Chemistry and Cricket- An All-Time XI

This blog post has been written to coincide with Chemistry & Engineering News’ #ChemSummer blog carnival. 

With the English Summer comes the sight of men and women dressed all in white standing in a field, the sound of leather against willow and people huddling in clubhouses and pavilions watching the rain pour down. Of course, I am talking about the sport of cricket. This year England is enjoying an unusually hot July, with temperatures regularly hitting 30 °C, which means, even more unusually, few cricket matches suffering rain-enforced cancellations.  The Ashes, the big series between England and Australia played roughly every two years, are also taking place with England 2-0 up with 3 more matches to play.

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So what links are there between cricket and chemistry? Well, surprisingly more than one might realise. As such, I’ve devised my all-time Chemistry Cricket XI!

Michael Hussey

“Mr Cricket” is perhaps the best known and most successful of my XI, having played over 300 matches for Australia, scoring 19 test centuries and helping the Baggie Greens to a World Cup win in 2007.  Hussey only recently retired from international cricket, and Australia are currently missing his calm head in the middle of their batting line-up. What’s perhaps less well known is that he has a Bachelor of Education degree, majoring in chemistry.

Harsha Bhogle

Harsha, one of most recognised voices and respected writers in the game, has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad. He now has over 20 years of experience commentating on cricket and has worked for Australia’s ABC, the BBC, ESPN and Cricinfo.  Users of the Cricinfo website voted him their favourite TV cricket commentator in 2008.

Ajith Perera FRSC

Ajith Perera might have the most diverse career of all of the members of this XI. He trained as an analytical chemist and holds both Chartered Chemist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry status. In the cricketing world, it is as an umpire that Perera made his name, becoming a test-match official in 1992. Sadly before he was able to officiate his first test match, he was involved in a serious car crash which left him paralysed from the waist down. Subsequently, Perera has become a powerful activist for disability rights in his home country and has written a number of books on Sri Lankan cricket.

Richard Montgomerie

Montgomerie, a long time stalwart as opening batsman for Oxford University and then Sussex and Northamptonshire, retired in 2007 to go into full-time teaching. A noble career choice considering many county pros have gone into more lucrative fields after their playing days have ended. The subject he intended to teach in the classroom? Chemistry. I’m sure he gets asked to take a few PE lessons as well.

Sudhir Naik

Although few of this XI made it as far as being selected for their national side, Naik is an exception, having made a handful of appearances for India in the mid-1970s. Much more successful in the domestic game, Sadhir also owns a M.Sc. in organic chemistry and captained the Tata Oil Mills side when an employee.

John Frazer

John Frazer’s promising cricketing and chemistry careers were tragically cut short when he died, aged only 26, in a skiing accident.  Frazer studied Natural Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford, in the early 1920s and continued as a laboratory demonstrator after graduating with first class honours. Both John and his brother, Charles, played cricket for Oxford. He was clearly well respected, his death earning an obituary in the Times, where he was described as “one of the most brilliant all-round men of his generation.”

Tammy Beaumont 

The only woman in the XI, Tammy is one of the younger members of the current England side. Tammy studied Chemistry and Sports Science at Loughborough, where England have their Centre of Excellence Programme. As a wicketkeeper, she will have her work cut out to displace incumbent Sarah Taylor permanently from the national side.

Mevan Pieris

Born too early to reap the rewards of Sri Lanka’s promotion to test status in 1981, Pieris played for his nation throughout the 1970s in tour matches and other games. A fast bowler, he gained a number of notable scalps, including Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, and played in the 1975 World Cup. Since retiring from cricket, Pieris obtained a Masters in Polymer Science and has gone on to be a renowned expert in Sri Lanka’s rubber industry.

Ratnakar Shetty

From being a low profile professor of chemistry, Ratnakar Shetty has gone on to become a major force in cricket administration in India. He has held a number of roles, including tour manager for the Indian side and Chief Administrative Officer for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Not everything has been plain sailing for Shetty- he was recently banned from the Mumbai Cricket Association for making allegations about fellow board members.

Mark Lawrence

Another Oxford cricketer, Mark played 30 times as a Blue, describing himself as the “least bad left arm spinner at the University.”  He read Chemistry at Merton College and later received his doctorate in the study of blood-clotting proteins using NMR.  His career in venture capital allowed him to support companies developing low carbon technologies. Mark was equally committed to youth cricket, he was a qualified Level 2 coach and chairman of Linfield Cricket Club. Sadly he died in 2010, leaving behind three children at Ardingly college, who set up a scholarship programme in his name.

Inorganic Chemistry Cricket

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Last but not least, I must give mention to my colleagues in our Inorganic Chemistry department. Each Summer, post-grads and staff from across the University of Nottingham compete in an inter-mural cricket competition. Chemistry has proudly been able to support teams from both its Inorganic (plus a few physical chemists over the years) and Organic departments. The Inorganic Cricket team have always been strong, winning it twice in 2004 and 2005 and often reaching the later stages. This year they were happily able to regain the trophy by defeating the (whole) Faculty of Engineering in the final.

If you know any more cricketing chemists or have a related tale to tell, feel free to do so below.

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