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Hello from the other side

How cricketers have kept in touch over the ages

Deepti Unni  |  

© Getty Images

Cricketers may all have been at home the last few months but they certainly haven't been out of sight or mind. They've been all over our timelines, chatting, doing interviews, dancing, playing with pets. Sport may have all but ceased but players have never been more connected, to their team-mates, rivals, and fans.

It hasn't always been like this. It has almost never been like this. What would Sir Don Bradman have done in times of no cricket? Penned missives to team-mates and friends, no doubt, as letters bequeathed to Ian McDonald, the Caribbean poet and writer, show.

And how might urgent missives have found their way to him when cricket was on? Why, by telegram of course, delivered straight to the pitch, like during a game between the Australians and Worcestershire in 1938 in the picture below.

Wicketkeeper Syd Buller takes a message while Bradman looks on bemusedly during a tour match in 1938

Wicketkeeper Syd Buller takes a message while Bradman looks on bemusedly during a tour match in 1938 © Getty Images

More frightening is the telegram from the dressing room. Rugby player Harold Day, who also played first-class cricket for Hampshire, wrote in Wisden about receiving one from his then captain, Lionel Tennyson:

One of his pleasant little habits was to send telegrams to his batsmen on the field. One day at Trent Bridge I was trying to cope with the Notts fast bowlers. I failed completely to connect with a very short long hop and duly received it around the heart. It flattened me.

As I sat on the ground recovering my composure, I got a telegram which read, "What do you think your bat is for" signed Lionel. Another young amateur, striving to find his touch, received this encouraging message: "For God's sake get out and let someone else take a hundred off this jam."

Back in the 1950s, you couldn't just rock up to a phone and call your sweetheart back home. You had to call the switchboard operators - the "hello girls" - at the closest exchange, who would plug you into the exchange of a city in the country you were calling, where another operator would put you through to the number you needed to call.

Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, John Goddard, Hines Johnson and Foffie Williams (from left) get a crash course in cross-country dialling at the International Exchange in London, during their 1950 tour of England

Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, John Goddard, Hines Johnson and Foffie Williams (from left) get a crash course in cross-country dialling at the International Exchange in London, during their 1950 tour of England © Getty Images

Mobile phones have had a chequered history in modern cricket, but they have long been part of the game's apocrypha. In his autobiography, Dickie Bird documents one of the earliest run-ins with a "hand phone", when Allan Lamb walked out to bat forgetting to stash it in the dressing room at Lord's. He pleaded with Bird to keep it in his pocket, and the nervous umpire did, only to have it ring ten minutes later, mid-match. Bird describes the ensuing horror:

I thought, oh no, now I'm for it. Whatever will Lord's think? I shouted across,

"Lamby, t' phone's ringing."

"Well answer it, then," came the reply. "I'm expecting some messages."

I pulled the darn thing out of my pocket, ever so gingerly, and whispered, "Hello, this is Dickie Bird speaking on Allan Lamb's phone. Who is this?" A voice answered, "This is Ian Botham ringing from the dressing room. Tell that fellow Lamb to either play a few shots or get out."

Graham Dilley presumably teaching Botham how to use a mobile phone to terrorise umpires and batsmen

Graham Dilley presumably teaching Botham how to use a mobile phone to terrorise umpires and batsmen © Getty Images

Sometimes a phone call is simply not an option, especially, say, in the middle of a World Cup. How was Shane Warne to congratulate his then wife Simone on a job well done?

Here comes the son: Shane Warne knows how to make an announcement

Here comes the son: Shane Warne knows how to make an announcement © Getty Images

What about when you're vacationing in Barbados but thinking about your team battling it out in the Ashes in the heat of an Australian summer? A fax ought to do it.

Darren Gough faxed in a pep talk to his England team-mates on returning home after three Tests in the 1994-95 Ashes

Darren Gough faxed in a pep talk to his England team-mates on returning home after three Tests in the 1994-95 Ashes © Getty Images

Deepti Unni is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

 

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