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The Insider: Multi-layered Cricketers

by Paul Ford - Republished from Outright #48 (summer 2022)

Wow, how good is that Rafael Nadal? 21 Grand Slam tennis titles and counting – balding, fiddling, punishingly slow to serve but phenomenal at his chosen sport. That tennis success is all well and good but how is his outswinger, cover drive and dab to third man?


I guess we will never know about Rafa’s cricketing prowess, unlike his fellow Australian Open winner Ash Barty who swapped tennis racquets for pads a few years ago and whacked a few around for the Brisbane Heat in the inaugural season of the Women’s Big Bash competition.


“She's probably hit more balls than most of our cricket players coming through,” Queensland coach Andy Richards said of her transferrable skills. "It might not have been a cricket ball, but it's a ball at 120km+ an hour.”


Oh how I love a multi-threat sportsperson. And of course we’ve all had a recent taste of it here in Aotearoa with the cricketing carnival that is the Black Clash. It was a hell of a lot of fun, but not completely bereft of competitive spirit. It comes as no surprise to anyone that lots of the blokes who have gone on to be professional football players are pretty handy with leather and willow in hand.


It got me thinking about my all-time favourite multi-talented cricketers. Is suspect this players are from golden multisported eras that have passed us by as sports increasingly demand athletes to be fully focused all-year round on their chosen field. That is a shame.


Ellyse Perry is a freak and the only sportsperson to have played in a Cricket World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup* (where she scored a sumptuous goal). She was a dual international for six years through until 2013 having made her respective cricket/football debuts as a 16-year-old. After that she decided to hang her football boots to focus on cricket and she has gone OK there with more than 250 international appearances, 4 World Cups, an all-round record to die for and icon status in the sport.


Phil Horne: Ben’s dad is one of the top buggers in and around New Zealand sport. Notoriously light on his feet Balsa was a legend on the badminton scene and went to the Commonwealth Games in 1986, before making the Black Caps side in 1987 where he opened the batting and was a panther in the field. “There wasn’t the professional environment so much, and you could play one, finish, and then switch into another one,” he said. “I think it was a bit of an advantage being quite fresh, and doing something a bit different.”


CB Fry: If you Google one person after this, make sure it is Charles Burgess Fry – described as the most “variously gifted Englishman of any age” by John Arlott. Fry was an unbeaten captain of England at cricket but also played football for England and in the FA Cup final for Southampton and equalled the long jump world record in 1893. He also had a party trick where he would face a mantelpiece, crouch down, leap up and turn then land and bow with his feet planted on the shelf.


Yuzvendra Chahal: A former national Under-12 chess champion, Chahal represented India at the World Youth Chess Championships and still has a world chess ranking. He has palyed since he was six years old and reckons chess taught him patience: "Chess has helped me a lot in that way. I have learnt to be patient and get batsmen out."


Jeff Wilson: A seven-time Black Cap – in two stints a preposterous 12 years apart – as well as  a 60-Test All Blacks rugby legend. To do what Goldie did in the professional era shows what a rare beast he was. To be fair, he was arguably eclipsed by Eric Tindill who played international cricket and rugby, then doubled down to become a test cricket umpire and international rugby referee to boot.


* West Indian legend Viv Richards played for Antigua in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but not the finals tournament


Paul Ford is the co-founder of the Beige Brigade and one-seventh of The Alternative Commentary Collective. He has not represented New Zealand at any sports and is much better at falling off mantelpieces than jumping onto them.



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