Cricket-and-murder-Keep-reading...-2

Despite the advent of numerous slam-bang versions, cricket and murder have seldom gone hand-in-hand. True, there have been some extremely ominous names, but seldom have they been involved in actual murders. Abhishek Mukherjee finds a way to create an XI of cricketers who could fulfil the role of a murder investigation.

Cricket is, for some reason, accepted as the gentleman’s sport (nobody knows why), despite being marred by corruption and match-fixing. Cricketers have been charged with cocaine smuggling (Chris Lewis), arson (Mark Vermeulen), paedophilia (Steve Randell), trafficking (Jacob Martin), culpable homicide (Navjot Sidhu), perjury (Chris Cairns), shoplifting (Sudhir Naik) theft (Terry Jenner), and more.

On the other hand, Andrew Hall had survived bullet shots from point-blank range (he was also held at gunpoint on another occasion); VVS Laxman was a victim of forgery; Nezam Hafiz was claimed by the 9/11 disaster; Jesse Ryder went into a coma following a brutal assault; and they were certainly not the only ones.

The idea occurred to me during the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara, when he announced that he would have made a terrible lawyer. Given my addiction to thrillers (whodunits, to be specific) and making dream teams, why not create a murder XI?

This is what I came up with, having a restriction of one person per criterion:

Coroner: EM Grace

WG Grace was, for obvious reasons, nicknamed ‘The Doctor.’ EM was, for similar reason, ‘The Coroner.’ Though often overshadowed by his younger brother, EM carved a niche of his own, doing the 10,000 run-300 wicket double in First-Class cricket. He also played a Test alongside his brothers WG and Fred.

EM was coroner at the Lower Division of Gloucestershire. On a completely unrelated note, he had four wives and eighteen children.

Murder victim: Claude Tozer

Dr Tozer was a promising batsman for New South Wales, and a batting average of 46 bears testimony to that. He once scored 51 and 103 against Queensland. He had also been treating 35-year old Dorothy Mort for six months before the incident took place. Dorothy was married with two children, but as has often happened, she fell in love with her handsome doctor.

What about Dr Tozer? He certainly admired Dorothy, but perhaps was not attracted to her. A talented cricket, a war survivor, and a doctor, he was set to get married. Unfortunately, Dorothy did not take the news lightly; to make things worse, Dr Tozer delivered the news in person at the Mort’s, and Dorothy had a gun in the room.

All Florence Fizelle, the housekeeper, heard was multiple shots. She rushed in, only to see Dorothy retire to her bedroom. Dr Tozer’s corpse lay sprawled on the drawing-room sofa with bullet marks on his chest, head, and temple. Dorothy was spared on the grounds of mental imbalance.

Special mentions: Though Jeff Stollmeyer was murdered, it was more of the outcome of burglary than anything else. Bob Woolmer and Tertius Bosch have almost certainly been murdered, but no concrete evidence has yet been found of the same.

Crime novelist: Ted Dexter (captain)

Dexter did not need to be a crime novelist. Born in Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, he lived up to the reputation of the city. His tall, athletic frame and rugged, handsome features made him immensely popular among the fairer sex. He married Susan Longfield, a model and daughter of a First-Class captain. He also owned Jaguar cars, Norton motorbikes, racehorses, and greyhounds — and even a private aircraft. There was a reason they called him Lord Ted.

He was authoritative as captain, and smart with the ball, but most significantly, Dexter batted, and how! Few have combined grace and power and a sense of adventure as seamlessly when on song, which was often the case — as a Test average of 48 would suggest.

He could really have done without writing a crime novel, but unfortunately he did. Testkill was co-authored by Clifford Makins and Dexter, and released in 1976 as the West Indians prepared to make Tony Greig ‘grovel.’

Even in politeness one would not call Testkill a good read. In his review Arunabha Sengupta called it “eminently forgettable.”

Special mention: As is known to all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle played First-Class cricket, dismissed WG, and wrote a poem to celebrate the occasion. Enough said.

Fingerprint expert: Chandu Sarwate

Sarwate’s name often features in quiz questions, for he had one of the most unusual professions for a Test cricketer. He had a terrible 9-Test career, but 7,430 runs at 33 and 494 wickets at 24 speak volumes of his pedigree.

Proficient with both off-breaks and leg-breaks, Sarwate is remembered most for his stand with Shute Banerjee against Surrey in 1946. Both men scored hundreds — the only time Nos. 10 and 11 scored First-Class hundreds in an innings — and added an unbroken 249.

Lawyer: Aftab Gul

It is not known whether Gul contested a murder case, but he played 6 Tests (182 runs at 23) and 101 First-Class matches (6,179 at 37). He made news towards the beginning of this decade when he represented Salman Butt during the spot-fixing case.

Gul was also a popular student leader, and was arrested on political grounds. He was released on bail — to play cricket.

Special mention: Learie Constantine passed law and became a clerk at Jonathan Ryan, a solicitors firm at Port-of-Spain, but given his social background it did not seem likely he would become an advocate himself. Dave Richardson is also a qualified lawyer.

Undertaker: Sammy Carter (wicketkeeper)

Including an undertaker possibly counts as cheating, but during his profession Carter must have handled murder victims or the condemned. Carter sometimes appeared at the ground riding a hearse. He buried the wife of Warwick Armstrong.

An adventurous batsman, Carter developed the habit of going down on his knee. It is not known how he proposed marriage, but he is usually credited as inventor of the ‘scoop.’ More importantly, he was the first wicketkeeper to sit on his haunches, thus revolutionising cricket. Earlier glovemen bent their upper bodies from the waist.

Policeman: Shane Bond

Several policemen have graced the sport, but it eventually came down to two fantastic fast bowlers. In the end Bond’s incredible numbers gave him the nod over Fazal Mahmood, the first great bowler Pakistan had produced.

Bond was outstanding on the field, and a much-feared cop off it. With a surname to match that of the most famous spy in the history of fiction, Bond becomes an obvious choice. After all, what is a murder without a policeman?

Special mention: John Arlott served at Southampton County Borough Police Force for 12 years, went on to become a surgeon, but could never make it to the Southampton Police Cricket XI. His talent was recognised, and Arlott was a regular on the PA system at the ground.

Murderer: Leslie Hylton

On his day Hylton could be genuinely quick. A Jamaican tearaway, Hylton’s 120 First-Class wickets came at 25.62, while his 16 Test wickets came at 26.12. In 1942, three years after he played his last First-Class match, he married Lurline Rose, daughter of an Inspector of Police.

Lurline, a dressmaker, made frequent trips to New York. It was during this period she got involved in a relationship with Roy Francis of Brooklyn Avenue. In 1954 Hylton received an anonymous letter, but Lurline denied the allegation. Unfortunately, Hylton intercepted some letters Lurline sent Francis.

The night started with heated arguments. Lurline eventually admitted, but was not, as per Hylton’s version, remorseful. To quote Sengupta, Lurline told Hylton that he “did not belong to the same class as she, he had never made her happy and the very sight of him made her sick.”

Hylton was made with rage. He picked up the gun from window-sill. Seven bullets were found inside Lurline’s body. Hylton was hanged. He remains the only known Test cricketer to be executed.

Prison warden: Charl Langeveldt

Drakenstein Prison was close to Paarl, headquarters of Boland cricket. It was there that Langeveldt remained a warden — a job he carried on with while playing First-Class cricket. Though he played six Tests, Langeveldt was more proficient in ODIs and T20Is, and was a domestic star in the South African circuit as well as for several county sides.

In 2005 at Kensington Oval Langeveldt bowled one of the most astonishing overs in history: West Indies needed 2 from the last 4 balls, but Langeveldt’s hat-trick resulted in a 1-run victory for the tourists.

Murder suspect: Montague Druitt

Druitt was not a First-Class cricketer. He was a capable all-rounder, once scoring 64 for Gentlemen of Dorset. He also had 12 wickets in a match against Wiltshire, and an 8-for against the same opposition.

He took his own life on December 4, 1888. Following an inquest, Dr Thomas Diplock mentioned suicide “whilst of unsound mind.” It was a rather sad end, but what is he doing on this list?

In a 1894 memorandum, Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten wrote of Druitt: “From private information I have little doubt that his own family suspected this man of being the Whitechapel murderer; it was alleged that he was sexually insane.”

Yes, Druitt was a suspect for the Whitechapel Murders. In other words, they speculated whether he was Jack the Ripper. To quote Sengupta, “Perhaps it will never be ascertained whether Druitt was the Ripper or not. He continues to enjoy the dubious distinction of being cricket’s only known connection to serial killing.”

Prison van driver: Dwayne Leverock

However hardened the criminal is, he would have to be really brave if he dares escape a van driven by Leverock. All of 127 kg, Leverock was probably the second-heaviest to play international cricket (after Armstrong), though some believe WG was as heavy in his later days.

With Bermuda stripped of ODI status, it is likely that Leverock will hold the record for the most ODI wickets for a Bermudan. He has also taken the only ODI five-for in their history.

Final squad:

EM Grace, Claude Tozer, Ted Dexter (captain), Chandu Sarwate, Aftab Gul, Sammy Carter (wicketkeeper), Shane Bond, Leslie Hylton, Charl Langeveldt, Montague Druitt, Dwayne Leverock.

In other words…

Coroner, murder victim, crime novelist (captain), fingerprint expert, lawyer, undertaker (wicketkeeper), policeman, murderer, prison warden, murder suspect, prison van driver.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)