Tours Of Duty

Author Rob Harris has kindly provided this extract from his new book ‘Won’t You Dance For Virat Kohli?’ I really enjoyed it so thought I’d share it here. Enjoy.

Eric Hollies bowled fast leg spin for Warwickshire for 25 years and took over 2,000 wickets. However, his name lives on not because people remember his bowling, but because the stand bearing his name has become an infamous bear pit where opponents fear to tread and livers scream for mercy.

Anyone who thinks cricket is dull and stuffy should be made to sit in the Hollies Stand for the duration of the T20 Blast Finals Day.

What makes a man choose to go for a day at the cricket dressed like a chicken? Or a nun? Or as Luigi, one half of the Super Mario Brothers? Or as a giant banana? The first time I went to a Blast Finals Day I found myself sat next to an articulate well-spoken man dressed as a fox. He politely enquired if his tail was in my way and offered to keep it on his lap so it did not bother me. It was a very English conversation and I naturally told him not to worry as his tail wasn’t troubling me in the slightest, even though I found it hugely irritating. Rather than cause mild offence, however, I was prepared to sit there, being irritated, for eight hours or more.

I guessed this man was in his 30s but I could not be sure, because I never actually saw his face. His fox’s head stayed on throughout the day, though the mouth opening was large enough for him to suck copious amounts of lager through a straw. We made small talk for a while before the sound of a bugle interrupted our flow.

‘Excuse me, can we pause things there for a second?’ he enquired, before leaping out of his seat and charging like a wild animal around the inner perimeter of the stand, chased by a pack of assorted-shaped men dressed in the full red and white regalia of foxhunters, whipping themselves as they ran. The rest of the stand turned its attention to the chase, willing Mr Fox to his freedom. Suddenly, the whole ground was buzzing and cheering on my friend the fox’s efforts to avoid being captured. His escape was being shown by Sky on the big screens and piped into family homes all over the cricketing world. What would they make of this in Bangladesh and Afghanistan?

On the field, the players temporarily stopped playing in order to watch a little imitation bloodsport in real time. My friend the fox was a fast mover and he eventually opened up a decent lead over the horseless leather-booted hunters to make it back to his seat. I congratulated him on his survival as he swished me in the face with his tail and breathlessly thanked me, adjusting his genitals and snuggling into his seat to drink more lager through a straw. The foxhunters didn’t seem too bothered that he had gotten away and were now leading a procession of 20th and 21st century pop culture icons, as portrayed in fancy dress by working- and middle-class heroes. Strangest of all was a large, hairy trucker of a man in a Donald Trump mask and a flowing bridal gown, carrying red high heeled shoes and a golden handbag in one hand and a pint of American Shipyard beer in the other. He looked happy, as if he had found his true and rightful place in life. I wondered if he had someone waiting for him at home.

I imagined their faces as they watched him give his carefully cultivated blond quiff one last lacquering in the mirror, kissed him goodbye and waved him off from the doorstep. Off he would have tottered, through the gate and up the road in size 13 high heels, passing postmen and dog walkers and joggers and pensioners on mobility scooters as he went. I hope his loved ones were proud of him and told him he looked great. I suspect though, they were as confused as the rest of us. Only in the Hollies Stand.

By the final throes of the final of Finals Day the whole stand was loud, drunk and swaying. My friend the fox was nowhere to be seen whilst the newly-wed Trump, now minus his mask and looking the worse for wear, had ketchup and beer stains down the front of his beautiful white virginal dress. His hair was all over the shop and his skin looked unusually pasty for The Donald. Leading the free world is obviously not all it is cracked up to be. He clearly had things on his mind and any interest in the boom, boom, blast cricket going on out in the middle was now largely incidental.

Rob Harris

Won’t You Dance For Virat Kohli?: The Secret Life and Thoughts of a Cricketing Badger is available here.


  • As a Warwickshire man I’ve had to endure this stand for a few test matches over the years, as I relinquished membership some time ago, not being able to get enough time off to make it worthwhile. The thing I most resent is that it’s actively encouraged by the new media types with prizes for fancy dress and the longest beer snakes and unlike streakers cameras giving plenty of coverage to the high jinks. Even the ground officials seem to approve, as It certainly brings in the beer cash, but by mid afternoon unless there’s fireworks on the pitch you’re surrounded by bored self exhibitionists intent on making their own entertainment. I guess it’s just a reflection on the inability we have in this country to party without overindulging on the liquor front.
    An interesting sideline concerning Man City’s post Premiership title party. When asked for his favourite party moment Pep cited he arrival of Pizza. He, like most Europeans, cannot understand the British necessity to drink yourself stupid without any food to help soak it up and so make the celebrations last longer.

    • En route to our house in France, we used to make an overnight stop in Rouen. We often used to walk through the old market square, surrounded by bars and restaurants. There was invariably the gentle hum of conversation together with clinking of glasses and sounds of cutlery on plate. We never saw – or heard – any one drunk. We often remarked that this was what Blair envisaged when he introduced open season for alcohol, but unfortunately – for the most part – that is just not how the British behave. By the time we walked back through the square, the bars were usually closed. The nearest British equivalent I suppose would be Covent Garden. The contrast between Rouen, and walking through Covent Garden at ‘closing time’, was stark.


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