With the football World Cup on, here’s a look at some prominent cricketers who might well have been a part of the quadrennial extravaganza too.
As the excitement around the FIFA World Cup 2018 builds, we take a look at a team of cricketers – some of them legends – who could kick a mean ball too.
Charles Burgess Fry was the ultimate all-rounder. A long-jumper, hunter, rugby player, angler, writer, politician and teacher, the Englishman was – reportedly – once also offered the throne of Albania. He was also an extremely good cricketer and footballer. He excelled in pretty much everything he did. As a cricketer, Fry scored 1223 runs in 26 Test matches between 1896 and 1912 and also played as a pacy right back for Oxford University, Corinthian Casuals, Southampton and England.
[The pic above is of Fry from his Corinthians days.]
Another English cricketer and footballer, Milton had an exemplary first-class career. Representing Gloucestershire, he made 620 appearances, scoring 32,150 runs. However, his international career lasted just six Tests between 1958 and 1959. Milton was also an excellent footballer. He was signed by Arsenal in 1945 and became a regular soon, playing more than 80 matches. He later transferred to Bristol City, before focussing entirely on his cricket career.
Viv Richards (c)
Not much about King Viv the footballer is known, but it’s common knowledge that he is perhaps the only male cricketer to play both the cricket and football World Cups. One of the greatest batsmen of all time, Richards strode the playing fields of cricket like a colossus, taking part in four ICC Cricket World Cups – 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1987. When in his 20s, Richards also turned out for Antigua in the 1974 World Cup Qualifiers. He had a trial with Bath City FC and a contract with Minehead Association FC, both in England, but fortunately chose cricket over football.
Perry was just 16 when she made her international cricket debut, in July 2007. Just two weeks later, she earned her first cap for the Matildas – the Australian women's football team. The outstanding cricketer of her generation juggled the two sports, managing her time as an all-rounder and a defender until 2014, before giving up football and focussing on cricket full-time. She has provided many great moments on the field in seven Tests, 97 one-day internationals and 90 Twenty20 Internationals, while football fans will remember her brilliant goal in the quarter-final of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
Compton played 78 Test matches for England. He was also a first-team regular for Arsenal for many years, joining them in 1933-34 after switching from Nunhead FC. A winger, Compton won the league title with the Gunners in 1948 and the FA Cup in 1950. He even played 16 games for England, but none of these were official internationals. On the cricket field, he made his name as one of England's finest batsmen, scoring 5807 runs at an average of 50.06 in Test cricket.
Gatting, who played 79 Tests and 92 ODIs, led England with great distinction in cricket, and holds the unique record of playing 551 first-class games and exactly as many List A matches. Also the victim of Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century, Gatting “was a decent footballer but became more interested in cricket”, and even played for Watford reserves before changing his spikes.
One of the great all-rounders of the game, there was little Ian Botham couldn’t do on the cricket field. He might not have scored his 7313 runs and picked up 528 wickets in international cricket, though, if he had taken his football seriously. ‘Beefy’, a centre-half in his youth, played a couple of matches for Yeovil Town and later made 11 appearances for Scunthorpe United between 1979 and 1985.
The only man to captain England in both cricket and football, Reginald Erskine Foster played cricket for England, Worcestershire and the Oxford University and football for Corinthians and England. His 287 in the Sydney Test of 1903 remains the highest innings score on Test debut – he played eight Tests for 602 runs at an average of 46.30. He had earlier made his football debut for England in 1900, and finished his career as captain of the side against Wales in 1902.
Born in Trinidad, Gerry Gomez played international cricket for the Windies between 1939 and 1954. He made 29 Test appearances, scoring 1243 runs and picking up 58 wickets. The all-rounder even led his side in a home Test against England in 1948. His father JE and son Gregory also played first-class cricket, but Gerry was a good footballer too, first playing for Trinidad and then becoming vice-president of his country's football association after retirement.
He might have played more than just the one Test for England if he hadn’t been playing football for Manchester United, Huddersfield and Halifax, or gone on the rebel tour of South Africa in 1982. Although the medium pacer only got to make one Test appearance against Australia in 1985, he played 228 first-class matches for Yorkshire and Orange Free State. Arnie, Ryan’s father, was also a part of United between 1972 and 1975, while also playing first-class cricket for Yorkshire.
The right-arm paceman featured in only two Tests for New Zealand against England in 1959, and played 28 first-class matches for Northern Districts and Auckland. He also has the unique distinction of playing football for two countries – he played for Australia first, and then for New Zealand as a goal-keeper.
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