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The Ten: Unusual Tributes To Cricket

by Wisden Staff

From turtles to zombies, AOC pays homage to 10 left-field champions of the summer game.

10) Seinfeld
To the Yanks, nothing says ‘England!’ quite like that crazy cricket game us guys play where, like, nothing happens! So much so, that when the comedian Jerry Seinfeld came to do a filmed advert for his UK tour, he naturally donned the pads and stepped on to ‘the village green’ to produce a splendidly wild fresh-air shot to what he could only describe, in his plummiest English accent, as “a wicked googly”. It’s not quite genius. But it is funny.

9) ‘Cricket’
The progeny of West End heavyweights Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Cricket was a short musical commissioned for the Queen’s 60th birthday. Set against the backdrop of the matches of Headingley Cricket Club, the story is a familiar one: girl meets boy, girl leaves boy because cricket is boring. A cautionary tale if there ever was one – don’t take your missus to the club… and don’t let your missus take you to a musical.

8) Doctor Who
From Tom Baker’s knee-length scarves to Silvester McCoy’s rather fetching boater, the good Doctor has always dealt in sartorial statement-making, but never has the Time Lord’s attire been quite as natty as it was upon the frame of Peter Davison. Part dandy, part Edwardian cricketer, the fifth Doctor sported a Panama that would make Boycott proud, and – mysteriously – a stick of celery that would challenge even Fiery’s forced rhubarb for its efficacy as a bat. In recent years, both TV presenter Holly Willoughby and X Factor contestant Diana Vickers have both been seen rocking the cricket casual look, which – if nothing else – shows the geezer from Gallifrey really was ahead of his time.

7) Spinal Tap
Amongst the parody and power chords of this mockumentary masterpiece sits a humble cricket bat, quietly soothing and assisting affable but erratic band manager Ian Faith. Part affectation, part totem, Faith also finds his stick comes in handy “in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock”, despatching tables and TVs to all parts when things, as they all-too-often do on tour with Spinal Tap, don’t quite go to plan.

6) Shaun of the Dead
Let’s face facts. Every thirty-something drifter whose mate lives in the spare room with his Xbox has a crusty cricket bat lying around somewhere in the flat. But it’s not just that the bat’s a potent symbol of lost youth fading into middling disappointment; it’s also a bloody good tool to smash a bunch of zombies. And so it was that when Simon Pegg came to create his silly masterwork, the humble willow – by our reckoning a Gray-Nicolls special from the Sixties – inevitably became his weapon of choice.

5) A Clockwork Orange
Amongst the ultra violence, Beethoven and sinister milk drinking, Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic also finds time to pay homage to the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. The famous yellow tome can be seen on the prison governor’s desk as he informs a fresh-faced Malcolm McDowell that he has been selected as a test subject for an experimental aversion therapy. It’s called the ‘Ludovico technique’, and if your club coach offers to demonstrate it this summer, run for the hills.

4) Lowry’s ‘Cricket Match’
As northern England’s go-to chronicler of industrial gloom, ace stick-man pencil-squeezer LS Lowry once said: “I only deal in poverty. I never do a jolly picture.” His 1952 work A Cricket Match depicts an impromptu cricket match, taking place beneath a backdrop of chugging factory chimneys and grimy tenement blocks. Wormsley in July it ain’t, but there’s beauty in the crumbling mortar as Lowry frames a stolen snippet of leisure time, squeezed between the choking trials of working life. Undiscovered for years, the painting sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 for £770,000.

3) Becoming Jane
Anne Hathaway was a doe-eyed natural to play Jane Austen in the 2007 lit-weepie of the great writer’s early life. But few could have imagined she’d be such a natural at ‘hitting to the pear tree’ during a staged game of bat and ball. In one of those society set pieces that’s meant to show how a woman is both socially relegated and at the same time innately superior to those blustering chaps out in the orchard, Jane, who has been watching from the edges with the other ladies, fastens her bonnet and, with four runs to win, strides out to face raffish love interest, Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). Lefroy tears in off his long run before bluffing with a delightfully condescending lob that Jane demurely mullers back over his head. It’s truly an outrageous blow. Worth watching just for that shot.

2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The sewers of Manhattan are not the most likely setting for an affirmation of cricket’s colonial past, but in a world where they are home to a troupe of streetfighting turtles, anything’s possible. During one of many scraps in the 1990 film, hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones grabs a bat – just one gun in his arsenal of sports-inspired weaponry – and takes aim. Ever the Renaissance amphibian, Raphael delivers the classic line: “Cricket? Nobody understands cricket. You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket.” Somehow the animals are always the first to know.

1) The Big Lebowski
“Nihilists! F*** me, I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” Thus spoke Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), the Vietnam veteran and psychopathic skittles-loving hero of the greatest film ever made (FACT), The Big Lebowski. But the nihilists that Walter speaks of – basically three Germanic goons in black Lycra – are not actually nihilists at all, because their love of cricket, or the cricket bat at least, shines through in one of the opening scenes, as one nihilist smashes up the Dude’s flat with what the screenplay calls a ‘cricket paddle’ as another drops a squealing marmot into the Dude’s bath. It’s that kind of film. Certain scholarly ‘Dudeists’ have even suggested a cricket theme running throughout, from the bat, to the love of bowling, to the Chinaman (“Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue here!”), to Donny’s scattered ashes and, of course, to Walter’s precious ‘whites’. (Note: if you don’t know who the Dude is by now, we really cannot help you.)

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