So, further cause for our brave lads out in the heat of the subcontinent to celebrate today! But will they know to how to do the thing properly?
There have been hints that today’s touring party do not lead quite as monastic a life as we have been led to believe. Nick Compton has reappeared in The Cricket Paper, posing with some of his colleagues in the wake of victory in the last test, all clutching small bottles of beer. I can’t help noticing, though, that they seem to be holding the bottles in an awkwardly dainty way, the better to show off the labels (Kingfisher Lager, who one imagines have some kind of deal going with the ECB).
After the victory in Mumbai, Kevin Pietersen – perhaps inspired by the visit of Boris Johnson, in his well-cast role as Lord of Misrule – was allowed to leak a couple of tweets –
You having a good time????? DON’T stop the paaaaaaarty! #BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMx
Premature tweet for tomorrow am- I GOT A HANGOVER, whooooooooooaaaa! ☺
But after that there was radio silence – presumably because Andy Flower had been alerted and had confiscated KP’s ‘phone.
So let us return to Compton’s Grandfather’s account 0f the extended booze cruise that was the 1950-51 tour of Australia, conducted under the wise stewardship of Freddie Brown. At first, Brown had turned down the chance to captain the tour, as he relates in his own autobiography …
“When I was wallowing happily in the bath the same evening, a member of the MCC committee said to me, ‘It rather looks as if you’ll be asked at the committee meeting tomorrow night to take the side to Australia’.
My reply was ‘I’m not interested’. I gave as my reasons, firstly that my employers, British Timken Ltd., of Northampton, were sending out a side to South Africa under my captaincy to coincide with the opening of a new factory, and secondly, that I did not feel I had been given a really fair deal so far as the Trial match earlier in the season had been concerned.”
But, eventually, he relented (with the blessing of British Timken) and made sure to establish the right tone for the forthcoming tour on the voyage out. Over to Compton Senior again –
“Wherever I played, or wherever I was there was always humour. For me the game had excitement and colour, and always humour. I remember an incident when we were on our way to Australia by boat in 1950. John Warr, a great humorist of Middlesex and now the county’s captain, was a member of the MCC party, being taken out for his fast bowling. One night was fancy-dress night and we were all strangely apparelled – I was W.G. Grace, I remember – by the time the before-dinner cocktail parties started in various parts of the ship. We attended many of them, and they made us feel very happy.
John Warr was not by any means the unhappiest. As well, he was Gorgeous Gussie*; though not with his height and sinewy limbs particularly gorgeous, he was certainly oddly fascinating. His girl friends aboard had provided him with a little pleated skirt, exotic panties and a blouse with the right outline. He was scented and made up, with plenty of mascara. He carried a tennis racket, and swung it as he reckoned Gorgeous had swung.
As we entered the saloon for dinner, Gorgeous Gussie threw a ball up, swung lustily, and revealingly, and produced what looked like an ace. It flashed across the tables and, on its way, took with it a full soup spoon which the kindest of old ladies was at that moment raising to her lips. There was a liberal spray and mist of ship’s soup about her as she threw her hands up in surprise.
“Sorry, fault!” Gorgeous cried ecstatically; then, recollecting himself, John gave the amplest apologies, which were most graciously received.
The evening was far from over. Freddie Brown was a Maori chief, having in his hand the chiefly staff called a Taiaha, made of leather and wool, with which he quietly belaboured those about him. He looked very Polynesian indeed. Jim Swanton was a stage grander, and was dressed up very convincingly as King Farouk; indeed the similarity was so close that most listeners to or viewers of cricket would have been startled to see him. He was strutting about regally, as a king should, with his chin up and a sophisticated air. This was too much for the less civilised Maori chieftain, who walked up to the Egyptian king, and felled him with a blow of his Taiaha on the place where the crown should rest. For a moment the king was not amused, and the assembly of fancy-dressed figures, with Gorgeous Gussie swinging her racket in encouragement, saw the portly chief and the even more portly king scrapping amiably on the dining-room floor in mid-ocean.”
For younger readers, this would be the rough equivalent of Stuart Broad, dressed as Maria Sharapova, serving a tennis ball into an old lady’s soup, and Alastair Cook and Derek Pringle (both in blackface) wresting on the floor of the aeroplane over to India. I think it would take quite a lot of news management to keep that one quiet.
*Gorgeous Gussie (or Gussy) Moran, famous at the time for appearing at Wimbledon in a dress designed to reveal a pair of frilly knickers.