Miles Kington: Big Lucy steps up to the crease for an operatic innings

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The Independent Online

The letters I printed yesterday, from readers who fondly remembered Luciano Pavarotti's passion for cricket, have prompted another mailbag full of memories of Big Lucy's cricketing exploits, and I cannot resist bringing you another selection of the big man at the crease.

From Sir Arthur Lewesley ......... Sir, I was lucky enough to play cricket against Luciano Pavarotti some time in the 1980s, when I was a member of a touring English cricket side called "Their Excellencies". (We were all ex-ambassadors.)

Pavarotti, back in those days, turned out for an occasional side called "The Milan Reject XI", which was open only to opera singers who had been booed off the stage at La Scala at least once in their career. By that time Luciano had already attained the enormous girth which made getting around on stage difficult for him. He told me that he used to laugh whenever he read a critic who talked of his "moving performances". "I can move a bit, Arturo," he said to me once, "and I can perform a bit, but I cannot do the two together any more."

The same was, alas, true of his cricket. When we played against the Milan Rejects and he was batting, I was brought on to bowl my harmless medium off-cutters. The fourth ball I bowled to him evaded his bat and hit him on the pad. Because his enormous size completely blotted out the stumps and the wicket keeper, I had no idea if I had a reasonable shout for LBW, but I appealed anyway.

"Stay exactly where you are, batsman!" shouted the umpire.

Pavarotti, shocked, stood stock still. The umpire, never taking his eyes off him, walked down the pitch, strolled round behind Pavarotti to locate the stumps and came back round again.

"Not out," he said, and came back to the bowler's end again. It was then that he whispered to me: "I really haven't the faintest idea if it was out or not. But next time it will be."

And I duly got him out four overs later. The umpire's name, if you want to check on this, was an opera-loving clergyman resident in Florence called the Rev Albert Wagstaff.

Yours etc

From the Rev Albert Wagstaff

Sir, I can vouch for the above letter, which brings back many happy memories. The main problem in applying the LBW rules with Pavarotti, actually, was not just the size of the man but the size of the pads, which were bigger than any cricket pads I have ever seen.

I once asked him if he had them specially made.

"They are the same protective padding that I have been using in all my recent operas, over my chest", he told me. "If I fall over during an opera, I am in danger of damaging myself, so I need padding. How much more so for cricket!"

Yours etc

From Dr Luigi Sciavia

Sir, I can vouch for the above. For a while I used to handle the medical matters between Luciano Pavarotti and his insurance companies. Most singers only worry about their voices being insured, but with Pavarotti it was also his body. I was once watching him play cricket for the Milan Rejects, and he scored a very respectable 45, till he failed to get home for a second run and was given out. I was standing behind the scorers in the pavilion at the time and one of them said to the other: "Run out, then?" Before the other could respond, I said: " One moment, gentlemen – could we put that dismissal down as 'walked out'?"

They look at me as if I were joking.

"I am perfectly serious," I said. "One of the conditions of Mr Pavarotti's insurance is that he should not indulge in strenuous exercise. So, for instance, he may walk but not run. If they found you had written 'run out', it might provide the vital evidence that, in the case of a claim. could cost him thousands, even millions of pounds."

They agreed to change it. And so Pavarotti may be the only batsman in cricket history who was officially given out, "walked out".

Yours etc

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