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With World Cup Hockey under progress, it is the responsibility of a cricket website to come up with an XI of cricketers who also excelled in hockey. Abhishek Mukherjee performs the rituals.
Despite the visible lack of interest, World Cup Hockey is here. Gone are the days when India, and often Pakistan, dominated the world of hockey: the tides have turned, and things have spread out a lot more these days. It is time, though, to create an XI of cricketers who have played hockey at a respectable level.
Cricket’s connection with hockey is not new, which means that the count goes well past the XI-mark. We had to take the harsh decisions of leaving out Maurice Turnbull and Trevor Laughlin, and there is no place for Duncan Fletcher, either, whose sister Ann-Mary Gwynne Grant led Zimbabwe to a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics. It was Zimbabwe’s first Olympic gold. Let us have a look at the team, then:
1. Jack MacBryan
Somerset’s MacBryan was not an excellent batsman, but he still managed to play a Test. Unfortunately, he remains the only cricketer to have played a Test but neither batted nor bowled nor held a catch, but that was four years after he was the part of the British side that had won the hockey gold medal at Antwerp in 1920. Since he never got a chance to bat, it is only fair that we give him a chance at the top of the order!
2. The Nawab of Pataudi, senior
Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, had led India on the tour of England in 1946, and had also scored hundreds on Ashes debut just like three other men of Indian origin — KS Ranjitsinhji, KS Duleepsinhji, and Raman Subba Row. Best known for his solid defence, he will be drafted to the top to guarantee some solidity at the start.
3. Dave Houghton (vice-captain)
A top-quality batsman, Houghton led Zimbabwe in their first Test ever, and led them well in their early days, and is an obvious pick for the vice-captain’s slot. He will also field in the slips, though he can be a reserve wicket-keeper if required. He was also a hockey goalkeeper of Zimbabwe’s national team.
4. Brian Booth
Booth’s famous cover-drive and square-cut had a lot to do with his strong forearms and wrists — which, according to Ray Robinson, were by-products of his hockey days, where one is not allowed to lift the stick above his shoulders. Selected in the squad for Melbourne Olympics 1956, Booth was almost disqualified since he had received out-of-pocket expenses for playing cricket. After much speculation, however, he was allowed to play.
5. Jonty Rhodes
Without a doubt the star of the side, Jonty Rhodes had been selected for Barcelona Olympics, 1992, but unfortunately could not play in the tournament since South Africa could not qualify. He had another go four years later for Atlanta, but he was down with a hamstring injury. Not only will his presence on the ground be electric, he will be one of the key batsmen as well.
6. Rachael Heyhoe-Flint (captain)
If WG Grace is the father of cricket, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint can surely be called the mother of women’s cricket, having revolutionised it in every possible format, including winning the first ever cricket World Cup across genders. A champion of the sport, Heyhoe-Smith also hit the first six in women’s cricket, and had remained unbeaten in six series (four Women’s Tests, one Women’s ODIs, one Women’s World Cup) as the captain of her side. There can be no better captain of the side. Oh, and she was the English hockey goalkeeper in 1964 as well!
7. Russell Endean (wicket-keeper)
Referred to as “Endless Endean” for his ability to bat long hours, he is famous for being the man Len Hutton had blocked to be given out obstructing the field; he added to his list of bizarre dismissals when he became the first man to be given out handled the ball. Before he did all that — even before his Test debut — he had played hockey for South Africa.
8. Keith Thomson
Thomson’s career was restricted to two Tests in the first series India won overseas apart from a rather ordinary stint with Canterbury. In hockey, however, he played for New Zealand 28 times, including the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He gets in as the last of the middle-order batsman.
9. Eddie McLeod
McLeod’s career was restricted to a mere 28 First-Class matches and a solitary Test, but he was still a competent batsman and leg-spinner who averaged in the low 30s with both bat and ball. Not only had he played hockey for New Zealand, but he also went on to become a national selector.
10. MJ Gopalan
A quality bowler and handy batsman, Gopalan was a hockey centre-back who was good enough to be selected for the Berlin Olympics in 1936 that won the gold medal. Unfortunately, he chose to go on the ill-fated tour of England, and spent the season in the shadows of Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh.
11. George Hockey
Not much of a cricketer (he averaged less than 11, and was neither a bowler nor a wicket-keeper), Hockey had played 19 matches for Essex spanning from 1928 to 1931, never crossed 23, and had never played hockey for any country as per our knowledge. Despite the numbers, you cannot leave a man with a surname like that out of the side, can you?
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