A statue of Zeus
© Getty Images

The Zaltzmeister

The Sobers of Mount Olympus

If not for his otherworldly assignments, the Greek god of sky and thunder would have owned cricket

Andy Zaltzman

No. 4: Zeus
RHB, RF
Greece, Mount Olympus Wanderers, MCC

Of all the great figures of human history and mythology who have tragically missed out on the opportunity of playing top-level cricket - whether due to having popped their celebrity clogs long before the advent of the Test match, or because they never provably existed - perhaps none causes such regret as the controversial former Greek super-deity, Zeus.

Possessing a formidable physique, a supreme range of skills, a terrific throwing arm, and proven leadership qualities (not to mention a more-than-jaunty private life in which he [allegedly] fathered hundreds of children by numerous different women and goddesses), the King of Olympus would have made Garfield Sobers look like a village vicar making up the numbers in the Sunday 2nd XI.

Zeus, with his literally sculpted six-pack, bearded charisma and unabashed nudity would have cut a beyond-Bothamesque figure. In fact, if you record Ravi Shastri reading ancient Greek poetry whizz Homer's smash-hit epic The Odyssey, then play it backwards, it sounds like Richie Benaud saying: "What a marvellous cricketer Zeus is. A devastatingly powerful batsman; a terrifying pace bowler who sends down thunderbolts with that superb right arm of his - and, as God Of Thunder, his appeals can intimidate even the most sturdy-hearted of umpires; and, of course, a naturally authoritative skipper."

Indeed, it is as a captain that Zeus could have had his most striking impact on cricket. He brings a wealth of top-level leadership experience to the sporting table. As head honcho on Mount Olympus, he had to oversee a dressing room full of sizeable egos - including such diverse personalities as violence-loving war god Ares, his own understandably irritable wife Hera, and notorious booze-hound, hellraiser and all-round wild card Dionysus, the god of wine.

If Zeus could keep that collection of multi-talented superstars happy, one can only assume he would have found managing Kevin Pietersen rather easier than his nearest 21st-century counterpart, Paul Downton.

Zeus, with his literally sculpted six-pack, bearded charisma and unabashed nudity would have cut a beyond-Bothamesque figure

One concern might be that Zeus' domineering control might create as much fear and resentment as it would loyalty and determination in his team. His punishment of Prometheus - to be chained to a rock and have his liver pecked out and gobbled up by an eagle on a daily basis - for the twin crimes of stealing fire from Mount Olympus and looking "disengaged" might be considered on the vindictive side of things by 21st-century standards. But it is hard to imagine a team under his commanding but irascible control being as flaccid in the field as certain Test XIs that have recently lost series 3-1 in England.

Another aspect of Zeus' all-round cricketing utility would have been his mastery of the weather. He was known, among other things, as the "Cloud Gatherer", and his teams would clearly have benefited from propitious swing bowling conditions at all times. (It is surprising, given England's reliance on sideways movement, and back-room dedication to the "one-percenters" that can produce marginal benefits for the team, that they have not taken to performing ancient-Greek-style pre-match sacrifices of 100 head of oxen to Zeus, in an effort to aid Jimmy Anderson on hot, sunny days. Especially given the number of burger outlets now on site at most Test grounds.)

Furthermore, Zeus famously had the capability to turn himself into a shower of golden rain. Admittedly, back in his legendary pomp, he used this power in a rather unorthodox seduction routine to get down and funky with Danaë, a pretty young woman who had been locked in a tower. Each to their own. But this skill would have been absolutely priceless in a cricketing arena. Not only would he have been able to make rain stop play at a moment's notice whenever things were not going well for his team, but the fact that the precipitation would have been made of gold would have earned him the full, undivided attention of cricket's players, administrators and TV executives. (In fact, rumours have been circulating that a 75-minute shower of golden rain could be introduced as a standard break in play in future IPL matches.)

Rumours of an attempted comeback to haul Greece out of its financial megaslump with some good old-fashioned godding remain unconfirmed, so the chances are that cricket will never see the King of Olympus in full flight, and will be left only with wistful musings of what might have been had the big guy with the big beard and the big temper been a modern-day human in a major cricket-playing region, rather than an ancient deity from Greece whose best days are unquestionably behind him.

Indeed, the unmistakably stumps-like design of the temples dedicated to him suggests that the ancients, in their heart of hearts, knew that their No. 1-ranked god was, in essence, the ultimate cricketer.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS