Cricket is not a popular sport in America. While a vast Asian contingent has welcomed the sport on intermittent occasions whenever cricket has been organised in the country, a majority of the population is satisfied with the slightly comparable version of it - baseball. However, in 1959, cricket gained the attention of the most important personality in America - The President, Dwight Eisenhower - during the third Test between Pakistan and Australia at Karachi’s National Cricket Stadium. He became the first and, as of now, only American President to have watched a Test match in a stadium.
Picture credits: Reddit
Cricket has often been graced by the presence of such honourable personalities - politicians, musicians, actors - who have indulged themselves with the game through some uncanny connection or out of their sheer love for the sport. In this case, Eisenhower, who was present in Pakistan during the course of the series to establish diplomatic ties was taken to the fourth day of the Karachi Test by his opposite number, Ayub Khan. Unaware of the regulations of the game, Eisenhower tried his best to make himself a part of the game applauding every little moment on a dull day of Test cricket. Before the start of play, Eisenhower greeted all the players wearing a Pakistan blazer at which the then Australian captain Richie Benaud remarked, “Mr. President.. you have joined the other camp.”
On the other hand, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister, Bob Hawke was an avid cricket fan who played Grade A cricket and was a potent wicket-keeper batsman for his side. He had also served as the 12th man for Oxford University which brought him agonizingly close to becoming a first-class cricketer. His love for cricket never faded. In 1995, aged 66, four years after serving his time as Australia’s PM, he was seen fulfilling the tasking job of a wicket-keeper in a charity match in Sydney.
He bowled and batted as well. In one of these matches, he was hit on the eye while attempting a slog and thankfully, the damage was not severe. He made regular appearances as a spectator at the Sydney Cricket Ground and was known for guzzling down beer glasses for fun.
Sir John Major, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1990 and 1997, was a similar cricket enthusiast. In 1996, he chose watching a Test match at Lord’s over a scheduled visit to the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics where he could have witnessed Great Britain win their only gold medal. He was the author of the book ‘More Than A Game’ demonstrating stories from the early years of the sports.
In the image above, he can be seen waving to the spectators at Eden Gardens in Calcutta in 1997 prior to inaugurating a cricket match between India A and Lancashire.
Moving to actors and musicians, the list continues to grow. One of the most influencing figures in the history of rock and roll, Mick Jagger was born to a sports teacher in England and found an instant liking for cricket. In the picture below, he was seen at The Oval enjoying the Ashes rivalry between England and Australia.
Jagger has been seen at a number of cricket matches and spotted in the fifth Test between England and India in 2018 where he was supporting a charitable Cricket Foundation named Chance To Shine by pledging to donate money for every fifty, hundred, three-wicket haul and five-wicket haul in the match. In 1997, he started Jagged Internetworks, a company found to promote sports events on the internet. The first sport he picked was cricket.
The famous singer and actress, Rihanna was spotted at Durham’s Chester-le-Street in support of the West Indies cricket team during their match against Sri Lanka in the 2019 World Cup. While it was a surprise to many, for Rihanna, it was an opportunity to watch her former classmate, Carlos Brathwaite. After the game, she met the other West Indies stars in the dressing room lighting up the mood after they had lost the game by 23 runs. She also met Roddy Estwick, her old teacher.
The Barbados-born English cricketer, Chris Jordan was also her classmate in Combermere School. Kraigg Brathwaite, West Indies’ Test opener who joined the school later also shares a great bond with Rihanna.
Deceased Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan was a massive cricket lover. His life came to a halt when he was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumor in 2018. During his treatment in London, he made time to visit Lord’s where England were contesting Pakistan in the first Test of the series. Irrfan can be seen laying his arm over his head.
Picture Credits: @Furqan013 on Twitter
As a kid, acting came after cricket for Irrfan. He was in fact picked to represent Rajasthan as an all-rounder in the CK Nayudu Trophy - the under-23 four-day state-based cricket tournament in India. However, a career in sports was banished in his family and Irrfan decided to join the National School of Drama after not being able to gather the courage to ask for funds to take part in the competition.
In the picture below, the late Rishi Kapoor, who passed away a day after Irrfan, can be seen with the former Indian captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. While very little information is available about the picture, it can be said with assurance that two were up for a game of cricket.
Picture Credits: @kareenakapoorkhan on Instagram