||Lord Bonkers’ Diary 331
||14 February 2009 (15:21:52)
Lord Bonkers’ XI
When frost rimes the trees outside my Library window, I cheer
myself by thinking of summers past and summers yet to come. Over the seasons
many notable cricketers have turned out for me, and I shall devote a few pages
of my diary to choosing the finest Lord Bonkers’ XI of all. Modesty dictates
that I should not include myself, of course, but in reality I should be
captaining the team, batting at number four and turning my googlies.
Let me tarry no longer: here is my selection...
The inadequacy of his report into the circumstances surrounding
the death of David Kelly (it was forensically dissected by my old friend Norman
Baker in his recent masterpiece) should not blind us to Hutton’s excellence as
an opening bat. I recall a match against the Independent Labour Party at Worksop
when, aided by a fighting 15 from Ray Alan and Lord Charles, he saw us home on a
‘sticky dog’. Seeing him stride to the wicket gave one much the same feeling of
security that one feels nowadays when Vince “High Voltage” Cable gets up to
speak in the House.
C. B. Fry
Sometime Liberal candidate for Brighton, Banbury and Oxford, “C.
B.” was a brilliant scholar and an accomplished performer in every variety of
outdoor sport. He captained England at cricket and we lost not a single test
match whilst he was at the helm. He played rugger for Blackheath and the
Barbarians, and association football for England against Ireland in 1901, as
well as playing for Southampton in the F. A. Cup Final. He also set a world long
jump record that stood for 21 years. Fry was once offered the throne of Albania,
and had he succeeded in convincing von Ribbentrop that the Germans should take
up cricket then the history of the twentieth century would have been different
indeed. In short, Fry was the second most remarkable Englishman of his
With his grey hair, glasses and catchphrase “Don’t panic, Mr
Greig,” Steel raised our nation’s morale during its darkest hour – I refer, of
course, to our humiliation at the hands of the Australian fast bowlers Lillee
and Thomson. Steel’s obdurate forward defensive prod became a symbol of national
resistance: we had lost our steam trains, seen our currency defiled, but we were
not going to let them get another wicket before lunch. I shall pass over Steel’s subsequent leadership of the Liberal Party. Though I was one of the first to spot his potential as a batsman, it never occurred to me to invite him to captain the team.
Something of a rough diamond, Violent was always an innovator in
batting technique. One hears much nowadays of ‘pinch hitting’ and of Kevin
Pietersen’s ‘reverse sweep’, but how many of today’s young people know that both
were invented by my second selection? If a short leg fielder came too close or
the umpire looked poised to give her out lbw to one that had straightened a bit,
then they were likely to find themselves on the business end of one of these
novel approaches. As Violent herself would have put it, she made the cricket
pitch ‘her manor’ and anyone who tried to take her wicket was ‘out of order’ and
‘needed a slap’.
Quite where to bat him was always a puzzle – he once came in at
number ten with two of the three Beverley Sisters at nine and eleven – but there
was no doubting that he was Terribly Clever and quite the best captain England
have had. These days he works as a psychotherapist and is well versed in the
theories of Clement Freud.
L. T. Hobhouse
I thought of Graeme Pollock, Everton Weekes and John Farquhar
Munro, but ultimately there was only one choice to complete my middle order.
A good wicketkeeper is the heart of any cricket team and I am
always on the lookout for a good prospect. When he was first elected for
Hereford I asked some people I knew there: “Can Keetch catch?” When I was
answered in the affirmative, I knew I had my man.
Every side needs a seamer who is prepared to bowl into the wind
or take a spell when the ball is not swinging or the opposition is on top. Nancy
was never afraid of hard yakka.
There are many clergymen who have achieved eminence at cricket;
one thinks of David Sheppard, Andrew Wingfield Digby and Archbishop Makarios.
Funnily enough, the Revd Hughes is not one of them. When I appointed him to the
living at St Asquith’s upon the assumption that he was the bright eyed, bushy
tailed Middlesex opening bowler who had performed well for me on many occasions.
He turned out to be quite another chap. I have never held this against the Revd,
but it is the other fellow who makes my XI.
With his fuzzy hair and 100mph balls, Philip Dylan Willis was a
fearsome sight for any batsman and later became MP for Harrogate and Liberal
Democrat education spokesman. After a particularly destructive performance, I
once suggested that I should fetch him a cup of tea whilst he put his feet up on
the pavilion balcony and watched our batsmen knock off their meagre target. It
was typical of the man that he should decline my offer on the grounds that this
would constitute a “two-tier service”.
Though his chief contribution was made pulling the heavy roller,
Dobbin was always happy to turn out if we were a man short and once played out
the final over to secure a draw against Mebyon Kernow at St Austell.
So there you have it: Lord Bonkers’ finest XI. Let us not,
however, forget the contribution that many make from beyond the boundary rope. I
think, in particular, of Meadowcroft’s sterling work as groundsman, of Miss
Fearn’s delicious teas and of the Well-Behaved Orphans who swarm up and down the
ladders all day to work the scoreboard. With their help, and that of our trusty
scorer Mr Bernie Madoff, I have no doubt that this team would be hard indeed to
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10, opened his
diary to Jonathan Calder
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