Skip to content

Dexter v Crawley

The redoubtable and apparently ageless John Woodcock, Times cricket correspondent extraordinaire of yore, has sent me two golf related extracts from his personal archive. The first was a scorecard he kept when I was lucky enough to have 18 holes of golf with Sir Donald Bradman in 1963. The Don was 1 handicap at the time and I was three. On a par 72 course the scores were 73 and 75 respectively – which is of no great significance or worthy of debate.
The more recent “blast from the past” concerned a difference of opinion on the subject of relative skills at golf and cricket – i.e. who deserved the accolade of best ever Cricketing Golfer? JW wrote in 1976 that it was Edward Dexter – eliciting strong reaction from those contemporaries of Leonard Crawley who would have none of it.
The famed Walker Cupper Laddy Lucas was the strongest in championing the Crawley cause with vibrant memories involving International golfing prowess on one day, followed by high class batsmanship for Essex the next. His case was weakened only marginally when JW had to point out a number of factual inaccuracies – such as these feats occurring a couple of years apart rather than on consecutive days.
I was privileged to play more than a round or two with Leonard and can vouch for his wonderful striking, the product of a slow and powerful swing which was the envy of all who saw him. He was long past his best competitive days and his putting was on the wane by then but he usually came out on top nevertheless. Living close by Royal Worlington GC, home to generations of Cambridge University golfers, he was prone to pop out onto the course of an afternoon and give us a tip or two. We were always glad to see the great man and listen to what he had to say.
The Dexter/Crawley argument can come down to semantics , with one critic pursuing a line of argument distinguishing CricketING Golfer from CricketER Golfer: rather splitting hairs in my book. The way I see it is pretty simple in essence i.e. I achieved more at cricket and Leonard achieved more at golf. In fact Leonard achieved more at cricket than I ever did at golf. So on that reckoning Crawley is the winner.
However I will now go in to bat for myself. Leonard only played top level “Amateur” golf. He won an “English Amateur” but not “The (British)Amateur” which has an International field. The only “Open” golf mention in Wikipedia is as runner up in the French. I, on the other hand, mixed it with the professionals all my cricketing career (though designated an “amateur”) playing International cricket at the highest level. The pinnacle of my career was to be rated number 2 batsman in the world in 1963 – ahead of Kanhai, Cowdrey, Barrington, Lawry and co, second only to the mighty G.StA.Sobers. My points rating was only 32 behind Sobers. Kanhai's was 83 behind mine. There is little to suggest that Leonard could have claimed any such lofty position in the world panoply of golf
The only point at which my golf can be compared directly with Leonard's is our relative performances in the President's Putter. He won 4 to my 2 but curiously, in an all time “Putter” points table devised by John Littlewood, sole chronicler of such ephemera, I rate one point ahead of Leonard behind the greats of a previous golden era Ernest Holderness and Roger Wethered .
So you pays your money and takes your choice. As so many arguments do, it all depends where you are coming from.

Sad Pakistan. Happy India

Ten weeks have flown by without my making any written comment on the cricket world. I am not sure of the reason but the break seems to have followed immediately on the desperately sad business of the alleged “spot-fixing” by some Pakistan players leading to the suspension by ICC of the two bowlers Asif and Amir and their Captain, Butt.
Obviously there were strong legal implications, whether the accusations were right or wrong. There were so many versions of what may or may not have occurred that I possibly saw little point to adding to the confusion.
What I admit to is an overwhelming sadness for the youngest of the group, Amir who had dazzled us all with the quality of his left-arm quick bowling – so lively, so accurate and with so much late movement. He could hardly have been the instigator of any such malpractice and I was comforted by reading the ICC regulations concerning penalties which leave plenty of leeway for mitigating circumstances to be taken into account. i.e. the experience of the player, his previous record etc.
I remember being shocked at the severity of punishments handed down to two younger players in the celebrated Hanse Kronje case. So I hope that Amir is treated more kindly if indeed it is ever proven that he acted in breach of the ICC Code of Conduct to which all players are subject.
On a happier note I was lucky enough to watch most of the final day's play in the second Test India v Australia at Bangalore (Bengaluru) when the Indians played with great zest and inspiration. Their Captain Dhoni deserves every credit for imbuing his side with such confidence and making so many good decisions at crucial moments.
The last morning was a case in point when he opted for his quicker bowlers somewhat against the run of play where the spinners had previously held sway. Suddenly reverse swing was the key ingredient ensuring a manageable total to chase. Then it was an inspired move to move his debutant batsman Pujara (out first ball in the first innings) up the order and to allow him free rein to take the attack to the Australians. Even when they lost wickets (Tendulkar was a bit naughty playing fancy one-day shots) they still attacked as though they could see nothing in their way except the prospect of winning.
Proving that there is nothing like success to lift the spirits, India gave another exhilarating performance to win the 2nd One-Day International. Faced with getting 290 to win on a slow pitch, they paced themselves perfectly and but for their star turn Kochi being crippled by cramp for the latter part of his innings, needing a runner and time-outs for treatment, India would have waltzed home. As it was they were slowed to a gentle fox-trot as they still won with something to spare.
Throughout their tribulations in India, the Australians have put on a brave face and done their very best, no question, but there is a lack of quality and variety in their bowling which makes it hard for them to keep control for long enough periods. Bollinger has it in him to make things happen with his bustle and aggression so his current injury will do little to reassure Ponting, coming so close to the start of the Ashes series next month.