Friday, 11 May 2012


11 May 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the only assassination of a British Prime Minister.  It had nothing to do with cricket, but it has caused Fantasy Bob to speculate a bit about cricket and politicians.

Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham, an aggrieved merchant who believed he was entitled to compensation from the Government following a period of imprisonment in Russia.  Bellingham was tried on 15 May and hanged on 18 May.  Swift justice indeed - quicker than many LBW decisions in these days of endless referrals to the third umpire.

Prior to assuming the leadership of the Government, Perceval had been a prominent figure in securing the passage of the legislation to abolish the slave trade. His own administration is noted chiefly for the start of the Regency period following the second falling into madness of George III, and for the continuing war with France which brought considerable economic hardship to the country.

The war also had an impact on cricket. Man power was depleted and the number of First Class matches played and the overall investment in the game fell. In 1811 there was only one match played. During this period Thomas Lord moved his cricket ground to what is known as his Middle Ground, a small distance south of the present Lords which was opened in 1814. 

in the Eton-Harrow
match 1912
But Perceval was not a cricketer, although that is no reason in itself for him to be assassinated.  Indeed if it were, all British Prime Ministers would have ended up shot. All bar one - Sir Alec Douglas Home PM for 12 months between 1963 and 1964 is the only Prime Minister to have played First Class Cricket. Between 1924 and 1927 he played 10 first-class matches, for Oxford, Middlesex and MCC, scoring 147 runs at an average of 16.33 with a highest score of 37*. As a bowler he took 12 wickets at an average of 30.25 with a best of 3 for 43. Three of his first-class games were internationals against Argentina on the MCC representative tour of South America in 1926–27.  Douglas Home subsequently became President of the MCC and history judges him harshly for his ambivalent and vacillating stance during the D'Oliveira affair.

Maybe it is as well therefore that cricketing politicians are equally rare in other countries.  Frank Worrell,  the first black captain of the West Indies became a senator in Jamaica; and Joe Darling, Australia’s captain at the turn of the 20th century, sat for 25 years in the Tasmanian Legislative Council.  More recently Mohammad Azharuddin was elected to India’s parliament in 2009. In Sri Lanka, Arjuna Ranatunga is deputy minister for tourism and Sanath Jayasuriya became a member of parliament in 2010 following which he controversially returned to the Sri Lankan team in their ODI matches against England last year.
But the cricketer who may yet reach beyond all these is Imran Khan - supreme on the field of play and a born leader he continues to seek high office in Pakistan.


  1. Good luck to Imran - he will certainly need it. Why anyone would want to enter Pakistani politics is beyond me.