Knowing The Score
10/03/2013 § 5 Comments
There was a certain amount of discussion during the recent Test match between New Zealand and England about the musical credentials of the home side, containing as it did two players called Wagner and Boult (not to mention, which they didn’t, the admittedly lesser known Williamson and Martin).
This led me, saddo that I am, to compile what I believe to be the definitive team of composer/cricketers. For the purposes of the exercise I have ignored conductors, so worthy candidates such as the afore-mentioned Boult and indeed Atherton are not included.
I am grateful to Steve Dawes and Michael Seal, both of whom contributed names to the team.
The team has cricketing balance, with five batsmen, a spinning all-rounder, the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman of all time, and four contrasting fast bowlers. A variety of spin options is also offered by four of the top five batsmen. The pace attack is varied, with all-out speed balancing two old swingers and a left-armer.
Musically, the team is nothing if not eclectic. The batting order is book-ended by two titans of the Germanic school. In between, a pot-pourri of American and British composers, offering everything from baroque cleanliness to romantic post-neo-quasi-minimalism.
I can’t see it being beaten.
1 Andrew (Richard) Strauss (captain)
This compact and dogged left-hander is a shoo-in for one of the opening slots, his batting credentials backed up by an impressive canon of compositions in a range of genres. Known primarily for his brutal cut shot and advanced harmonic style, Strauss scored sixteen operas and ten tone poems at an average of 40.91. You wouldn’t want to go into a match without someone of his experience, stature and sheer compositional ability.
2 Bob (Samuel) Barber
But for an unfortunate spelling mishap, this spot would have been occupied by bewigged and lantern-jawed Austr(al)ian Matthew (Franz Josef) Hayd(e)n, whose prolific appetite for symphonies, string quartets and cheap runs against substandard attacks would have been hard to argue with. But rules is rules, and his replacement, while under-appreciated by many, is known for an unparalleled pair of towering achievements.
The haunting melancholy of the Adagio for Strings combine with a dominant 185 off 234 balls in the third Ashes Test of 1965-66 to secure Barber’s place in the team. A feisty left-handed batsman with an uncanny gift for melody, Barber may be less lauded than his contemporaries Bernstein and Boycott, but as an all-round musical and cricketing package is easily preferable to either of them.
3 Neil (Jonathan) Harvey
The first Anglo-Australian member of the team, he earns his place for his aggressive and mercurial batting, allied to a notably spiritual compositional style: a combination sure to mesmerise the opposition bowlers one way or the other. Occasional spin and an in-depth knowledge of cutting-edge digital technology could also come in useful.
4 Michael (Jeremiah) Clarke
The Aussie batsman is currently in the middle of one of the richest seams of form in living memory. And his Trumpet Voluntary is known as one of the most popular and recognisable pieces of music ever written.
Princess Diana had it at her wedding.
Need I say more? I needn’t.
5 Jimmy (John) Adams
Really solid in both departments. Steadiness personified on the cricket field, Adams’s solid left-handed batting is backed up by serviceable occasional spin bowling, excellent slip fielding, and an eclectic ‘post-style’ compositional style. Throw in his ability as guest wicketkeeper/conductor and he becomes indispensable. You couldn’t ask for a feistier competitor to shore up the middle order.
6 Dean (Edward) Elgar
A simple reversal of vowels would see Edvard (Tony) Grieg/Greig claim this spot as his own. But if I can’t have Hayd(e)n, I must be rigorous and exclude the Norwegian/South African-born England captain and composer of numerous popular classics.
But I’m confident that Elgar will hold his own. He may be a bits-and-pieces cricketer with limited experience, but balance that against his imposing musical track record. Many is the opponent who will quail at the sight of the moustachioed, tweed-weskit-wearing composer of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations, and for that alone he is worth his place at the heart of the team.
7 Adam (William) Gilchrist
While we yield to nobody in our admiration of the Australian who reinvented the role of batsman-wicketkeeper, it is the musical side that might prove more dodgy. Put bluntly, can you imagine a high class team including someone described by Wikipedia as “a major figure in nineteenth century music of Philadelphia”?
Pretty underwhelming, musically, but, with the exclusion of the more highly-credentialed Sarah (Samuel Coleridge-) Taylor on the grounds of spelling, the tricky but pivotal wicketkeeper-batsman-organist-choir director slot goes to Gilchrist. As long as the team doesn’t find itself in need of a finely-crafted triple fugue or harmonically inventive sonata form development, we should be ok.
8 Geoff (Malcolm) Arnold
An irresistibly English blend. Arnold’s masterful blend of seam and swing is beautifully balanced by his swashbuckling orchestral style. Boasting a wealth of experience in both the cricketing and musical arena, Arnold truly is the composer-bowler’s composer-bowler and a stalwart of any team.
9 Patrick (Paul) Patterson
Raw pace and a wildly eclectic and prolific compositional output give Patterson the nod over the almost equally-qualified Tate. Whether required to flatten stumps or sevenths, Patterson is your man, the sheer speed of his bowling beautifully counterpointed by an impressive range of compositions whose style can never be predicted. A potential game-changer in both areas.
10 Jimmy (Leroy) Anderson
The leader of the attack, with over 500 international wickets to his name, Anderson’s equal mastery of light music compositions offers a pleasing contrast to the more heavyweight offerings of some of his colleagues. If you want a bowler to wring lateral movement out of the most unyielding surface while delivering a hummable ditty like ‘Sleigh Ride’, Anderson’s your man. First name on the team sheet.
11 Neil (Richard) Wagner
There will be raised eyebrows here. Wagner’s fledgling test career makes him a risky selection. But it’s simply impossible to ignore the claims of the man who reinvented opera, harmony and orchestral writing. And anyone who has sat through a complete Ring Cycle will be only too well aware of Wagner’s suitability for the sustained rigours of test cricket.
Tim (Carl) Nielsen (coach)
While below international class from a cricketing point of view, the Dane’s nationalistic fervour will blend with coaching experience at the top level to inject a necessary sense of pride into what is by necessity a diverse squad.
Also considered for selection:
Bobby (Robert) Simpson
Kane (Malcolm) Williamson
Clive (George) Lloyd
Bruce (Frank) Martin
Joey (Arthur) Benjamin
Kenny (George) Benjamin
Keith (William) Boyce
Maurice (Phyllis) Tate
Excluded on grounds of spelling:
Sarah (Samuel Coleridge-) Taylor
Tony (Edvard) Greig/Grieg
Matthew (Franz Josef) Hayd(e)n
Tony (Matthew) Lock(e)
The match report will, of course, be written by Neville Cardus.