Photo feature

The partnership

Cricketers and their other halves

Nishi Narayanan  |  

© Getty Images

We root for our favourite cricketers, treating them like heroes on the field and rock stars when we chance upon them off the field. It must feel heady, if exhausting, to be received that way. What's it like when these players get back home to partners who might love them but not quite worship them? A bit deflating to be nagged about dirty shoes and smelly laundry, perhaps?

Don Bradman called his relationship with his wife Jessie "the greatest partnership of his life". In 1938, he asked the Australian board to allow Jessie to join him on the tour of England, but was refused twice, because "it would create an embarrassing precedent", as former Australia offspinner Ashley Mallett recounts in his book Bradman's Band. Instead of voicing his disappointment publicly, Bradman spoke through friends in the press, and ultimately the pressure on the administrators from journalists and fans was so intense, especially with Bradman considering retiring after the tour because of his strained relationship with the board during the whole affair, that they had to relent. Stan McCabe and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith's wives also took advantage of the board's u-turn and joined their husbands in England.

The picture above, from that tour, shows Bradman and Jessie (standing left) relaxing in the home of England and Middlesex player Walter Robins and his wife (right) in Berkshire.

Chris Cole / © Getty Images

Jessie Bradman would have had to deal with a huge amount of attention on her husband, but did she also have to contend with the crazies? Robin Smith's wife Kath remembered female fans would send her husband letters in blood. "When my son Harrison was born, she [a fan] started asking if she could be the godmother," Kath told Perth Now in 2010. "I tracked her down and phoned her and said, 'Could you please stop doing this?"'

KM Chaudhry / © Associated Press

When administrators allow it, partners can enjoy the social aspects of a cricket tour. Here, the wives of VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Ajit Agarkar and Murali Kartik visit the Lahore Fort during India's historic 2003-04 tour of Pakistan.

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Does having your partner around on a long tour help you unwind? Allan Lamb and David Gower put the notion to the test, as they take a dip with their partners during the 1990-91 Ashes tour.

Santosh Harhare / © Getty Images

Other shared activities when in foreign parts: shopping for DVDs, as demonstrated by Wasim Jaffer and his wife Ayesha in Dhaka in 2007.

Don Arnold / © Getty Images

Being with a cricketer means having to deal with long absences and strict regimens, so perhaps it helps if you're a cricketer yourself. Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell (left) is married to former England cricketer Lynsey Askew.

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Blackwell's team-mate Alyssa Healy is married to fast bowler Mitchell Starc.

Mark Metcalfe / © Getty Images

And yet another team-mate, Ellyse Perry, married outside cricket, to rugby player Matt Toomua.

Noah Seelam / © AFP/Getty Images

The subcontinent equivalent might be Pakistan's Shoaib Malik, who is married to another high-profile sportsperson - Indian tennis player Sania Mirza.

Mark Metcalfe / © Getty Images

Australian fast bowler Megan Schutt (right) got engaged to partner Jess Hollyoake last June, and has spoken out, like Blackwell, against Australia's laws, which, as of now, don't recognise same-sex marriages. "It makes you feel sub-human, it really does," she told Cricket Australia's website. "No one should feel that, whether it be for your sexual orientation or your race or anything else."

Shammi Mehra / © AFP/Getty Images

If you marry an actor, do you need to have a flair for drama? Harbhajan Singh gets down on one knee during his wedding to Bollywood performer Geeta Basra.

Manoj Verma / © Getty Images

Yuvraj Singh married into the dramatic fraternity too, to actor Hazel Keech. And Harbhajan and Basra (extreme left) turned up at the wedding, natch.

Milind Shelte / © Getty Images

Virat Kohli with actor Anushka Sharma, who was blamed by trolls on social media for India's World Cup semi-final loss to Australia in 2015. Kohli spoke out against the criticism on Instagram: "Shame on those people who have been having a go at Anushka for the longest time and connecting every negative thing to her. Shame on those people calling themselves educated. Shame on blaming and making fun of her when she has no control over what I do with my sport. If anything she has only motivated and given me more positivity."

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Jeff Thomson and his wife Cheryl model clothes, 1978. When Thommo was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame last year, he thanked Cheryl in his acceptance speech and talked about how partners are treated much better these days. "She didn't get all the trips you girls get now. We had to sneak them in… they didn't come on the same planes, they used to stay in some shithole down the road [from the team hotel]. No wonder half of them were divorced!"

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Another cricket wife who modelled was Susan Dexter, married to former England captain Ted. On the 1962-63 Ashes tour, Susan gained a fair bit of attention when she joined her husband in Australia, having landed a few modelling contracts there, leading Fred Trueman to say: "All that the newspapers and television programmes were full of was where the Duke's [of Norfolk, the tour manager] horses were running, where [Rev] David Sheppard was preaching, and what Mrs Dexter was wearing."

In a post on her husband's website, Susan offers wardrobe tips for a day out watching cricket. "... it is worth remembering the temperature in the long room at Lords and/or outside on the north stand can be arctic if you are not in the sun and this can ruin even the best test," she writes. "It is difficult to look summery and warm, but a light coloured wool suit with a long skirt really does do the trick."

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Jack Hobbs' wife, Ada, bats on the beach with her son John keeping wicket during a holiday in Cliftonville in August 1925. In his book Jack Hobbs: England's Greatest Cricketer, author Leo McKinstry reproduces an interview in which Ada spoke about the sacrifices one had to make as a famous player's spouse.

"'My husband's career as a cricketer comes before everything else to me and I am proud to think that in a small measure I have helped him,' she told a Daily Express reporter in 1929. But, she continued, 'one thing that I do not like about Jack's cricket is that we can never have a real summer holiday. When I see my friends going off to the seaside in August, how I envy them. During the whole of our married life we have had only one summer holiday.'"

William Vanderson / © Getty Images

In his book An Autobiography of an Unknown Cricketer, writer and publisher Sujit Mukherjee recalls the first time he met India batsman Hemu Adhikari (in this photo with his wife, Kamal):

"Somebody pointed him out to me at a squadron party, and I couldn't believe that this short, average-looking man sitting quietly in a corner could be a cricketer who had toured Australia with the India team and only a couple of years ago was vice-captain on India's tour of England. I sometimes thought Test cricketers could be identified off-field by a halo around their heads or some kind of effulgence and would certainly be the centre of conversation at a party. Later, when I got to know Hemu, I realized no matter how many Tests he played or cricket tours he made, he never sought or ever would seek any social limelight. His wife Kamal was a perfect match for him in modesty and friendliness. Had she ever taken to playing cricket, I am sure her batting and bowling would have been exactly the same as Hemu's. Maybe her fielding would have been less spectacular."

Nishi Narayanan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo