The Liberal 1st XI

Lord Bonkers’ attempts (published courtesy of Jonathan Calder’s Liberal England blog) at listing his favourite XI cricketers inspired me to have a slightly more serious crack at coming up with a XI who represent the finest liberal traditions in the finest sport:

Mike Brearley (Captain)

Maybe not the first person from within the game to back the campaign against the 1970 South African tour but certainly the first to do so prominently at a time when it could have had a detrimental effect on his career in the game. In 1968 he proposed a motion to the MCC calling for future tours to be suspended until cricket became multi-racial.

CB Fry
A point of agreement with his Lordship: 94 first class hundreds and polled 20,000 votes as a Liberal candidate in Brighton.

Barry Richards

White South African who played for the apartheid era test team might seem an unlikely liberal figure but makes the team after he (and other South African players) staged a walk-off during a provincial match in protest at government policies.

Andy Flower (WK) & Henry Olonga
It solves my wicket keeper problem but that pales into insignificance alongside the bravery of Flower and Olonga who wore black arm bands and issued a statement in protest at the Muagabe regimes human rights abuses. Both had to leave Zimbabwe and Olonga faces arrest for treason , an offence carrying the death penalty.

Basil D’Olivera
Brought an end to the idea that selecting a team based on colour was an acceptable idea in global sport. The idea that someone who could never have played for his country of birth because of his skin colour could get into a test team was one the South African authorities could never accept.

John Cleese
Though not his best known achievement, Cleese wasn’t a bad cricketer in his youth at one point having trials for Gloucestershire. As well as his SDP/Liberal Alliance and Liberal Democrat PPBs – available here and here – he also produced a rather too closely obseved take off of the TMS commentary team for which he later apologised to Brian Johnston.

Andrew Flintoff
Probably stretching a point on this one. However I desperately need another front line bowler. Gets his place on his perceptive analysis of Prime Minister Blair at the post Ashes victory reception endorsing Matthew Hoggard’s assessment of the great leader, “That’s the first thing Hoggy has got right in a while: Tony Blair is a nob.” As a Lancastrian he obviously has the advantage of natural superiority.

CLR James
A slightly (!) more sophisticated cricket/political analysis synergy came from CLR James. Like Arlott his on field skills don’ t attract much comment and in fairness as a revolutionary socialist it’s probably stretching a point to class him as a liberal.

Learie Constantine
There would be few arguments about Constantine making an all-time XI on merit. However his actions in 1943 qualify him for this XI. In 1943 Constantine had made a booking at a London hotel. On arrival he was told that he and his family could only stay one night because a party of white US servicemen objected to their presence. This was well before any race discrimination laws so Constantine sued the hotel for breach of contract winning £5 in damages

John Arlott

OK I’ll have to concede that his strengths didn’t lie on the field – “he never became much of a player.” as Wisden put it. Undoubtedly one of the off-field giants of the game and his liberalism is beyond question.
Not only was he one of the hardy souls who flew the party’s flag in the 1950s (twice the candidate for Epping) but he was a fervent campaigning against apartheid, writing “human” on his immigration papers on a visit to South Africa. He played a major part in the D’Oliviera affair by supporting his move to the UK and helping him find a place in a Lancashire league team. He added weight to the 1970 stop the tour protests by refusing to commentate on the planned tour.

Batting Order:

Arlott and James make the tail a bit long, and there’s no spinner… but I’ve seen worse. They’ll certainly give the Bonkers XI a game.

* Hywel Morgan scored 679 runs in the 2008 season at an average of 37. This is added purely to boost his ego when it shows up on Google 🙂

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  • Given that the other name I’ve discovered since is WG Grace. Apparently he was one of the names pencilled in as a possible Liberal peer if Asquith’s plan to flood the Lords had come to fruition.

    Given the choice between the two I think I’ll go for the Dr to replace Flintoff 🙂 I think his Lordship will understand 🙂

  • The Tories could of course also call on E R Dexter and R G Marlar, but I am surprised not to see Sir Frank Worrell listed on the side of the angels.

    And, in the context of Pakistan, how does one categorise Imran Khan?

  • The right wing XI is a lot easier!
    [You left out Gubby Allen, Alec Bedser, John Major which would at least strengthen the bowling]

    I thought of Worrell but I couldn’t find anything about his politics beyond him being a senator.

    I’ve no idea about Imran Khan’s political philosophy. A problem he may share 🙂

  • Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif played a first-class match in 1973-74 for Railways. (

    Samuel Beckett ( played twice for Dublin University against Northants.

  • “I think you can safely add David Gower… to the Conservative/establishment squad.”

    Not so sure – Didn’t they think it’s all over report David Gower’s Garden West a Labour gain in 97 🙂

  • I believe CB Fry slightly pissed on his chips as regards his liberal credentials by backing Mosley’s BUF in later years.

    Football XI next? Actually, eleven non-tories would be the big challenge there.

  • I might try a baseball IX. Jackie Robinson at 2B, for a start. Curt Flood in center. Hmmm, off to think through a proper team.

  • You could have strengthened your team with the South African all-rounder Eddie Barlow who was a candidate for the anti-apartheid Progressive Federal Party at a by-election in Simonstown which he nearly won in 1980.
    The cricket writer and broadcaster Alan Gibson – he worked on TMS with John Arlott – was a member of the Liberal party, president of his local party in Falmouth and Camborne and a parliamentary candidate in the same constituency. Mind you I’m not sure about his playing skills.

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