From left: Vizzy    Getty Images and Frederick Beauclerk (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) have more in common than you think
From left: Vizzy Getty Images and Frederick Beauclerk (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) have more in common than you think

Gold watches have a curious association with cricket. Arunabha Sengupta delves into a couple of interesting ones.

Gold watches have been used in cricket for diverse purposes.

Vizzy, perhaps the most undeserving of all Indian cricketers, offered such gilded gifts to opposition captains and bowers, mostly in exchange of some loose deliveries. That was the tale of the 1936 tour when his sins were already more than plenty.

In the days of supposed pristine past when cricket was played not for money but pleasure and glory, and all such fabricated rot, this man, with a First-Class batting average of 18.60, led India on the tour of England in 1936. Nothing surprising in that. The West Indian greats of those days, men such as George Headley, Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine, had to play under white captains with limited cricketing credentials. Similarly, the Vijay Merchants and CK Nayudus had to turn out under the leadership of royalty possessing the financial engine to bankroll tours.

Vizzy s sins during the 1936 tour have been recounted oft enough. They ranged from sending the team s best player Lala Amarnath back home on supposed disciplinary grounds to asking Baqa Jilani to insult the great Nayudu in exchange of a Test cap. When he fell out with Merchant during the second Test at Old Trafford, Vizzy instructed Mushtaq Ali to run him out. Mushtaq refused, and both the openers scored centuries while famously putting on 203.

Vizzy s 600 runs on the tour came at an average of 16.21, and in the three Tests he scored 33 at 8.25. Even these runs were bloated, many of them bought. He showered opposition captain and bowlers with expensive gifts in exchange of some loose deliveries. Wisden records the story of a county match during which Vizzy gifted a gold watch to the opposing skipper. The unnamed recipient is supposed to have recalled, I gave him a full toss and a couple of long hops, but you can t go on bowling like that all day, not in England.

If one looks at the definition of spot-fixing, Vizzy does qualify as one of the pioneering practitioners.

However, another man of quasi-regal origins and a much better cricketer, albeit just as obnoxious and controversial, had a very different use for the gold watch.

Lord Frederick Beauclerk was the Vicar of St Albans, a great-grandson of King Charles II and Nell Gwyn. He was also a one-time President of MCC. Apart from that he was one of the best cricketers of his times, a great batsman, a superb under-arm bowler, and one of the most arrogant and theatrical characters in the game.

Sometimes he showed his contempt for the opposition bowler by hanging a valuable gold watch from the top of his middle stump as he faced his foe.

Different eras, different varieties of offensiveness, different uses of gold watches in cricket. There is such a lot of curious history associated with the game.