Kenilworth: Course Open.
From left to right : Richard Joyce, Kevin Connelly, Malcolm Kelly, Angus Fraser, Ron Guest
Note that once again our guest speaker only just fitted under the ceiling
England selector Angus Fraser joined the gentlemen of Kenilworth and their guests for the last Sportsman's Dinner of this season on March 9th. As the Chairman Malcolm Kelly pointed out his name sounds like that of a fellow scot but Angus was born in Lancashire and then went on to play cricket for Middlesex from 1984 to 2002. He was selected for England and played in 46 test matches and 42 one day internationals and now serves as an England selector. He is still at Middlesex County Cricket Club, being the Managing Director of cricket. He has also spent time as a journalist and as a commentator - and with that background he had a wonderful collection of stories with which to entertain the attendees.
He noted that we might have wondered why he, as a selector, was not out in the West Indies with the current England squad but pointed out that the draw of appearing at Kenilworth Golf Club was too much of a temptation. He might have mentioned another reason - but that must have been less significant. He told us of his cricketing career - but said that the arrival of the speed monitoring machines brought his time as a fast bowler to an end. Before that time people seeing his large frame storming in naturally assumed he was bowling fast - but once the machines came into play batsmen lost their dread of him. In fact, he told us he realised it was time to retire when a press report stated that he ran in to bowl as if his braces were caught in the sight screen.
He mentioned another England fast bowler whose main concern was the recorded speed of the ball and was happy if that speed was more than 90 mph - even if the bowl was struck for 4. When in Australia, where the speeds are displayed in kilometres per hour the same bowler seemed to think that he was bowling at over 140 mph. A quote from that bowler - when sitting next to Angus on one of the internal flights across Australia - "Gosh, these planes fly really low when they are coming in to land."
In his commentating role he was privy to another conversation in the commentary box between an ex England opening batsman and Jonathan Agnew. The man asked why people seemed to take an instant dislike to him - to which Aggers quick wittedy replied "because it saves time."
He told us of how Blowers was renowned for getting little "product placement" adverts in to his commentary. When at the Oval - where the planes are quite close as they approach Heathrow - he spoke a couple of times of the roar of the "South African Airways" planes as they went by - despite the fact that the other commentators saw the British Airways livery on the plane. There was speculation that upgrades on flights were on offer. When up in Yorkshire Blowers said the the plane the audience could hear was going in to land at the "Bradford and Bingley" airport. This led to speculation on what his mortgage rate would be.
I'm sure he could have gone on - the stack of prompt cards he held was very thick (although he rarely referred to them) - but he had been given his time limit by the chairman so he dutifully brought his talk to a close amidst much acclamation.
The comedian for the evening was one of the best that we have had at such evenings in recent memory. Kevin Connelly is known for his participation in "Dead Ringers" on BBC radio and television and his impressions of famous sportsmen and politicians kept the audience amused for a further 40 minutes or so.
His ability to switch from one person to another was amazing - and his set - in the main - took the form of interviews of cricketers by Henry Blofeld (Blowers) with Jonathan Agnew (Aggers) and Phil Tufnell (Tuffers) making their appearance. At some point Blowers interviewed John Motson - which led into a spate of interviews by Motson of footballers and their managers. Politicians such as John Major and Tony Blair made their appearance too - and at times it was hard to keep track of where we were with all the raucous laughter and spontaneous clapping that frequently interrupted his talk.
Whilst one Geoffrey Boycott was being interviewed we heard how the Royal Mail had called on his home and left him a card saying he was out when they called. He rang them up and protested that he wasn't out - they must have made a mistake - he was never out. The same character also spoke of his failure to be born on the predicted date - and proudly announced that he was 3 days not out at birth.
We had a section where John Motson interviewed various Scots players and managers - Alan Hanson, Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson - and it is possible that Malcolm Kelly was the only person in the room who understood everything that was said.
David Lloyd, Bob Willis, David Beckham, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Roy Hodgson ... the list went on. So many well known characters made their appearance - but again the guillotine of the chairman took effect and the entertainment had to stop. As Malcolm Kelly said in closing - we could have listened to them all night. Also in closing he wished our regular chairman Derrick Richardson well and said that we looked forward to seeing him back in the chair later in the year.