Monday, 11 April 2011

Keeping it in the family

Nepotism has been in the news this week.  The Deputy Prime Minister of the UK has been given a hard time for confessing that it was old Cleggy who got young Cleggy his first job.   Business empires are regularly handed from father to son, and when there were empire-type empires those too were governed by that primogeniture thing.  No equal opportunities and social mobility for pax romana, thank you very much.

Fantasy Bob wondered whether nepotism operates in cricket.  Do fathers hand dominance of the crease to their offspring giving them an unfair advantage? 

MC Cowdrey
CS Cowdrey
Here is a selection of fathers and sons who have played Test cricket for England in the post-war period.  No fathers and sons have ever played in the same Test team (FB mentions this for clarity's sake because it is a frequent and interesting event in lower league cricket).

Colin Cowdrey - 114 tests, 7624 runs at 44.06
Chris Cowdrey - 6 tests, 101 runs at 14.42

Micky Stewart - 8 tests, 385 runs at 35.06
Alex Stewart -133 tests, 8463 runs at 39.54

Both these combinations have skippered the side.

Chris Broad - 25 tests, 1661 runs at 39.54
Stuart Broad - 34 tests, 1096 runs at 27.40; 99 wickets at 35.24

Len Hutton - 79 tests, 6971 runs at 56.67
Richard Hutton - 5 tests, 219 runs at 36.50; 9 wickets at 28.55

Jeff Jones - 15 tests, 44 wickets at 40.20
Simon Jones - 18 tests, 59 wickets at 28.23

Arnie Sidebottom and Alan Butcher played one Test each, their sons, Ryan and Mark respectively, did better with 22 and 71 appearances.   In some cases Dad is obviously the star, in others son outshines his Pater.

Sir Richard Hadlee
Walter Hadlee
But what does it tell you about the openness of British sporting society that this list is by far the longest of any of the Test playing nations?  Other countries have penny numbers of such relations - Walter and Richard Hadlee and Chris and Lance Cairns from New Zealand; Peter Pollock and Sean Pollock from S Africa; George and Ron Headley from W Indies.  The extended family structures of the sub-continent give rise to several examples - Armanath, Mankad, Manjrekar for instance but they seem well outnumbered by English father and son combinations.  And in that land of opportunity, Australia, while the Chappells were the grandsons of Aussie skipper Vic Richardson, FB has failed to find a father-son example.

In the lower leagues, father and son combinations can be deadly.  An athletic son in the field watching his aged and creaking parent puff after the ball knows nowhere to hide.  A father umpiring his batting son can frequently have a sudden and possibly terminal attack of deafness, blindness and elementary understanding of geometry.   On the other hand a son umpiring his aged parent has many possibilities, even in the unlikely event that the son has any idea of the laws of the game.  When Oedipal tensions arise things can get interesting.  FB has heard many exchanges that would make interesting case studies for Sigmund Freud.  In one instance, at the lightest hint of an appeal the son enthusiastically raised his finger with the cry 'That's out you old goat,' only to be met with the response 'And that's your pocket money you little bugger.' 

FB's earnest advice is never to let your son umpire while you're at the crease.  Very few such combinations travel home in the same car after the match, if ever again.


  1. Said with feeling = methinks FB speaks from personal experience here.

  2. Not at all - it has been one of the highlights of FB's career to have played in the same team as his son and heir (he assumes that the reverse also applies) - he reports an exchange from an opposing team where inter-generational rivalry was more acute.