Dinesh Karthik (Extreme Left) tied the knot with squash player Dipika Pallikal recently.  Courtesy: Dipika Pallikal’s Facebook page
(From left) Dinesh Karthik, Susan Itticheria, and Dipika Pallikal. Susan and Karthik are probably the first mother-in-law and son-in-law pair to play international cricket Courtesy: Dipika Pallikal’s Facebook page

While the wedding between Dinesh Karthik and Dipika Pallikal, ‘listicle’-mongers all over internet have dished out cricketers who have married athletes from other sports. While Dipika has been prolific in her squash career, winning a gold medal at Commonwealth Games 2010 and a bronze at Asian Games 2014, her mother Susan Itticheria, along with Dinesh Karthik, has formed probably a unique combination — that of being the first mother-in-law and son-in-law combination to play international cricket. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at similar lists.

The press welcomed the much-awaited wedding between Dipika Pallikal and Dinesh Karthik with open arms. A match (no pun intended) between two celebrities — especially international sports stars — obviously attracts publicity. While Karthik has represented India in 103 international matches, Dipika has won gold at Glasgow Commonwealth Games (2010) and bronze at Incheon Asian Games (2014).

What went largely unnoticed is the fact that the wedding also made Susan Itticheria, mother of Dipika, and Karthik, the first mother-in-law and son-in-law to play international cricket.

A prolific teenage cricketer, Susan played 7 Women’s Tests and 2 Women’s ODIs (both in Women’s World Cup 1978). She bowled medium-pace, and made her debut at 16 against New Zealand Women in two unofficial ‘Tests’. In the second of these she claimed 3 for 69, clean bowling both openers.

This was followed by an unreal performance by Susan and Shantha Rangaswamy in Rani Jhansi Trophy 1976-77. Shantha (9-6-11-4) and Susan (6-3-3-4) skittled out North Zone Women for 23 at Shimoga. A Women’s Test debut against West Indies Women followed. Susan played 5 of the 6 Women’s Tests, but got a mere 4 wickets at 33 apiece.

A twin tour of New Zealand and Australia followed. Though Susan had 3 for 7 against Auckland Women, she failed in both Women’s Tests, at Dunedin and Perth. Despite her lack of success, Susan was named captain of India Women for Women’s World Cup 1978.

Unfortunately, Susan missed the flight to Calcutta, and Diana Edulji stepped in as captain against England Women. Despite a 9-wicket thrashing Diana led the last two matches; Susan played both matches, clean bowling Lorraine Hill, no less, in the second. Susan continued to make sporadic appearances, but no documentation of her matches since 1981 is available.

While Susan and Karthik are the first mother-in-law and son-in-law to play international cricket, there are a few fathers-in-law as well. Of course, there have been cricket couples (Roger Prideaux and Ruth Westbrook, Richard and Karen Hadlee, and Guy de Alwis and Rasanjali Silva immediately come to mind), but there have also been in-laws.

Note: The list excludes brothers- and sisters-in-law.

Ned Gregory and Harry Donnan

Edward James ‘Ned’ Gregory, doyen of the Gregory family (perhaps the most prolific Australian cricket dynasty) played a solitary Test — but what an appearance it was! Ned’s brother Dave led Australia in the first ever Test and won the first ever toss, Ned scored the first ever duck. Ned’s son Syd also played for Australia, as did Dave and Ned’s nephew Jack.

Harry Donnan married Ned’s daughter (and Syd’s sister) Nellie. As part of the extended Gregory family he perhaps thought it was his duty to do a ‘first’, and he obliged by smashing 120 for New South Wales against South Australia at Adelaide Oval in 1892-93 — the first ever Sheffield Shield hundred. He also played 5 Tests without much success.

Roy Park and Ian Johnson

Dr Roy Park etched his name in cricket folklore when his wife dropped his knitting as he walked out; since Dr Park was out first ball and never played again, Mrs Park missed her husband’s entire Test career.

Johnson, lead spinner of Don Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles, played 45 Tests (17 as captain), and led Australia to series wins in West Indies and India. He married Dr Park’s daughter Lal.

Harold Gilligan and Peter May

Harold Gilligan was nowhere as prolific a cricketer as his elder brother Arthur, who captained England in 9 Tests as well as led MCC to India. However, Harold did lead England in 4 Tests (all against a weak New Zealand side) and had a 12-year long career with Sussex. Frank, the eldest brother, had a long stint with Essex.

Harold’s daughter Virginia married Peter May, a name that needs no introduction. For sceptics, May ranks fifth on ICC’s all-time Test batting rankings (after Don Bradman, Len Hutton, Jack Hobbs, and Ricky Ponting). Since May led England as well, Virginia became one of the few non-cricketers to be related to three Test captains.

Walter and Karen Hadlee

Walter Hadlee was, of course, the great old man of New Zealand cricket — of whom Don Cameron wrote in The Wisden Cricketer: “No man had contributed more to the history, the traditions, the occasional quirks of New Zealand cricket.” Hadlee was, in an era when a Test victory was an alien concept to New Zealand, the man behind the rise of the sport in the country.

Walter’s sons Barry, Dayle, and Richard were all international cricketers (the younger they were, the more prolific they became). Richard remains the greatest cricketer in the history of New Zealand; he also married Karen, who played a solitary match against England Women in Women’s World Cup 1978.

Richard and Karen are now separated, but for some time, Walter was the father-in-law of Karen.

Bobby Simpson and Andrew Hilditch

Barring Don Bradman and Richie Benaud, nobody has contributed to Australian cricket more to Australian cricket. Ace all-rounder, captain, saviour during Kerry Packer era, coach, and commentator — there was hardly a hat Simpson did not don.

Hilditch, who married Bob’s daughter Kim, international debut (January 24, 1979) came a mere 266 days after Simpson’s last match (May 3, 1978). The pair thus missed out on a unique ‘feat’ (in other words, just a gestation period stood between the two generations of marital alliance playing together).

No mean player, Hilditch played 18 Tests, which involved at least two famous innings (113 against West Indies at MCG, and 119 in an Ashes Test at Headingley). He also had a rather controversial period as Chairman of Selectors for Australia.

Micky Stewart and Mark Butcher

This was a marriage made in Surrey. Micky Stewart and his son Alec were both prolific for Surrey. Micky was vice-captain of England on their 1963-64 tour of India, and led Surrey for 10 seasons. Alec went a step ahead, leading England and finishing as one of their top run-scorers.

Alec’s Surrey and England teammate Mark Butcher holds the dubious record of playing most Tests without playing a single ODI. Mark’s father Alan played a Test; his brother Gary and sister Byrony are both domestic cricketers, as are Alan’s brothers Martin and Ian.

Mark Butcher married Judy Stewart. Unfortunately, they broke up after Butcher had an affair.

Abdul Qadir and Umar Akmal

For some reason, Umar Akmal’s wedding to Abdul Qadir’s daughter Noor Amna never got as much publicity as some of the other cricket weddings. The wedding also meant that Qadir got related to Umar’s brothers Kamran and Akmal, but that is not a part of this article. It is worth a mention here that Sulaman and Usman, two of Qadir’s sons, have played for Pakistan Under-19s.

Qadir and Akmal form probably the most high-profile of all father-in-law-son-in-law combinations in terms of achievements. While Qadir was instrumental in rediscovering leg-breaks in an era dominated by pace, Akmal, despite not living up to his immense potential, is still a force to reckon with.

Mohammad Ilyas and Imran Farhat

An opener who also bowled leg-break, Mohammad Ilyas played 10 Tests. His finest hour came against New Zealand at Karachi in 1965. A target of 202 could have been stiff, but Ilyas smashed his way to 126 not out with 15 fours and a six. Pakistan won by 8 wickets and sealed the series 2-0.

Ilyas’ son-in-law Imran Farhat has been prolific for Pakistan, and is still under contention for an international spot (his brother Humayun has also played a Test). Ilyas, a selector, infamously ran into a confrontation with Chief Selector Salahuddin Ahmed in May 2007 after Imran was dropped.

Special mentions: Ray Illingworth and Ashley Metcalfe; Alan Oakman and David Smith

‘Illy’, of course, regained The Ashes for England in Australia in 1970-71, and retained it back home in 1972. He was also England’s first ODI captain. Ashley Metcalfe of Yorkshire played a ‘Test’ for England Under-19 in 1983.

Oakman played two Tests, but was a Sussex mainstay for 21 years. David Smith, his son-in-law, played an Under-19 ‘Test’ in 1974.

Uncles-in-law: Madhav Mantri and Gundappa Viswanath, Ghulam Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, Ian Healy and Mitchell Starc

It is unfortunate that Mantri is remembered as the uncle of Sunil Gavaskar. One was one of the stalwarts of Bombay cricket, Mantri played 4 Tests. His niece (Gavaskar’s sister) Kavita married Gundappa Viswanath: spectators of the era were divided over which of the two men — Gavaskar and Viswanath — was greater.

Indian captain Ghulam Ahmed’s nephew Asif Iqbal led Pakistan, but more significantly (for this article) Ghulam’s son Nisar is also Wimbledon-winner Sania Mirza’s cousin. She is married to Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, making it three Test captains in the family.

Ian Healy’s niece Alyssa, herself an international captain, recently got married to Mitchell Starc.

Note: Since May had married Harold Gilligan’s daughter, it also makes him and Arthur Gilligan eligible for the list.

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