Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sports training ain't what it used to be

We may revel in schadenfreude over the tabloid antics of today's athlete-celebrities, but that's nothing compared to our grandparents' day:
If the world of sport - or our way of watching it - changed irrevocably at the very time of my birth, there happened, too, one glorious final fling for sport's old order. I was precisely one week old 70 October 11s ago (the very day, as it happens, that Mrs Cissie Charlton of Ashington gave birth to bonny babe, Robert) when an England cricket team, led by Hampshire's Lord Tennyson, embarked for India. They won the series but Fleet Street never so much as whispered that, during it, they enjoyed hunting panther, tiger and elephant, that at Patiala the Maharajah gave the team the run of his 300-strong harem, and that on the very eve of the state match against Madras (according to Arthur Wellard's memoir) "the local Maharajah challenged us to an all-night drinking contest - whisky, brandy, gin, the lot. George [Pope] and I dropped out after midnight, but Joe [Hardstaff] matched the Prince glass for glass, drink for drink, till past 5am when Joe collapsed and we had to carry him home as good as dead." Next day, Hardstaff scored 213 (c Gopalan b Parthasarathi) in five hours, 24 fours, and, says Wisden, "never appeared in any trouble".[Emphasis mine]

H/T to Kendal King Pin, who noted that it sounds like Wellard was channeling Harry Flashman. Anyone for whom Flashy comes quickly to mind is my kind of people.

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