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Johnson column: Why limit naming things after cricketers to pavilions?

By Martin Johnson

You’d have thought, would you not, that if you were famous enough to have a building named after you, you’d be allowed to wander around it without the risk of being thrown out. Sadly, however, this is the fate which befell Andy Caddick when he was asked to leave the Andy Caddick Pavilion in Taunton earlier this summer.

Our heart goes out to the poor chap, of course, but how comforting it is to know that amidst county cricket’s ever changing landscape, the good old jobsworth remains alive, well, and stoically unmoved when confronted by anyone not in possession of the appropriate credentials.

You can only imagine Andy’s expression was not dissimilar to the one he wore in New Zealand in 2002, when he bowled seven consecutive deliveries to Nathan Astle in the Christchurch Test and watched them disappear for 4-6-6-4-6-6-6.

So a word of warning to Marcus Trescothick, who also has his name on a pavilion at the County Ground. Keep your badge with you at all times. Cricket stewards have been inoculated against all excuses, especially the one which starts with: “Don’t you know who I am?”

It is, of course, a great honour for a cricketer to have some part of a ground named after him, whether he gets chucked out of it or not. Although there are some who would, perhaps, consider themselves less honoured than others, a thought that occurred to me on my first visit to the Gabba in Brisbane.

Embarking upon a stroll around the ground, I marvelled at the splendour of the Don Tallon Pavilion before my journey took me to a somewhat smaller and tattier establishment entitled the Wally Grout Snack Bar. Both of them dispensed refreshment, but while champagne and prawns were on the menu at Don’s place, Wally’s clientele had to make do with a pie and a tinny.

Mind you, there’s even less of an incentive to become a great cricketer in Barbados, where you’re in serious danger of having a roundabout named after you. It’s a step up from a bollard, or a zebra crossing, but not exactly romantic. Sitting in a traffic jam in your open-topped Mini Moke, and not quite sure of the way to the beach, a local responds to your request for directions. “Straight on at the Sir Garfield Sobers roundabout, and turn left at the Sir Frank Worrell roundabout. You can’t miss it.”

If you score lots of runs in Trinidad on the other hand, things are altogether better. Not only do you get a building named after you at the Queen’s Park Oval – and I’m willing to wager here and now that Brian Lara has never been asked to leave the Brian Lara Pavilion – but if you drive down a very nice road called the Brian Lara Boulevard, you can find a bronzed statue with a plaque which reads: “Brian Charles Lara. The Prince of Port of Spain”.

Apart from pavilions, statues are the commemorations of choice here in England, and on my first visit to Lord’s I was pleased to see that they had honoured Graham Gooch – who with this summer’s visitors in mind once made 333 against India – with a kind of statue- cum-weather vane between Tavern and Mound Stands.

Or at least I thought it was him, given the familiar hangdog stoop, until someone told me it was actually meant to be Old Father Time. And that the real Gooch statue could be found in Chelmsford, on a housing estate. Which is not quite as glamorous as the statue in Bihar, India, dedicated to Sachin Tendulkar, which is sited in a religious temple. The plaque reads “The God Of Cricket”, and was unveiled to the accompaniment of members of a holy order chanting Verdic prayers.

Still, a housing estate is a better place for a monument than a hotel fire escape, which is where I once encountered Gooch running up and down in his obsession for fitness. He’s probably run up and down a few hills in his time as well, which brings us to what may be the only instance of cricket honouring a spectator with a statue.

Stephen Gascoine was his name, better known as Yabba, who spent most of his spectating career hurling insults at the Poms, and Douglas Jardine in particular, from the grassy bank at the Sydney Cricket Ground known as the Hill. Renamed Yabba’s Hill in 2008 (although it had long since been replaced by seating), Yabba’s statue – appropriately enough depicting some bloke shouting – can now be found in the stand named after Victor Trumper.

(Photo: Getty Images)

It’s surprising that Leicestershire CCC hasn’t done something similar for another chap that spent most of his spectating life shouting, and who was more famous in the Seventies than anyone in the team that won the county’s first ever Championship under the leadership of Raymond Illingworth.

Chris Wright was his name, nicknamed “Foghorn” for the piercing properties of his vocal chords, which he’d begin exercising when leaving home for the ground, about 70 yards away. “I’m on me way!” he’d shout. And when he got there, he’s spend all day circumnavigating the ground with pints of mild, shouting helpful advice to Illy. Especially if Illy was bowling, in preference to Forghorn’s favourite off spinner Jack Birkenshaw.

“Put Birky on!” he’d yell, or “it’s up to four an over now!” which – we were never quite sure – was either a reference to the run rate, or his beer consumption. It’s a biggish ground, Grace Road, and one day – failing to make it all the way back to the pavilion in time – he had his membership temporarily suspended for piddling on one of the entrance gates.

Famous spectators (how about that bloke at Edgbaston who would shout “roobeesh ’Emmeengs!”) should qualify for a statue, the same as famous umpires. Dickie Bird’s got one in the middle of Barnsley, although it clearly wasn’t thought through properly as it depicts him with an upraised index finger. And, as we all know, Dickie never gave anyone out.

And when it comes to naming things after cricketers, why limit yourself to pavilions and roundabouts. There’s an entire motorway, for instance, crying out to be renamed the Geoffrey Boycott M25. Permanently blocked.

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