OTHER doctors appeared in first- class cricket before Julian Thompson. There was that chap W G Grace, for one. 'I haven't heard of any more,' said Dr Thompson, once of Guy's Hospital but now one Championship match into a county career with Kent. 'It causes some amusement in the dressing- room with the boys. I get 'Doc, can you fix my ankle' and 'give me some pills, Doc' all the time.'
It is doubtful if W G was greeted in such a cavalier manner by his team-mates. The sobriquet Doc is not one that springs easily to mind when thinking of the great all- rounder and general practitioner. Doc Thompson is, of course, wrong in suspecting that he and Grace have been the only cricketers also qualified to write out a prescription. While hardly as prevalent as reverends and lords, several medical men have taken time from tending the sick to tread the greensward.
There were the other Graces, W G's brothers, E M and H, and their nephew A H, who all played with varying degrees of success. Several doctors have represented Australia. Roland Pope, known as The Doc, accompanied many touring teams to these shores in a medical capacity and played in one Test match at Melbourne in 1885 because several players went on strike in a dispute over pay. Scores of 0 and 3 allowed Pope to devote his energies thereafter to medicine.
Dr Ranji Hordern was a leg-spin bowler who put his vocation first and never came to England. However, in the 1911-12 series he took 32 wickets at 24.37 each, which would have been more sensational had Sydney Barnes not taken 34 at 22.88 for England. Perhaps it was this that persuaded Hordern to concentrate on medicine.
Bertie Clarke was another who combined being a doctor with leg spinning. He played three Tests for the West Indies and took 156 wickets for Northamptonshire in the late Forties. The splendidly named Dr E Maynard Ashcroft was captain of Derbyshire in 1904.
Dr Julian Thompson is at present working out how he can combine cricketing and doctoring without harming either. 'I always wanted to be a doctor from about the age of 14 or 15 but being a cricketer didn't really come into it because I wasn't good enough,' he said. 'I suppose I improved after leaving school and went to medical college.'
Thompson, 25, has spent much of the summer learning his seam bowling trade in the second XI and made his only Championship appearance against Warwickshire. This was a match Kent lost without conceding a century by Brian Lara. J B Thompson got one wicket, that of Paul Smith. 'I have worked for just eight months as a houseman and hope to do enough this winter to get registered with the GMC,' he said. 'I want to play cricket but there is obviously a bit of a conflict.'
He should perhaps know that he is not even the first doctor to represent Kent. W G played one game for them as a guest player and back in 1863 one Dr Selby Norton, brother of the captain, was called up in an emergency at Nottingham.
THE other day at Derby, the New Zealand batsman Mark Greatbatch, presumably bored with fielding, summoned the passing newspaper vendor and acquired a copy of the local evening paper. He skimmed its contents, put it in his flannels and soon after handed it to the umpire. Greatbatch's motives were unclear (if he wanted the racing results he was out of luck given the edition times of today's evening papers) but one sage suggested that it was the first time a newspaper had been on the field since Warwick Armstrong's day.
Armstrong was the 1921 Australian captain who began reading a paper in the deep during the final Test which was winding down into a meaningless draw. He declared that this was 'to see who we're playing'.
Greatbatch is hardly reminiscent of Armstrong. Derbyshire were batting soundly enough for him to be quite sure of the opposition and while the big-hitting New Zealander is a burly chap whose figure could perhaps benefit from losing a pound or two, Armstrong weighed 20 stones on that tour.
IF Darryl Cullinan, the highly promising young South African batsman, takes England's bowlers to task this summer, the finger of blame can be pointed towards Sussex. Speaking to Ian Thomson, the former England medium-fast bowler about the time he took 10 wickets in an innings, he let it slip that he had once coached in South Africa. His star pupil was one Darryl Cullinan. 'I just hope he remembers me,' he said.
BOOK of the week and probably of the season: William West, the Yorkshire barrister, has compiled an anthology of the works of the outspoken cricket writer E H D Sewell. Sewell played a bit for Essex and London County and had firm opinions on the game. He wrote a book on England's 1946-47 tour of Australia from newspaper cuttings and the anthology contains his thoughts on Bradman, Jessop, Trumper and Ranji as well as the adage which still excites argument: 'If you cannot win with four bowlers you don't deserve to.'
West is as individualistic as he is enthusiastic. His previous compilations include Irish International Women's Cricketers 1982 to 1992.
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