Five cricketers who moved into other sports before Andrew Flintoff
Andrew Flintoff (centre) watches as England team mate Steve Harmison spars during England’s nets session at the Jolly Harbour Resort, Antigua, on April 7, 2004. Eight years later, Flintoff announced his intention to get into the boxing ring as a professional heavyweight boxer © Getty Images

 

Andrew Flintoff delivered a knock-out punch by announcing his intentions of becoming a professional boxer. Arunabha Sengupta looks at cricketers who moved to other sports once their cricket careers were done and dusted.

 

As if his fights with authorities and the multiple injuries he sustained during his career were not enough, Andrew Flintoff has now declared his intentions to throw punches as a professional heavyweight boxer.

 

We may be forgiven for doubting the sanity of the decision, but Flintoff is not really a trend-setter.

 

While it remains to be seen whether his hooking and ducking will be as good in his new sport of choice, there have been quite a few cricketers who have changed arenas and disciplines with aplomb.

 

England and Middlesex batsmen Denis Compton and Bill Edrich put on football jerseys, turning out for staunch rivals Arsenal and Tottenham respectively.
In his younger days, WG Grace himself was a champion 400-yard hurdler and later represented England in bowls.

CB Fry played soccer for England and was also the joint world record holder in long jump.

 

And in Flintoff’s own chosen field, Johnny Douglas won the middleweight boxing gold in the 1908 London Olympics, before captaining England in Test cricket. Several other noble cricketers also shone brightly enough in other sports to take part in the Olympic Games.

 

From Vic Richardson, who represented his state in baseball, to Phil Horne who played badminton for New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games, there are plenty of such examples of multi-faceted sporting talents down the years.

 

However, it is rare to find cricketers gravitating to other sports after the completion of their careers. In fact, the relative relaxed pace of the First-class game has witnessed reverse migration, with many a sportsman opting for competitive cricket as a means to remain active with advancing age, playing well into his middle age.

 

Below is a list of versatile cricketers who did make it reasonably big in other sports after leaving the confines of the 22 yards.

 

1. Franklyn Stephenson: With Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Colin Croft crowding out the fast bowling slots, Stephenson was probably one of the best cricketers never to win a Test cap. However, he took nearly 800 First-class wickets, and performed the season double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets for Nottinghamshire in 1988.

 

After he bid adieu to cricket, he turned to golf and was a resounding success. He is now the resident professional at the prestigious Sandy Lane resort in his native Barbados.

 

2. Jeff Wilson: A useful all-rounder, Wilson played four One-Day Internationals for New Zealand against Australia in 1993. After this, he turned his energies to the rugby union, winning 60 caps for the All Blacks, scoring a record 44 tries.

 

Almost 12 years later, he returned to play two more ODIs, again against Australia, with little success.

 

3. Ralph Archibald Legall: He was a wicket-keeper batsman who played four Tests for West Indies against India in 1953. In his final Test match, all the three Ws – Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes – got hundreds.

 

After his Test career, he traded his wicket-keeping gloves for the tennis racquet, playing for the Caribbean Davis Cup team against the United States of America in 1954. Along with Aasif Karim and Cotar Ramaswamy, Legall makes up the only three to have played both Davis Cup and Test cricket.

 

In 2003, he passed away in mysterious circumstances, variously reported to have died in Toronto, New York State and Trinidad.

 

4. Kapil Dev: The legendary all-rounder retired after overtaking Sir Richard Hadlee’s world record haul of wickets. A fine player of the drive, and often giving the indication of teeing off while batting – as when he hit Eddie Hemmings for four sixes in as many balls to save the follow on – it was quite natural that he would take to golf.

 

Having met with reasonable success, with amateur titles in his bag, he is now comfortable enough to dispense advice to young golfers.

 

5. Rudi van Vuuren: He opened the bowling for Namibia and took five for 42 as England struggled to beat them in the 2003 World Cup. However, the qualified physician conceded 92 runs from his 10 overs against Australia.

 

Later, in the same year, van Vuuren was included in Namibia’s rugby World Cup squad and took the field against Romania. He is perhaps the only sportsman to compete in two separate World Cups in the same year. 

Addendum:

 

Although this is essentially a list of men who excelled in other sports after moving away from cricket, Flintoff’s heavyweight choice tempts one to include the daddy of them all.

 

Bill Alley, who played for New South Wales and Somerset, worked as a deep-sea fisherman and dance-hall bouncer. He was also a professional boxer who won all his 28 fights as a middleweight. He played cricket as an aggressive left-handed batsman and right arm medium-fast bowler, and scored 3019 runs for Somerset in 1961 aged 42 – the last man to cross 3000 in a season.

 

In 400 First-class matches from 1945 to 1968, he piled up 19612 runs, captured 768 wickets and held 293 catches. Identified by Don Bradman as a future star for Australia, he somehow never managed to play Test cricket.

 

Although he spent a fair amount of time fighting in the ring, his worst injury occurred when a ball hit from an adjacent net fractured his skull. This made him give up boxing when he was widely expected to become the first Australian world champion pugilist.

 

He also went on to officiate as an umpire in ten Test matches.

 

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and chief cricket writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)