20 JUNE 1992, Page 55


To the honour born

Frank Keating

THE Prime Minister has begun well in sort- ing out the anomalies in the honours that matter. His first stroke last year, you might remember, was to award the CBE to Cyril Washbrook 35 years after his last Test match. Mr Major's predecessor had no remote clue about cricket's pecking order — unless she was trying to tell us something by awarding OBEs to two captains of 'rebel' bands to South Africa, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting, while steadfastly refusing so much as a ribbon to two who stood patrioti- cally by the colours through all those lucra- tive, rand-bribed years, David Gower and Ian Botham. At last, for what it is worth, John Major has righted the wrong with last week's OBEs for Goldilocks and Beefy. Mind you, both of them would probably have had knighthoods for a long time had they been New Zealanders. If you are inter- ested in this sort of thing the Kiwi list is the one to get on. Not such a jostling queue.

For years, Botham stood at the top of the all-time list of Test bowlers (let alone hav- ing sackfuls more runs, centuries and catch- es), yet had no puny OBE to show for it. But within 18 months of his wicket haul being overtaken by a New Zealander it was 'Arise, Sir Richard Hadlee'. Again, last year young Martin Crowe was pleased to accept his CBE after just one season as captain of New Zealand; meanwhile David Gower, with umpteen more runs and coin- tossing in Tests, had nothing to pin on his blazer. The Kiwis were at it again last week with a CBE for the runner, John Walker, and an OBE for the racing driver, Denny HuIme. Had he been English, Sir Edmund Hillary would have had to climb to the moon to warrant an OBE.

Although he was a much more ruthlessly successful captain of the West Indies, Clive Lloyd is deemed not to merit the knight- hood of his two predecessors, Frank Wor- rell and Garfield Sobers. Perhaps because he ignored his spinners. Nevertheless, gang- ly, myopic old 'Hubert' will not sneeze at last week's CBE. Had he settled back home in Guyana and not become a British citizen, Clive would have been addressed only as 'Comrade'. I still treasure an invitation, in twirly-scripted gilt, to a pre-Test party in Georgetown in 1981, addressed to 'Com- rade Keating'. Joint hosts, it said, were the

Minister of Youth, Comrade Solomon, and Sport & Culture, Comrade Fredericks — who, of course, turned out (in their pale- blue Mao-type dungarees) to be two old friends, Joe and 'Freddo'.

Joe Solomon was the man who ran out Meckiff — the most famous run-out in his- tory — to tie the Brisbane Test of 1960. (`Shake the hand that did it,' he beams, 'it would be even more famous if it had missed'.) Roy Fredericks was the twinkling- ly ferocious opener who tonked a raging LiIlee into '0' stand at Lord's in the open- ing over of the very first (and best) World Cup final in 1975 — and as he followed through his heel clipped off his leg bail. What a way to go, Comrade.

The first genuine 'Sir' to play for England was (I think) the Irish baronet and money- bags, Sir Timmy O'Brien. He was a Down- side boy, as big and bold as Botham, and he clouted it almost as far. Like others since, he moved from Surrey at the Oval to Mid- dlesex at Lord's in acrimonious circum- stances. The Surrey committee blackballed him. A few years later, during the 1902 Test at the Oval, he was seen drinking in the pavilion and the Surrey secretary was called to point out that he was no longer a mem- ber. 'Oh, that's all right,' Sir Timmy blithely replied, pointing to his drinking compan- ion, 'my chauffeur has signed me in.'