Stuart George

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Burns Night at Lord’s

In Cricket on January 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm


I’m not Scottish (even if the name Stuart Donald George suggests Celtic blood) but I’m always looking for an excuse to go to Lord’s to eat and drink and talk cricket.

On Tuesday night – Burns Night! – the MCC held its first ever Burns Supper. There were 70 or so people for a haggis dinner in the Long Room, where we were watched by the narrow, steely gaze of Douglas Jardine’s portrait. Jardine was the notorious captain of England’s great “Bodyline” team. Although born in India, his parents were Scottish.

I cannot remember eating haggis before. I feared the worst. But it wasn’t too bad… It was like a rather vulgar looking and tasting faggot! Once a year is more than enough, though.

My guest was Jo Miller, the delightful librarian at The Oval. She grinned with utter delight as we all joined hands and sang, “For auld lang syne, my jo…”

You’ve got to laugh…

In Cricket on January 22, 2011 at 10:31 am


Having been thumped by the England cricket team, those Aussies have just revealed to the world that they have a sense of humour.

Herewith some jokes sent by an Australian friend.

Q. What do you call an Australian with a bottle of Champagne?
A.  A waiter.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An Australian batsman putting on sunscreen.

Q. What would Jimmy Anderson be if he was Australian?
A. An all-rounder.

Q. What is the main function of the Australian coach?
A. To transport the team from the hotel to the ground.

Q. Why don’t Australian fielders need pre tour travel injections?
A. Because they never catch anything.

Q. What’s the Australian version of LBW?
A. Lost, Beaten and Walloped.

Q. What do you call an Australian with 100 runs against his name?
A. A bowler.

Q. What’s the most proficient form of footwork displayed by Ponting?
A. The walk back to the pavilion.

Q. Who has the easiest job in the Australian squad?
A. The guy who removes the red ball marks from the bats.

Q. What do Australian batsmen and drug addicts have in common?
A. Both spend most of their time wondering where their next score will come from.

Q. Why are Australian cricketers cleverer than Houdini?
A. Because they can get out without even trying.

Q. What does Ryan Harris put in his hands to make sure the next ball almost always takes a wicket?
A. A bat

Q. What do you call a world class Australian Cricketer?
A. Retired.

Q. What do you call an Australian who can hold a catch?
A. A fisherman.

Q. What is the difference between Cinderella and the Aussies?
A. Cinderella knew when to leave the ball.

Q. Why can no-one drink wine in Australia at the moment?
A. They haven’t got any openers.

Q. What do you call an Australian who can handle a bat….
A. A vet

Ring ring!!! Ring ring!!
“Hello, Australian dressing room.”
“Hello, I’d like to speak to Ricky Ponting please.”
“Sorry, he’s just gone out to bat.”
“It’s okay, I’ll wait.”

“A bit of a comedian for an English bloke”

In Cricket, Tastings on December 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm


During my travels in South Australia last week I visited Yalumba for the third (or fourth or fifth?) time since December 2003. As usual I was hosted by the ebullient Jane Ferrari, a wonderful lady who is a great ambassador for Yalumba and Australian wine as a whole.

Yalumba has an impeccable portfolio of wines. The Scribbler 2008 and The Signature 2008 were delicious. Jane was surprised that I thought it was the best tasting that I had had chez Yalumba – it must have been because I was in such a good mood.

Jane has written a very characteristic entry on her blog about my visit to the Eden Valley – which, after all the recent rain, was looking greener and lusher and lovelier than I’ve ever seen it. No wonder they called it Eden.

Project Front Foot Season 2010-2011

In Cricket on December 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm


A message from my friend Vic Mills:

“My early October arrival in Mumbai had been planned to coincide with the start of the new Indian cricket season; the idea being to steal a march on our important second season. However, as cricketers the world over continue to discover, you really can’t trust the weather. In our case it was the southwest monsoon which, like the unwelcome house guest, simply refused to depart; in the process leaving the Gymkhana authorities unsure whether to plant rice or play cricket.

Eventually the rains relented, but the monsoon meant the season was a month late in starting. The Gymkhana mali and his groundstaff worked tirelessly to relay the wicket table, parts of which had simply been washed away. Five lorry loads of top soil were dropped on the outfield, barrowed to the square, where it was painstakingly raked and rolled.

Then more rain fell, along with several dramatic thunder storms and, if not back quite literally to square one, the late chance to plant any grass seed had been lost. The prospect for the 2010-2011 season, then, is of slow, low, grassless pitches; for many the archetypal Indian track.

I visited the ground on my last day in mid-November and found that the mali had taken matters a stage further. Close to the pavilion, wickets had been pitched, creases marked, a garland placed on the stumps and, as an offering to an altogether higher cricketing deity, a coconut had been broken on a rock. Something perhaps for your own groundsman to consider next season when life turns a little inclement.

While unable to stage any coaching sessions for the month of October, plans still went ahead for the start of the new season. Two Registration Mornings were held at the Dharavi Community Centre, where player details were taken; they also provided an opportunity for the children to get a sneak preview of some of the nearly 200 kilos of kit brought over.

Most popular proved to be the Herefordshire shirts, flannels and caps so ably collected during the early part of the year by the Genders Family and the good folk of Kington. The kit will be handed to the children just as soon as the season and the coaching sessions settle into a regular pattern.

Huge thanks again go to British Airways for their continued support of Project Front Foot. They were even more generous in their baggage allowance this trip – thanks to some over-zealous packing – by allowing a seventh bag to be checked-in. Perhaps the mali’s poojas were already anticipated by the cricketing deities that day at Heathrow. Indeed, such was the volume of kit that my seventh floor room above the Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari Temple in Matunga resembled a small sporting goods outlet for much of my stay.

The sheer volume of clothing and equipment meant that I was able to offer kit to other agencies and organisations: one bag made the long journey to Jaipur in Rajasthan where an Australian friend has started a sister project to PFF; another bag went north by car to Gujarat for use by underprivileged children in Tarapur; while a third bag was placed with Salaam Bombay a sport-based children’s NGO in Mumbai.

Two additional bags went to schools in southern Maharashtra: the first – the Sudhagarh Education Society Primary School at Kurul – had precious little cricket kit and were only too happy to receive our donation; the second went to the much larger R.M.Patil High School in Bamangaon where it was accepted by the headmaster with teachers and students in attendance.

Having established links with these schools, the plan is to supply further kit on future visits along with a simple but structured coaching programme. In the long term, provided the necessary finance is available, the hope is that we will be able to either take the Dharavi children to play a match or matches against these schools, as well as inviting these schools to Mumbai for matches at the Gymkhana.

The main casualty of the late monsoon, other than the start of the new season, was the enforced cancellation of our Big Bash Tournament scheduled for the Gymkhana on Sunday 24 October. Plans remain in place for this to be held at a later date. The tournament format will be 10/10 (as opposed to 20/20) and involve a PFF under-14 side along with three others from children-based NGOs in Mumbai. Set to be staged on a Sunday, and thus a day of rest even for slum dwellers, the main benefit of both the ground location and tournament is that parents will be able to attend.

With a more structured approach to the coaching this season, the children are being divided into two age groups. The Tuesday and Thursday morning session’s have been allocated to the 10-14 year olds, with the Friday session given over to the 15-18 age group. We have remedied last season’s shortfall in coaches by employing three students who have themselves just completed an intensive cricket coaching course.

With the Gymkhana square still a work-in-progress we began the new season with fielding drills and small outfield games on Tuesday November 2. Over thirty boys attended along with stalwart project coaches Chris, Krishna and Asim. The unavailability of the nets detracted little from the occasion as witnessed by the high octane enthusiasm and enjoyment of the Dharavi children.

The full story of the start to PFF’s second season can be found by going to and clicking on either News Items or the Blog icon. Further pictures from this latest trip have been added to the Temple Life and Dharavi Street Life galleries, while new galleries including Sort & Pack 3, Monsoon Mayhem, Registration Day, Kit 4 Schools, and Season 2010-2011 are currently being constructed and will appear very soon.

I will be returning to Mumbai with more kit in late February next year. This forthcoming visit will signal the last of our reserves from the 2010 appeal. Thus, although a little difficult to think cricket with snow and ice on the ground and still more to come, I would urge you to keep spreading the word about Project Front Foot and to keep a weather eye open for any surplus kit for this coming year’s appeal which will start in April 2011.

Finally, I would like to thank the following friends, clubs, businesses and organisations for their help and encouragement during the past twelve months: Chris Way, Krishna Pujari, Asim Shaikh, Ganesh, Reality Gives, Abhinav, Salaam Bombay, Mr K Satya Murthy, Mr R Kannan, Mr P R Subramanian, Mr V Ramachandran, Professor S Subramanian, Indian Gymkhana Club (King’s Circle), Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari Temple (Matunga), Rita Gebert, Neil Smith, Helios Designs, Sally Mundy, Matt Benson, Harry Pougher, Matt Pickering, Martin Fisher, Tony Cross, Aaron Onyon, John Stow, Florence McMullan, Julian Stuart, Alan Maddison, Julian Wilde, Phil Sullivan, Brian McNulty, Geoff Turnbull, Tim Harding, Gary Benson, Lincoln Lindum CC, Hels Meredith, Samanda Black, Christine Hawley, John Dwane, Pat Bowers, Maureen Newbitt, Tim & Jenny Gill, Ian Rance, Sue Carter, Keren Lovett, British Airways, the Genders Family, customers of George’s Delicatessen (Kington), Mid Wales Journal, Herefordshire Cricket Board, CLUBSPORT, Tim Sherwood-King, Richard Bowyer, Sandbach CC, Peter Mason, Collingham CC, Gordon Hubbard, Oakham CC, Dave Orrey, Heighington CC, Martin Briggs, Chris Finn, John Ellison, Nottinghamshire CCC, Amanda Foster, David Quincey, Sir William Robertson High School, Ann Boulton, Stuart George, Maggie Rosen, Mike Worne, Andy Farrant, Rod Whiting, Melvyn Prior, BBC Radio Lincolnshire, Philippa Stewart, Nick Purkiss, Lincolnshire Echo, Lynette Pinchess, Nottingham Evening Post, and The Wisden Cricketer magazine. “

Project Front Foot by Vic Mills

In Cricket on October 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

Conceived in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum in February 2009, and partly inspired by the  film Slumdog Millionaire, Project Front Foot (PFF) is the product of a chance meeting, and an impromptu net, with a bunch of slum kids. In essence, a Kit 4 Kids campaign, PFF has two distinct phases: the first to publicise the project and collect secondhand cricket kit in the UK; the second to get the kit to Mumbai and then set up and run a series of coaching clinics for the slum children.

A message from my friend Vic Mills, who established Project Front Foot:

“Hi Stuart…

Just a few pictures to tell the story so far. The bottom line of which is rain, rain and sadly more rain. An unprecedented late monsoon has delayed the start to our new season by a month or more. It may even be as late as mid-November before we get to use the square and outfield. To make good after the deluge five lorry loads of top soil were deposited on the outfield. These were painstakingly barrowed to the square and then raked for debris.

Grass seed has still to be sown on the square. Once done, the cricket club secretary has assured me that we should be able to play in around a fortnight. We had hoped to hold fielding drills on the outfield, but thunderstorms last week have left this flooded in parts. Indeed, any more rain and the ground may well become tidal. Eight lorry loads of soil have then to be dropped on the outfield and rolled for a day. So still much to be done.

In the meantime, I’ve written a seven-month coaching plan, busied myself with unpacking, collecting and sorting kit, posted a daily blog, and held PFF registration mornings at the Dharavi Community Centre.

Given that the 180 kilos of kit brought over is far in excess of what we need for the Dharavi children, three bags will be going interstate: an Australian friend is starting a sister programme to PFF in Jaipur, one bag will go there; another will head two hours north of Mumbai to disadvantaged children in a small town courtesy of a friend to the project here in Matunga; and I’ll be taking a bag with me on Thursday to a village school west of Mumbai.

The full unadulterated version of the trip – railways, food, loos, temple life and much, much more – can be found by going to and clicking on the blog icon on the Home Page. So now we wait for the rain to stop, the humidity to become fractionally more bearable, and the chanting below me here at the temple to hopefully take a time out for an hour or two.

All good wishes



Book Review: World Cricket Records 2011

In Cricket on October 25, 2010 at 10:08 am

Chris Hawkes


Carlton Books


As Chris Hawkes points out in his Introduction, “Few other sports can be scrutinized (sic) to such an extent as cricket.” Maybe baseball and US Football might be more scrutinised but what they lack and cricket has in abundance is a long, long history.

Although the author asserts that World Cricket Records 2011 is “not a history book” it is appreciative of and respectful to cricket’s glorious (and sometimes not so glorious) past. Of the book’s 256 pages, 140 are devoted to Test cricket, which is defined on page 10 as “a complete and total test of a player’s technique, his mental surety and, particularly in the modern game, his physical prowess.” That is as good a definition of Test cricket as I have come across. In an era when 20/20 seems to be taking over the game, it is pleasing to see Test cricket given proper respect.

Described by its author as a “new venture in international cricket publishing”,World Cricket Records 2011 seems aimed more at neophytes rather than the hardcore cricket nut, who is more likely to refer to Wisdenfor stats. The headings are catchy, such as “The 40-year wait” and “Deadly Derek loses his bite with the bat”. There are many images of players from all periods of the game, though these have a blurred silhouette to give the impression of movement and speed. In a book that is otherwise admirable for not indulging in who is the fastest and biggest –which are not really stats – it’s a pity to see this. The ball logo that accompanies – intrudes on – many of the images is also a bit annoying. The index is very thorough, though.

The first, last, most, fewest, fastest, shortest and so on are number-crunched endlessly. For example, it was well known that the England batsman Michael Atherton was the Australian bowler Glenn McGrath’s “bunny” (a batsman out frequently to the same bowler). But I never knew how bad it was. McGrath got Atherton out 19 times in 17 matches at an average of 9.89. Poor Atherton also suffered at the hands of the great West Indians Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose, who had him out 17 times each.

There are two records here that I witnessed personally. I saw Robin Smith’s 167 not out against Australia at Edgbaston in May 1993. It is still the highest score by an England batsman in a One Day International; I don’t think it will ever be beaten.

I also saw Brian Lara score 501 not out at Edgbaston in June 1994. It remains the highest ever score in First Class cricket. Happy days.

What this book captures perfectly are the numbers of cricket. But only letters can reflect the aesthetics of the game, in which an innings of 10 by, say, David Gower can give as much, or even more, pleasure than an innings of 100 by, say, Graham Gooch. Nonetheless, it’s great fun. Even if, like me, you failed GCSE maths three (or was it four?) times, the stats here are endlessly entertaining.


Book review: W.G.Grace Ate My Pedalo

In Cricket on October 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Alan Tyers and Beach


John Wisden & Co


This extremely daft and sometimes highly amusing book takes careful aim at well-deserved targets and ruthlessly takes the urine out of them. Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen are fair game but surely Ian Bell doesn’t deserve such cruelty.

Done in the style of a faux nineteenth century Wisden Cricketer magazine, it humour is more likely to appeal to those who go to The Oval to get drunk rather than those who go to Lord’s to watch cricket. It’s not for everyone and it’s certainly not the future of cricket writing.

One for the dunny.


Bear necessities

In Cricket on September 19, 2010 at 11:39 am

With the usual motley crew, I was at Lord’s yesterday to see Warwickshire, which I’ve supported for over 20 years, play Somerset in the CB40 Final at Lord’s.

My Somerset-supporting mates pointed out that there was no Warwickshire flag hoisted on the Pavilion. I quipped that this was because Warwickshire played in Lord’s finals so often that the flag was worn out.

Earlier this week I had seen an article by Vic Marks in which he thought this would be the lowest ever attendance at a Lord’s One Day final. He was right. So few tickets had been sold that the Tavern Stand, where my mates and I normally park ourselves, was closed. It was a woeful attendance, with the ground barely half full.

The idea of starting at 3pm and finishing under floodlights at 9pm or so is fine if you live in or close to London but if you have to travel from Birmingham or Taunton it is a very long (and expensive) day. I hope that Lord’s sees sense and reverts to the morning start.

I have never been fond of 40-over cricket but this was a super match. Daringly, the Warwickshire captain Ian Bell asked Somerset to bat first. Historically, the side batting second (Warwickshire in this instance) has always won the match. Mid-September morning dampness can make a cricket ball do all sorts of cruel things to batsmen. But batting second under floodlights and with a bit of evening moisture was courageous indeed.

Somerset should probably have scored 250. Warwickshire’s outstanding fielding kept them to 199.

Bell scored a magnificent 107, out with only one run needed to win. Until he played some big shots towards the end of the match, it was far from certain that Warwickshire would win.

It was tough on Somerset, who are also runners up in the County Championship and the FP 20/20 – second place in three competitions, which makes them, by general consent, the best team in the country. But they have nothing to show for it. Somerset were runners up in two competitions in 1978, which preceded the golden era of Botham, Richards and Garner in one of county cricket’s greatest teams. This current Somerset squad will surely come good.

In the meantime, I will enjoy Warwickshire’s first gong since 2002. Come on you Bears!

The Oval teens

In Cricket, Tastings on September 15, 2010 at 7:35 am

During a visit Liberty Wines’ annual portfolio tasting yesterday at The Oval, I did a quick recce of the pitch for Friday’s England vs. Pakistan One Day International.

I wasn’t able to get as close to the pitch as I did at Lord’s recently but typically The Oval pitch is much faster and bouncier than at Lord’s. The current weather forecast for Friday is sunny intervals and a pleasant 18°C.

As for the Liberty tasting, it was as well attended as ever. Liberty’s MD David Gleave is a brilliant businessman and wine entrpeneur, though I feel that in recent years perhaps he has spread himself too thinly, with some wines duplicating others on his list. I saw that Liberty has taken on the agency for Greywacke, the winery established by ex-Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd, who I spent a day with when I was in New Zealand in March 2009.

Highlights of the tasting included the sumptuous 2006 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage Le Chevalier de Stérimberg. I do like white Hermitage but it’s bloody expensive – Liberty’s trade price for this is £32.24 per bottle.

Some of Jeffrey Grosset’s whites had shuddering acidity, especially the 2010 Off-Dry Clare Valley Riesling and 2010 Springvale Riesling. I was less enamoured of the 2010 Polish Hill Riesling. Jeffrey is one of the nicest and funniest men you could ever meet. I have stayed with him and his wife Stephanie Toole – also a highly-accomplished winemaker – in three out of my four visits to Australia. They’re a hoot.

I had a quick look at Vanya Cullen’s wines, which with one exception were splendid. The 2007 Kevin John Chardonnay was very odd, verging on cheesiness, which is something that I associate with Brett. I cannot believe that Vanya – another pal, though I haven’t seen her for ages – would make faulty wine. Perhaps it was me who was faulty.

Flintoff plays at Lord’s

In Cricket on September 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm

A Flintoff played at Lord’s today but it was not, alas, Andrew.

John Flintoff (no relation) represented Sassay in the Village Cup Final. His team from North Yorkshire beat Shipton-under-Wychwood of Oxfordshire by seven wickets in the best Village Final that I’ve seen since I first attended this match in 2004.

The cricket was of a very high standard. There was some brilliant batting, notably 38 runs from 13 balls by Jason Hunt of Sassay, a scoring rate that would be considered outrageous even in an international 20/20. John Barclay, the charming and highly amusing President of MCC, said at the post-match presentation that it had been “the real thing.” The photo above shows how spread out the Shipton field was because of the big hitting – no slips needed for all those hits square and forward of the wicket.

Shipton won the Cup in 2002 and 2003 and has probably been the best club side in England over the last decade. Kudos to Sassay for this fine achievement.

During the lunch interval we were allowed onto the playing area – a rare privilege. I cannot recall being onto the outfield at Lord’s since the England vs. West Indies Test in 2000, when I was briefly stood next to Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose. They were both about a foot taller than me. No such giants today, though some of the Shipton and Sassay players were probably a foot wider than me.

The pitch shown above is the one that will be used for Saturday’s 40-over County final between Somerset and my beloved Warwickshire (hurrah!). It will also be utilised for Monday’s England vs. Pakistan One Day International, which will be the last match of the year at Lord’s. From 21 September on I will have to console myself with members’ dinners and visits to The Oval library.

Notice how bare the pitch is – a grass covering would be fatal for batsmen at this time of year – and how it is being rolled to make it as flat and batsmen-friendly as possible.

I saw the last hour or so of the England vs. Pakistan match at Headingley on TV. That wide by Umar Gul in the last over was rather suspect, non?