Cricket has perhaps captured more writers’ imagination than any other sport. From George Orwell using cricket as a symbol of English morality to Douglas Adam’s ‘Wooden Pillar of Nature and Spirituality’ referring to the Ashes, in the Hitchhiker’s series, the game’s appeal to the literary world has been like none other.
A few renowned literary figures were even players of the game they loved and so often influenced their works.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The creator of the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was an avid cricketer, playing 10 first-class matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club. A decent batsman, with a high score of 43, Doyle once took the wicket of W.G Grace, hailed by historians as the greatest cricketer of all time. Doyle was so proud of his achievement that he wrote a 19-verse poem to commemorate it.
When the Author’s Cricket Club was established in 1905, Doyle was chosen as captain. He opened the batting and continued to play for Author’s XI until the First World War.
More notably, however, it is believed that Conan Doyle’s most celebrated character, Sherlock Holmes’ Christian name is inspired by an amalgam of Mordecai Sherwin and Frank Shacklock, former Nottinghamshire players. And that his brother, Mycroft Holmes’ Christian name was suggested by the Derbyshire cricketers. In total, Doyle is thought to have named as many as 249 characters after cricketers.
J M Barrie
Creator of Peter Pan, JM Barrie’s love for the game was far superior to his talent for it. He founded a cricket team for his friends, called the Allahakbarries, erroneously believing it to mean ‘Heaven Bless Us’, given his team’s poor cricketing skills. Amongst the team’s notable players were Doyle, Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Jerome K Jerome and Lord Alfred Tennyson’s grandson.
He wrote a 40-page book about his team which was reprinted in 1950 with a foreword by Don Bradman.