South Australia, Victoria and Queensland notched wins in the first round of the Sheffield Shield after the BBL break. Here are three talking points.
Season after cricket season in Australia, we’re subjected to the sight of hugely talented players often making the game look easy.
The huge majority of these players are built like greyhounds. The bowlers tend to be tall and lean while the batsmen are mostly average height or shorter – and lean. They’re fast across the ground and the batsmen make running twos when the ball has only gone 30 yards from the bat look easy while the bowlers seem to able to run full tilt and take miraculous catches after just completing a bowling stint.
For those of us who are horizontally challenged (or maybe vertically challenged for our expanding waistlines), there have been a number of outstanding cricketers who have broken with this traditional look and have carved out careers that anyone would be proud of. They’ve shown the cricketing world that you don’t have to be built like a whippet to play great cricket.
The following squad of 15 players represent the silent majority of cricketers. These guys have overcome enormous difficulties, such as saying no to another beer, not having an extra plate of dessert and above all having to do the dreaded “D” word (diet), to become some of the best Test players the game has seen.
1. David Boon
His stats say it all. Not his Test batting stats, which are impressive enough (107 Tests, 21 tons at an average of 43.6), but the 52 cans he apparently drank on a flight from Sydney to London in 1989. VB thought so highly of him, he became a flagship ambassador for their brand.
And for a little, fat bloke, he was very handy at short leg.
2. Mark Taylor
Pretty similar numbers to Boony (104 Tests, 19 tons at an average of 43.5), he too was once rated the world’s best batsman. If you’re that good, being called “Tubby” isn’t an insult but a mark of respect. A very good Test captain and again for a fat fella, terrific in the slips.
3. WG Grace
All we have to go on for The Doctor’s weight, are old black and white photos, which we all know make a person look fatter. That said, he had no trouble filling out his 1.88 metre frame.
Considered one of the best players to ever pick up a bat or ball, his Test figures appear modest in light of current numbers, but in his era of uncovered wickets they were considered top class, especially when he was still playing Tests at 50. Throw in the 870 first-class games, the 54,000 runs and 2800 wickets he took and WG is a must for this squad.
4. Warwick Armstrong
Given the nickname “Big Ship”, it’s easy to see why when he tipped the scales at 133 kgs. He was the sort of all-rounder the current Australian Test side would kill to have; averaging just under 39 with the bat and just over 33.5 with the ball.
He’d also be the captain of this squad, which might seem contentious given the number of great captains, but he’s the only one who got away with bowling two consecutive overs in a Test, so that alone makes him the leader.
5. Arjuna Ranatunga
At 1.73 metres, it didn’t take much extra weight for Ranatunga to be considered a fatty, but he was a serious force in Sri Lankan cricket. Wikipedia has the following description: “He is regarded as the pioneer to lift Sri Lankan cricket from underdog status to one of great forces in the cricketing world.”
A feisty character who did not take a backward step, except when it came to running between wickets, where he often felt that should be the job of a runner.
6. Inzamam Ul-Haq
Inzzie was a crowd favourite, regardless of which Test team you supported. He was a fantastic Test batsman, averaging just under 50 with 25 hundreds. He also epitomized all that’s good about fat batsmen, able to turn threes into twos and twos into sharp singles, seemingly without any effort on his part.
He also perfected “the face” – the sad look he gave young, super fit batsmen as they trudged off after being run out through no fault of their own.
7. Mike Gatting
Cricket Country describes Gatting in the following way “Gatting’s love of food was renowned; he would often be found munching on something or the other during breaks. To his credit though, his fitness was never compromised by either his width or his love of food.”
He played his part in the so-called Ball of the Century, bowled by another fatty, Shane Warne. According to teammate Graeme Gooch, when asked about that ball, “If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him [Gatting].”
8. Ian Botham
Any bloke with a nickname like “Beefy” should make this squad, especially if they’re as good with bat and ball as Botham was. Quite simply one of the finest cricketers England has produced and equally adept with a pint or a glass of pinot.
9. Ian Smith
He is the keeper for this squad. He may be better known for his excellent cricket commentary, but he was a member of what was arguably the golden era of New Zealand cricket in the 1980s and early ’90s. His batting numbers don’t do justice to his ability, with him taking 24 off one Test over on his way to 173 at a strike rate of 127.3.
10. Shane Warne
Early photos of Warne show a chubby-faced, blond-haired guy, not the trimmed down version currently doing the rounds of commentary booths and casinos across the world. Everyone knows his numbers, so there’s little point repeating them. He would be one of the first picked in this fatties squad.
11. Merv Hughes
An example of a cricketer forced by the lean, mean brigade to suppress his true self, big Merv struggled for years with admitting who he really was. It’s only been since retirement, the real Merv has finally emerged – and boy has he emerged.
A wholehearted trier, both on the field and in the dining room, Merv was a great bowler and a great character.
12. Rahkeem Cornwall
It would be wrong not to include the man who holds the proud record of being the heaviest cricketer to ever play Test cricket, topping the scales at 140 kgs. He only played two Tests but managed to take 7 for 75 in one innings and averaged 22.6 with the ball.
13. Jesse Ryder
Ryder is probably better known as a white-ball cricketer, who took running out of the equation by belting the ball to all parts. He’s still only 35 and boasts a Test average of just under 41 and white ball strike rates of 95 (ODIs) and 127 (T20).
It would have been interesting to see what a pugnacious bat like his might have done to Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc and co this summer if he was in the mood.
14. Colin Cowdrey
Apart from having the appropriate waistline, Cowdrey makes this squad for two reasons. The first is his initials. MCC (Michael Colin Cowdrey) and the second is the sheer courage he showed in his last Test series at the age of 42.
Here’s a guy happily enjoying the lead up to Christmas in 1974 and he gets the call to go out to Australia to face the two fastest bowlers in world cricket on the WACA pitch despite not having played a Test for three years. He faced down Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson with outstanding bravery, given the complete lack of helmets that batsmen enjoy today.
15. Eddo Brandes
Brandes is not a player well known to many outside Zimbabwe. ESPN Cricinfo sums him up thus: “A bull of a man, barrel-chested with a twinkle in his eye and a penchant for a drink, Eddo Brandes achieved world fame in 1996-97 as the chicken farmer who took a hat-trick and twice bowled Zimbabwe to one-day wins over England.”
He was a genuinely quick bowler who would have been far better known had he played for a stronger cricketing nation.
As is the case with any selection, some very special players have to be excluded. Greg “Fat Cat” Ritchie was in the mix as was “Boof” Lehmann. Colin Milburn, another portly English chappy, could easily have replaced Cowdrey if not for Cowdrey’s efforts in 74/5.
Ramesh Powar was an Indian offie with the right build to make this team, as was Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad. Vernon Philander will make the squad once he gives the game away, judging by the recent comments made by Jos Buttler.
Others like Dwayne Leverock from Bermuda and Mark Cosgrove couldn’t be considered even though they met the waistline requirements, as they sadly have not played Test cricket.
Now that you’ve finished reading this piece, do yourself a favour – go online and look at photos of these players. They prove the adage that cricket really is a game for all shapes and sizes.