Kangaroos, chickens and Hollywood – cricket has had its fair share of moonlighters, observes James Wallace as he pens down the best and worst alternative careers in issue 30 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
Lots of cricketers share a love of the ‘great outdoors’. Botham, famously, loved a long ramble outside of the commentary box, and anyone who has seen the images of him fly fishing on the back of his hilariously titled autobiography Don’t Tell Kath won’t forget his style triptych of aviators, meaty ’tache and waders any time soon. And let’s just say the finest specimen of grey mullet isn’t to be found in the water. Blowing Botham’s ‘hobbyist’ approach clear out of the wet stuff is a sheep farmer who used to bat a bit. With his wax jacket and hectare spanning jawline, Alastair Cook is the stuff of a Thomas Hardy nocturnal emission. He has spoken of how the experience of ‘lambing’ gave him perspective on cricket: “I once lambed for 21 consecutive nights… it made batting for 10 hours in the Abu Dhabi heat seem fairly easy in comparison.” That sound? The whinnying swoon of ruddy-cheeked gals in padded gilets up and down the land.
Never one to shy away from confrontation – just ask Glenn McGrath about chocolate biscuits – Eddo Brandes would see Cook’s sheep and raise him… chickens. Thirty-five thousand of them. In a CV which includes playing in four World Cups and taking an ODI hat-trick against England, the Zimbabwe seamer was also the proud owner of a 100-acre poultry farm just outside of Harare. “Zimbabwean cricket was in transition and I needed a job to pay the bills, so I bought a chicken farm. They called me ‘Chicken George’, but I don’t know where the George came from.” Brandes was also responsible for Zimbabwe’s maiden first-class hat-trick years earlier. Don’t ask him for his favourite though, as it’s a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Charles Aubrey Smith
With a name that had more than a whiff of Little Lord Fauntleroy about it – fitting, as he would later play the role of the Earl of Dorincourt in the film of the book – Smith was one of a kind. He is surely the only person who could boast the achievement of playing against WG Grace and opposite the likes of Garbo, Gable and Gary Cooper. Smith played for, and captained, England just the once in Tests, taking 5¬19 at Port Elizabeth in 1889. Bravo indeed. He then pursued his acting ambitions and had much success in America, even founding the Hollywood Cricket Club, whose players included David Niven and Boris Karloff. Imagine Frankenstein himself loping in to bowl at you. Terrifying…
Rachael Heyhoe Flint
Baroness Heyhoe Flint was a firebrand trailblazer who shook up the cricketing establishment, an illustrious playing career segued into years campaigning for more equality for women in the game. In her playing days, women were expected to raise the funds for playing cricket themselves, especially when touring. The former England captain, who masterminded cricket’s first World Cup in 1973, was also a gifted journalist and would often earn a crust writing for The Daily Telegraph, sometimes even covering her own matches using a nom de plume. Can you imagine Ben Stokes being asked to peel off his pads and immediately pick up his pen to wax lyrical about the day’s play? Me neither. Being on deadline with a recently bagged duck hanging heavy round the head does not sound ideal.
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Traffic wardens and ticket inspectors are a cursed breed. Few people can have held down jobs that inspire such potent opprobrium and fierce admiration as India’s ex-skipper. A former inspector on India’s South Eastern Railway, Dhoni replaced tickets for trophies, becoming the sole captain to hold all the ICC’s limited-overs gongs in his hand.
‘Ted’ played six Tests for Australia in the 1880s where his nerves got the better of him and he struggled to land his usually highly accurate off-spin. A career in kangaroo shooting and herding awaited him. This conjures cuddly images of Skippy and little joeys but is actually one of the worst jobs imaginable for someone of a nervous disposition like Evans. If you Google ‘kangaroo’ one of the most popular searches is: ‘Can a kangaroo disembowel a human?’ The answer to which is a resounding yes. Skippy? More like ‘leg it!’
First published in issue 30 of Wisden Cricket Monthly