In an era when how far you get in the bleep test seems as important whether you can bowl straight it's been a delight to see as obvious a pie lover as Kevin O'Brien enjoy such stunning success at the Cricket World Cup. England's whippet thin athletes were put to the sword by a young Irishman who'd look just at home at an all you can eat buffet as at the crease. O'Brien is the latest in a long line of cricketers who have proved that having a healthy appetite is no impediment to success in the middle. Here's one such corpulent XI.
1. David Boon
Shaped like one of the 52 stubbies he allegedly drank on a flight from Sydney to London prior to the 1989 Ashes, barrel chested Boon was as wide as he was tall. Remembered as much for his legendary boozing as his pugnacious batting, the Tasmanian was the face of Victoria Bitter's Boonanza campaign. The ad below tells you everything you need to know about Boonie.
2. Mark Cosgrove
As David Boon proved, Australians can be quite partial to a tubby batsman. It must take a gut of enormous proportions to result in a sacking but that was just what happened to Cosgrove who was dumped from the South Australian team despite scoring over 500 runs in the 2009/10 season. The Biff Tannen lookalike was deemed too fat to be a success and was shipped off to Tasmania.
3. Inzamam ul Haq
Power, precision, timing. Inzy could do just about anything in the middle. Apart from something as vulgar as running between the wickets. Prone to running out his partners, and a complete liability in the field Inzy showed unexpected speed when wading into the crowd during a one day match in Toronto to confront an Indian fan who had the cheek to call him a potato. Presumably of the deep-fried variety.
4. Mike Gatting
In a career that included an Ashes win down under, an unseemly spat with umpire Shakoor Rana, an alleged hotel room incident with a barmaid that cost him the England captaincy and the most ill judged reverse sweep in the history of the game, Gatt is still best remembered for being on the receiving end of Shane Warne's ball of the century. Immortalised in Neil Hannon's excellent song Jiggery Pokery, not even Jabba's massive frame could get in the way of Warne's sizzling leg break. As Graham Gooch said, “ if it was a cheese roll it would never have got past him”.
5. Arjuna Ranatunga
Sri Lanka in the 80s and 90s boasted plenty of talent but had a reputation of being a team that could be pushed around a bit. Weighing in at around 19 stone nobody was going to push Arjuna Ranatunga around and when he took over as captain nobody would push the Sri Lankan team around either. Not the greatest of batsman, Ranatunga was a real scrapper who loved to wind up his opponents, especially the Australians. When Ranatunga asked for a runner in a one day game Aussie wicket keeper Ian Healy replied, “you don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat cunt”. Quite.
6. Ian Botham
One Aussie fan mocked Botham's ample girth by sneaking a piglet into the Gabba in Brisbane on the 1982/83 Ashes tour with Both daubed on one side (Eddie was scribbled onto the other side of the poor porker in honour of the even larger Eddie Hemmings). It mattered not a jot as far as beating the Aussies was concerned though. Such was the aura that Botham had over his antipodean opponents he could destroy them while waddling in off a few paces and dishing up a selection of pies Senors Fray and Bentos would have been proud of. In 1986/87 he did just that to win the Ashes.
7. Ian Smith
Not particularly fat by the standards of the rest of the XI but as far as lithe and nimble stumpers go Smith (or Smuth as they say Auckland way) definitely features on the rotund spectrum. A big hitting batsman who went on to have a surprise commentary career in England Smith's protruding bottom lip gave him the slight look of an undiscovered Thunderbird. His gut was as wide as Tracy Island mind.
8. Shane Warne
The greatest bowler (and arguably the greatest sledger) the game has ever seen he may have been but Warney would never cut it on Masterchef. Unless of course Greg and John got an insatiable urge to eat beans and spaghetti with each and every meal. Just such a craving was evident on Australia's tour to India in 1998 where Aussie cricket authorities were so concerned about their star spinner's weight loss that they were forced to send out emergency rations of baked beans and spaghetti hoops to fatten him up again. Who cares how portly you are when you can bowl deliveries like this though?
9. Ian Austin
The best death bowler in county cricket in the late 1990s? Curtly Ambrose, Darren Gough, Allan Donald? According to Wasim Akram, someone eminently qualified to comment on such things, the most feared bowler at the business end of an innings was a bowler who combined the physique of Bernard Manning with the accuracy of a master draughtsman. Take a bow Ian Austin. He wasn't bad with the blade either as can be seen below.
10. Eddo Brandes
Brandes bowled Zimbabwe to a shock victory against England in the 1992 World Cup and followed it up by taking a hat trick on David Llloyd's “We flippin' murdered 'em” tour in 1996/97. The former chicken farmer is probably best remembered for something he said though. When Aussie paceman Glen McGrath enquired why Brandes was so fat the Zimbabwean replied, “Because every time I shag your wife she gives me a biscuit”.
11. Merv Hughes
No modern era fat XI would be complete without big Merv. With his mincing run and potty mouth this bastard lovechild of Big Daddy and Freddie Mercury became an unlikely pin up boy for 1990s Australian cricket and helped destroy poor Graeme Hick's international career. Described by Cricinfo as being “of incredible proportions” Merv, when asked by a dietician about how his diet was going replied “how much do I lose for spewing?”. Hughes finally tried to get a grip on his ballooning waistline with an appearance on the Australian equivalent of Celebrity Fit Club. In addition to becoming a member of the Aussie selection panel, Hughes also became the face of the All Bran diet.
12th Man. Samit Patel
Described by Kevin Pietersen in 2009 as 'fat, unfit and lazy' the Nottinghamshire all rounder was given the opportunity to resurrect his international career and add some much needed ballast to England's lower middle order at the current World Cup. “All we’re saying to him is get into a reasonable physical shape,” said coach Andy Flower. Unfortunately for Patel, he couldn't even manage that. It must be especially galling for Patel considering the current England team includes Tim Bresnan and Michael Yardy, neither of whom are renowned for their Atlas like physiques.
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