Down Memory Lane – The Aussie Connection
by Sunil Amar (2013)
In 1982, I met Bruce Carter, from Adelaide on a job doing insolvency work with Ernst & Whinney at Gatwick. We became good friends and that summer he introduced me to Rob Goode, a dentist, and Hugh McPharlin, a Chartered Accountant, both also from Adelaide.
Rob and Hugh started to play cricket with us on a regular basis. KCC used to meet virtually every night at The Britannia in Allen Street, W8 and Rob and Hugh became regulars too but probably felt isolated as the only two Aussies amongst a dozen Poms and a couple of Indians. So they decided to colonise the club by introducing Deane Golding, Rickard Wilkie, Steve Chambers, Greg Browne, Peter Hill and John Keen. A few others also made guest appearances and once we nearly had an all-Aussie XI.
Rob and Hugh (jointly) and Steve Chambers won the Cricketer of the Year awards. The others were very useful cricketers and kept KCC alive for a few years. They were a great bunch of lads and gave a social fillip to KCC. Normally, wandering sides start one day and after a few years they disappear; this might have happened to KCC but these Aussies made the club their home and participated in a lot of functions and even helped to organise some of them. The club started to raise funds for a rainy day as each function would make a few quid.
One day at Warborough & Shillingford we discovered that we had not included a wicketkeeper in the squad, so Rob decided to volunteer and said that he had not kept before. You would not have guessed that; he turned out to be brilliant. Rob also opened the batting. Hugh on the other hand was the Club all-rounder, an automatic choice at No 4 and to open the bowling. Steve was a most reliable top order batsman and handy leggie. Richard Wilkie was a silky smooth fast bowler in the Michael Holding mould.
Steve Chambers tells the story that in one game he captained he had the unusual experience of the opposing fielding captain threatening to take his team off the field due to the sledging by one of our batsmen (Peter Hill)!
Another tale recounted was of John Keen, when KCC were chasing 185 to win and were cruising on 150/2. Peter Hill had to leave at this point, and later received a call from an excited John Keen who announced triumphantly that we had ‘saved’ the match with 9 wickets down, and he was the hero of the day with 4 not out!
After spending a couple of years in London most of these Aussies left to pursue careers and raise families in Australia. The Aussie Connection continued, however, into the nineties when we were well served by Ralph Cobban who bowled over 750 overs in a 10 year stay, helped organise Club activities and became a true stalwart. Andy Doherty and Damien Brown were also useful additions in this period.
But when Ralph introduced Melburnians Jamie Keleher and Todd Cornehls in 2001 it really opened the floodgates from Down Under. Jamie and Toddy were very fine cricketers and embodied all that was good in social, wandering cricket. Besides, they had contacts; a regular stream of able-bodied, gregarious, fun-loving cricketers seeking to play friendly, social cricket joined KCC during their 2-3 year stint in Europe. The likes of Chris Downes, Paul Kacper, Darren Bowden, Brett Hatfield and Will Douglas gave us a cutting (and drinking) edge over our opponents. It did help our recruitment that we were sponsored by a brewery!
I would like to think that KCC provided a well rounded education to all these dipsomaniacs – how to play on non-bouncy tracks without getting out lbw or pitching too short to be pulled, the welcoming culture of always clapping the incoming batsman, repugnant to most Aussies, and above all refraining from any sledging, a bewildering shock for sure! I’m glad to say that they all entered into the spirit and had a wonderful time.
But sadly, times have changed. The British Government has restricted the flow of non-EU visitors and the regular supply of Australians to KCC has all but disappeared. Only Tim Keleher and Steve Thomas (can out-drink Rodney Marsh) survive with the Club today. Even Keith Bradshaw who ran MCC for a while has returned. But we hope this is merely a temporary phase and more Aussies will once more head our way to experience the joys of social cricket played on some picturesque English grounds.
Recently, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Eighties batch of Aussies based in Adelaide, namely Hugh McPharlin, Rob Goode, Steve Chambers, Deane Golding, Richard Wilkie, Greg Browne, Peter Hill and John Keen, had got together and decided to commemorate their English experience by donating a permanent trophy, The Adelaide Cup, to the Club (see below). The citation reads:
“The award recognises cricket achievement and personal development. The award is open to non-British subjects who have played regularly through the season, and contributed to advancing the spirit of cricket”.
Also, in their generosity the sponsors have stated that the “Recipients of this award may be guests of these Adelaide based players at international games held at the beautiful Adelaide Oval”.
It is truly a magnificent gesture and we are very touched. In fact it is too prestigious an award even for the Cricketer of the Year. Besides, there are not enough Antipodeans to compete. Therefore, it has been agreed that this trophy is presented as the Lifetime Achievement Award along with the coveted Maroon Jacket. The dedication that this award recognises is appropriate to the citation above. Only seven members have received this honour to date, and it would be a worthy trophy on which to record their names for posterity.
THE KENSINGTON AUSSIES