The Doctor Goes To Bat - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Doctor Goes To Bat

Howzat! Chris Morley steps up to the crease with the Fifth Doctor.
Can it ever be said that for the Doctor, life imitates art? Anyone listening to the 2003 Big Finish adventure Nekromanteia may have cause to wonder, particularly if they've been following the subsequent debate around the possible inclusion of cricket as an Olympic sport for future editions of the Games. For the then-youngest looking incarnation of the Time Lord, who just so happened to favour a cricket jumper under that coat, happens to mention that he managed to persuade the organising committee of the 2060 Games in Barcelona to add it to the programme! Whether he managed to take in any of the matches, he doesn't say, but looking further back it would seem that an attempt to introduce cricket at the first recorded modern Olympics in 1896, hosted in Athens, ended in failure as too few entries were received from potential competing nations. Had it been included, it would have been the only team sport to have featured in the itinerary.

By the next Games, in Paris, there were at least two teams raised to compete as hosts France took on Great Britain. Both Belgium and Holland considered entering before withdrawing in protest as their bids to co-host ended in rejection. Out of the two that did play, the French side contained only three native Frenchmen, with their team-mates being mostly English workmen helping to build the Eiffel Tower. One of the three, Timothee Jordan, opened the batting & scored 11 in the first innings before getting himself out for a duck in the second. Another native son, A.J Schneidau, got himself 8 & then 1, whereas H.F Roques didn't score at all in his time out on the field of play. The team were rounded out with the considerably less Gallic Robert Horne, Henry Terry, William Anderson, Douglas Robinson, William Attrill, W. Browning, Arthur MacEvoy, Philip Tomalin - who managed to survive as the only batsman not out in either innings of the match - & John Braid. They were at least slightly better when called upon to bowl.
The Great Britain side was drawn entirely from the ranks of the Devon & Somerset Wanderers club- two of whom had some experience in first class cricket as Alfred Bowerman & Montagu Toller had managed eight outings for Somerset between them. That any record of the occasion survives at all is down to the foresight of John Symes, a solicitor & keen amateur player who wrote out his own scorecard for the 158-run win which snaffled the gold medal.

A follow-up tournament was then scheduled for the 1904 Olympics in St Louis before being scrapped, again due to lack of entries, and the sport which the Doctor once proclaimed to be "the greatest game in the universe" during the second ever Big Finish release, 1999's Phantasmagoria, was never to be played in an Olympic setting again!
How he'd changed his tune though, since back in his first incarnation when during The Daleks' Master Plan he accidentally landed the TARDIS in the middle of Lord's Cricket Ground whilst an Australia/England match was taking place, the Doctor claimed not to recognise the sport at all! After a rejuvenation, he'd started carrying around a cricket ball but never properly embraced the full whites until many lifetimes later. In fact, the Fifth Doctors embraced it so much that he spent a full season playing for Stockbridge Cricket Club, as told during the Autumn section of the 2007 Big Finish adventure Circular Time.

Whether the Doctor was ever called up to represent his country (or a Gallifrey international squad) we don't know, but cricket itself did get its own second call-up to the international sporting competition realm when it was included in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. No England team competed, this time it was left to Scotland & Northern Ireland to keep the Home Nations flag flying, though neither made it out of the group stage. There was at least greater scope for competition as fourteen other nations also made the effort - Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka & Zimbabwe joined hosts Malaysia, South Africa beating the Australians by four wickets in the final to take gold after New Zealand triumphed over Sri Lanka to get their hands on the bronze medal.

And that, it seemed, was the final howzat! Until, that is, talk started to turn back to cricket as a potential Olympic sport before Peter Davison got a word in edgeways & well before the events of Nekromanteia. Davison & the Doctor he portrays will potentially only have to wait until Los Angeles in 2028 to see it return to the Olympic pantheon, much earlier than the 2060 Barcelona games, but still 128 years after that one and only match in France. Perhaps his well-thumbed up copy of Wisden Cricketer's Almanack which he keeps in the TARDIS library had a misprint?
Back as 2017 the International Cricket Council started to make positive noises as far as those in whites going for gold was concerned, declaring that the time was right. The England & Wales Cricket Board were a bit more cautious if no less encouraging...
“We continue to be open-minded about cricket becoming an Olympic sport and welcome further discussions on this issue between the IOC and the ICC. A final decision on this is some way off and will not be guaranteed or simple to deliver. But we do have a duty to explore what is good for cricket.”
Former England man Mike Gatting, who has appeared in the Past Doctor novel Fear Of The Dark by mention of his having signed a bat for the Doctor, speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Marylebone Cricket Club, or MCC's, World Cricket Committee, indicated in 2019 that he was hopeful cricket could make a return around seven years from now.
“We were talking with Manu Sawhney, the ICC chief exec, and he was very hopeful we can get cricket into the 2028 Olympics.”
The MCC itself is not short on history, as its own website says...
“Marylebone Cricket Club was founded in 1787, taking as its home a cricket ground set up by the ambitious entrepreneur Thomas Lord staged his first match – between Middlesex and Essex – on a ground on Dorset Fields in Marylebone.

The following year, MCC laid down a Code of Laws, requiring the wickets to be pitched 22 yards apart and detailing how players could be given out. Its Laws were adopted throughout the game – and the Club today remains the custodian and arbiter of Laws relating to cricket around the world.”
Going a little further into the past, the Doctor himself is revealed to have ties (though not an actual rather natty red & yellow club one as sported by any of its 18,000 members) to the MCC. Joined by Turlough and Tegan, he was present on December 31, 1926 as an MCC team took on All-India in Calcutta - as related in another Big Finish audio story, The Emerald Tiger.
The game is popularly supposed to have been India's first official Test match, as the article Of Princes & Patriots makes clear...
“In 1926-27 Arthur Gilligan led an English side (known as MCC in those days) on a tour of India which included several first-class matches, but no official Test matches. On December 1, 1926 MCC took on the mighty ‘Hindus’ at the Bombay Gymkhana. Till then the visitors had steam-rollered all their opposition. However, here they ran into Col. C K Nayudu.

In 116 minutes of breath-taking strokeplay, he smashed 14 fours and 11 sixes, amassing 153 runs. The visitors had finally met suitable opposition.”
All watched by a suitably-dressed for the occasion Doctor, an English public schoolboy of sorts & an Australian. Well played indeed, sir!

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