In Jon Richardson’s current series of articles on the best cricketing birthplaces, he listed Seymour Nurse in his All Time Bridgetown XI.
My only real knowledge of Nurse was his record 258 in his last Test innings but I had always giggled at his surname and, inevitably, evoked memories of Kenneth Williams in the Carry On movies.
But it did get me thinking; could we make a decent XI where every surname represents a job or profession?
Obviously they had to represent a different job or profession, otherwise tigerbill44’s Smiths XI would have beaten me to the punch.
As it turns out, you can.
So, my “yet another bloody Cricket XI article” Occupational XI is
1. Sir Alastair Cook
2. Vijay Merchant
3. Seymour Nurse
4. Basil Butcher
5. SPD Smith
6. Farokh Engineer (wk)
7. Keith Miller
8. Malcolm Marshall
9. Charlie Turner
10. Terry Alderman
11. Bert Ironmonger
It is a surprisingly strong team with at least two players in the running for an All Time World XI. We start off with Sir Alastair Cook, the man who somehow nudged, flicked, deflected and cut his way to 12,472 Test runs at 45 with 33 centuries.
He’s joined by Indian legend Vijay Merchant who had a short but effective Test career after WWII (859 runs at 48). Merchant’s astonishing first class average of 71.64 is second only to Sir Donald Bradman’s for players with more than 10,000 first class runs.
Our buddy Seymour Nurse is next at 3. His total (for retired players) of 766 runs in his last 10 innings is a record and helped him end with 2,503 runs at nearly 48. Clearly, a Cook is pointless unless there is a Butcher so Nurse’s contemporary, Basil, comes in at 4 off the back of a fine career of 3,104 runs at 43.
If our Merchant has the second best first class average, it makes sense to team him with the Smith with the second best Test average. Enter Stephen Peter Deveraux.
His exploits and weirdness are well known to us all but his greatest challenge is still ahead of him. That is, whether he can overcome the Curse of Ronan O’Connell.
Our keeper is the man with my second favourite surname in cricket, Farokh Engineer. With a surname like that, you would expect him to be a bit of a beer loving lout. And happily it seems he is.
But for the purposes of this team, he was also a fine keeper and batsman who regularly opened the batting for India in the 60s and early 70s.
Keith Miller’s preferred poison was champagne, not beer, but his love for the good life was well known and I, for one, remain just a bit disappointed that he didn’t make an appearance in the first series of The Crown.
Readers will remember the famous Marshall Batteries tag line of “Holler for a Marshall”. What’s not as well known is that that was also Viv Richards’ second bullet point on his list of match day tactics (after “Bowl First” but before “Hide the weed if fielding”).
And rightly so – Maco was as good as it gets with his 376 wickets at less than 21 and a strike rate of 46.
Charlie Turner was a Victorian Era legend who still has the lowest bowling average for an Australian (101 wickets at 16.53). While his official nickname was “The Terror”, his teammates knew him better as “Fitter’n”.
Bert “Dainty” Ironmonger is a true allrounder. Not only does he have the second lowest bowling average among Australians (min 50 wickets) at 17.97, he also has the second lowest batting average (min 10 Tests) with 2.63.
But his greatest moment in cricket was the one ball he faced in the MCG Test of the Bodyline series that allowed Bradman to reach his only ton of that series.
Ironmonger celebrated by running himself out next ball he faced and then taking 4/26 as England were rolled for 139 in a famous Australian victory.
Ironmonger also has a link to Aussie Rules football. The actor who played him in The Bodyline TV series – Laurie Moran – also played Mark “Jacko” Jackson’s cop partner.
The Aussie Rules link is a more painful one for our last Occupational XI team member – Terry Alderman.
For it was chasing his dream of making a running tackle in the back pocket at the WACA that almost ended his career. He achieved that dream but sadly for him it was in the middle of a cricket match and he lost the best part of two years of his peak, as well as about 10kmh off his pace, as a result.
Still, “Clem” (named, weirdly, after the Lord Mayor of a city 4,000km away on the other side of the continent) did make it back and remains the only bowler twice to take 40 wickets in a series.
Amazingly, almost half his 170 Test wickets were taken on English pitches.
There are many other cricketers with Occupational surnames and several whose surnames are only one letter out from making the team – in particular, VVS Laxman, Chandra Pandit and David Hookes.
I’ll leave to readers to tell me who else might have qualified, or even who a Second XI might comprise.