Whisperings of late that the blog has been lacking a little in the way of, what shall we say, ‘glamour’, in recent months (apologies to those featured) – and then Janet Clarke commented on my previous post (see below) – “If you enlarge the photo you will see that Dinerman’s jumper is just an ordinary v-necked, possibly merino, wool plain knit jumper beige in colour and not a cricket jumper which should be white cablestitch”.
Well, now. Food for thought here. Although always prepared to bow to Janet on all matters culinary, the communion between a man and his cricket jumper is of course a deep and sacred mystery – a matter of rite, belief, superstition and faith – not lightly to be touched upon or mocked. I say jumper singular, although as we all know, the vagaries of the English summer generally require the compleat cricketer to have at his disposal a full repertoire of such garments, to be worn individually or in a variety of carefully graduated combinations according to the conditions.
The ‘traditional’, long-sleeved, chunky cableknit dominates the popular imagery, but it is just one type – and a type in fact of which not all of us, in the world of coarse cricket at least, have ever been particularly enamoured. Have you ever tried bowling in one? In my experience, it is a type seldom actually worn in the heat of cricket battle. An image search of the internet confirms this – lots of pictures of the full-rig cableknit, but comparatively few of people actually playing cricket in them. I did (of course) have one in my cricket bag, but it only ever appeared as the outer protective layer worn over thinner and more serviceable plain-knits if banished to field in the deep in profoundly arctic weather. Occasionally they might appear as a kind of ceremonial dress uniform if a team photo is required, or as proof against the chill of the evening for the after-match drink – but for the most part – and I realise this may be controversial – I’ve always regarded these heavyweights of the jumper world as really the preserve of gauche arrivistes, downright posers and (I’m afraid) all too often of attention-seeking young women trying to distract and confuse their simple menfolk (see assorted illustrations for various proofs of this – apologies and full credits to their owners).
Here is the immortal Grace in an expansive and voluminous plain-knit, evidently crafted for him by Mrs Grace and relays of volunteer knitters properly concerned not to impede the great man’s freedom of stroke. A skim through some well-illustrated Victorian cricket books revealed not a single example of the ‘traditional’ modern cableknit – in fact hardly any examples of cricketers wearing jumpers at all. Were our forefathers hardier? – probably. Were our summers kinder? – probably not. As far as I can make out from a very brief survey, the ‘traditional’ cableknit did not become entrenched until the 1920s – and may well (whisper it only) have been an import from the golf course.
As to colour, Mr Dinerman’s is indubitably white – or as close to white as a gentleman’s cricket jumper ever should be, i.e. somewhere in that wide arc of the palette between ivory and full cream but never, ever, literally or actually white (cricket whites, hunting pink – shades, subtleties and nuances of meaning known only in these islands). Quite possibly merino, why not? A good wool. Given Mr Dinerman’s Romanian background I am prepared to concede that he may have thought of it as a tennisy rather than a crickety item – but I had a virtually identical one myself which I played cricket in for years without it exciting any comment that it was in any way lacking or improper as a cricket jumper.
But we all have our favourites. The ideal and perfect cricket jumper is of course not the shop-bought and nowadays probably acrylic production-line imposter, but the one knitted by the cricketer’s spouse as a selfless act of love and devotion – generally early in the marriage, before disillusion (with husband, husband’s cricketing prowess, and men and cricket in general) sets in. Here is mine – hand-made by the First Lady all those years ago – light wool, sleeveless to free up the arms, just three gentle vertical seams of cablestitch (which she taught herself for the purpose) as a delicate homage to the genre, club colours at the foot, not shouting messily from the neck (or maybe that was an additional layer of complexity even the most loving of wives should not be asked to contemplate). Years of service from it and now honourably bequeathed, as these things should be, to my son (a rather better bat than his father) as the first and most symbolic fruits of his inheritance.
We had a team somewhat presciently called the President’s XI (or in fact the President’s IX for a period when recruits were hard to find and the secretary a touch dyslexic). Peter Miller (Ken Spelman) turned out for us at least once or twice, Jonathan Potter too – and both became ABA presidents. Robert Frew was a regular for some years – and duly became ABA president in turn. I too was a regular for many years – and, without wishing to frighten the horses, so also was Brian Lake (Jarndyce).
Alongside me in the photograph above is a chap in a perfectly sensible sleeveless cableknit, which is generally what people actually playing cricket wear. He used manfully to try and keep wicket to my occasionally erratic outswingers – and often enough we would open the batting together, although fair to say that Hobbs and Sutcliffe we were not. Haven’t seen him for years. Customary to say at this point, I wonder what happened to him – but not so in this case. It’s Jim White, laconic columnist on life and sport for The Telegraph – frankly, you would have to see the funny side of both ever to turn out for the Presidents. Nowadays, he seems to pop up on the radio almost every time I turn it on. Hello Jim, if you are out there.