poirot often introduces him cordially as his associate, Arthur Hastings is shown to be somewhat shallow in matters of the mind in Agatha Christie’s stories. His interest in cricket though is genuine, as evidenced by the frequency with which he follows the proceedings of an Ashes Test in the middle of an investigation. In this team, he plays as a tall, typically English right-arm swing bowler who can use the long handle to good effect.
(9) Peter Parker: The only superhero in this eleven, Peter Parker is also the lone full-time spinner in it. When he is not saving his family, his lady love, the world, or all of them, he is a fine off-break bowler – with a well-disguised doosra which he bowls with a clean action– who can spin a metaphorical web around batsmen on almost any wicket. He has a good defence for a no. 9, but his only real scoring shot is the gentle nurdle to the on-side.
(10) Ebenezer Scrooge: The Glenn McGrath of this team, the skinflint protagonist of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol hates giving away runs, and often allows other bowlers to get wickets, even when he does not, because of the pressure he creates by bowling the fourth-stump line. As a batsman, he is part Courtney Walsh and part Chris Martin, and takes immense pride in his highest score of 10 not-out!
(11) Jack Sparrow (C): With long locks and a mercurial temperament, Jack Sparrow is the team’s free-spirited fast bowler who, when he gets his mind and the direction of his deliveries right, can run through any opposition in no time. With years of rough maritime experience behind him, moreover, and with his reputation as a devious pirate having preceded him, he insists that he is the captain of the team. The others in the team let him be.
An interesting XI. Perhaps their opposition could be captained by Professor Moriarty (doubtless a fiendishly cunning spinner with a somewhat questionable action, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld as vice captain. Raffles, a fine spin bowling all rounder would also be a natural for this side, while Sebastian Moran, doubtless a fire and brimstone quick bowler and occasionally dangerous lower order hitter would also be there.
Used to love doing this sort of thing as a kid when I had the ‘owzat’ roller cricket game, which you can still get today. Inventing teams from different genres to play against each other. Personally I would have picked Raffles in there as your spin option. For today’s kids a Marvel Option would ge good. There must be a superhero for each position in the order, like Spider-Man as your spin option. Batman from the DC comics would be an essential opener.
Love the idea of Peter Parker ‘spinning’ a web.
Personally, I would’ve loved to see a place for Austin Powers. Presumably, Dr Evil would’ve been head of the national cricket board.
I’d have William Shakespeare in there.
That’s the “William Shakespeare” who managed to write all those plays poems and sonnets with a vocabulary of 18,000 words (Milton managed only 8,000 and the average peson is nearer 3,000) despite having illiterate parents and producing illiterate children; who left no letters, diaries or manuscripts despite producing masses of works; and who showed a detailed knowledge of the court, law, medicine, the military, falconry, several other countries and languages despite having no proven education. He’s not to be confused with William Shakspeare [sic – other spellings are available] of Stratford, the theatrical investor and occasional actor, tax dodger, aggressive litigant, grain hoarder, usurer, producer of very strange wills and possible illiterate (six signatures in different writing and with different spellings are the only proof he could write at all).
“William Shakespeare” would probably be a canny leg-spinner, taking lots of wickets that properly belonged to Christopher Marlowe (or Edward DeVere or Francis Bacon). Those who pointed this out would no doubt be dismissed as crazy (like Walt Whitman, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Mark Rylance, Derke Jacobi, Jeremy Irons…. ).
Got to be a place for Tom Spedegue, the asthmatic schoolteacher who used to lob the ball more than thirty feet in the air to try and land on top of the stumps. His creator, Conan Doyle, claimed he faced such a bowler in real life games.
Oh and William Tell as a strike bowler for his incredible accuracy under pressure
Great article! Not sure that Mike Martin actually appears in The Dogs of War though, the lead character was Cat Shannon……
Yes, it should have been The Fist of God. I have always confused it with The Dogs of War.
Yes that was the one! All great books,
Having James Bond in the XI reminded me of TMS lunchtime competition to provide a title for a cricket themed spy movie. As I recall the two strongest entries were ‘The spy who gloved me’ and ‘Live and leg bye
Any other suggestions?