Equal at last

Eye on England

By Amit Roy
  • Published 21.04.18
Unique honour

Perhaps we will now stop referring disparagingly to women cricketers as "Eves", since we don't call the men "Adams". Maybe sports pages will give them as much space as men. Lawrence Booth, the innovative editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2018, has put a woman on its cover for the first time in 155 years. But then Anya Shrubsole wrested victory from the jaws of defeat in the World Cup final against India at Lord's last summer by taking six wickets for 46 runs. It was a heartbreak year for India as the men lost to Pakistan in the Champion's Trophy final at the Oval.

Still, as Lawrence tells me, "Virat Kohli has been named the leading cricketer in the world for the second year running... and Mithali Raj has been named the leading woman cricketer in the world. She's the first Indian woman to win the award." Mithali, credited with leading Indian women "out of the shadows", merits a whole page by Raf Nicholson. He marvels that she reads Rumi who has taught her "how you deal with criticism, how you deal with pressure, how you deal with failure".

It is easy to understand why some people make it their life's mission to collect a full set of Wisdens. I remember the late great cricket correspondent, Dicky Rutnagur, had quite a few in his London apartment. The section in Wisden I almost like best, perhaps because it evokes the age of innocence, is on schools cricket. It is worth recalling that it was at Winchester that the erstwhile Nawab of Pataudi first made his mark. When cricket is played in the grounds of Dulwich College, not far from my home, I slow down the car to catch a ball or two.

In the "Notes by the Editor", Lawrence makes an appeal for Britain's Asian cricketers to be given greater recognition by the England and Wales Cricket Board. He says that British Asians constitute less than 5 per cent of the population, 30 per cent of recreational players, but only 4 per cent at First Class level.

The London connection

The Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, which began six years ago, will take place this October in Kasauli as usual, but on May 17 it will be coming to London for the first time, his journalist son, Rahul Singh, tells me. The theme of the event will be "Indo-Anglian" and it will "showcase writings on the mutual influences and confluences of the Eastern culture of India and the Western nuances of the UK".

Rahul, who has invited journalist and now foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, explains the family connection: "Boris's mother-in-law (Dip Singh), a Sikh, was married to my father's youngest brother, Daljit Singh, a national junior tennis champion. They got divorced and she then married Sir Charles Wheeler, the BBC correspondent in Delhi." Their barrister daughter, Marina Wheeler, is Boris's wife and mother of their four children. On April 18, when Narendra Modi arrived at Heathrow from Sweden, it was Boris who met him.

The festival will begin with a brief introduction, "KS: Not a Nice Man to Know", and reflect Khushwant's close connections with Britain. He read law at King's College London, and later served as press officer when Krishna Menon was independent India's first High Commissioner in London. "My father was always something of an Anglophile and loved English writers and poetry," adds Rahul. "He regarded England as his second home."

Set a shining precedent

Going back to the world of cricket, Lawrence Booth has already started work on Wisden 2019 that will have much to say about the consequences of Australia's ball tampering in South Africa. This happened too late for the 2018 edition. Meanwhile, Private Eye has exposed Michael Vaughan's alleged hypocrisy when denouncing the Australians for cheating. Vaughan said, "... you'd see sweets in the mouth, you'd see saliva put on the ball to try and keep that shine for longer". "He should know!" said Private Eye of the former England cricket captain turned commentator.

The satirical magazine has dug up damning evidence against Vaughan in Marcus Trescothick's autobiography. During England's victorious 2005 Ashes series against Australia, Trescothick reveals he was the fielder chosen by Vaughan "to keep the shine on the new ball for as long as possible with a bit of spit and a lot of polish. And through trial and error I had finally settled on the best type of spit for the task at hand... I had a go at Murray Mints and found they worked a treat".

Glitz, glamour and Bollywood

Something for the diary: Baz Luhrmann's lavish movie, Moulin Rouge! (2001), starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, is being turned into a West End musical. I remember, at the press conference launching the film, the Australian director proudly declaring that he had been inspired by the over-the-top glitz and glamour of Bollywood. Pity Bollywood does not have too many people who can sing, dance, look good - and act.

Talent runs in the family

The Sunday Times has a slot called "Relative Values". Perhaps someone should do a piece on Professor Partha Mitter, the distinguished art historian who specializes in India, and his equally famous son, Rana, an expert on China at Oxford University.

Rana is currently presenting a 20-part series on Radio 4 called Chinese Characters. The episode on Confucius (551-479 BCE), arguably the most famous Chinese in history, was fascinating.


At the London Book Fair last week, there were hundreds of publishers promoting thousands of books. But Michael O'Mara focused only on one - Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton. More later, but from pages 239-240 of my just arrived copy, I note Morton has predicted correctly that Meghan Markle will get involved with the Commonwealth starting with CHOGM in London. I predict Prince Harry's American wife will eventually resist palace protocol and be the first royal to wear a sari.