When music and cricket make a loving couple


By Kersi Meher-Homji

Music and cricket make an odd couple. How many musicians play cricket and how many cricketers sing professionally?

Did you know that India’s mystery spinner BS Chandrasekhar hummed songs of legendary Indian singers K.L. Saigal and Mukesh when bowling in 1970s and 80s?

Australia’s former Test fast bowler Brett Lee has mastered Indian  film music and sings duets with Asha Bhonsle in Hindi. Also he plays the piano. With brothers Shane and Grant Lee he formed a popular band  Six and Out in 1990s. Along with other former cricketers Richard Chee Quee, Gavin Robertson and Brad McNamara, Brett and Shane Lee released a song called Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw which was about the infamous Scott Muller incident of 1999. This song made the top 100 in the ARIA chart.

Shane Warne the Musical was staged in front of packed audiences in Australia in 2008. To my knowledge there is no Sachin Tendulkar the Mehfil.

However, the famous Indian Test off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has brought out a musical album as a tribute to his mother titled Meri Maa. My friend Anindya Dutta has sent me this link:


Also the West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo launched a Hindi musical album recently called Chalo Chalo. Here is the link

How many  of us know that the legendary Australian batsman Sir Donald Bradman  played piano with panache? The snappy Fox Trot Our Don Bradman was a bestselling 78 rpm record in 1930. Even today it is sung with nostalgia. During the visit of the West Indies team to Australia in 1930-31 Bradman was present at the Grand Opera House to hear his song ”˜Every Day is a Rainbow Day for Me’. It was composed by Bradman himself to words by Jack Lumsdaine and sung by Elsie Hosking.

Bradman did not believe in visiting pubs after a match. Once after making a big score in a match in England in 1930, he was found missing. Everyone rushed round the hotel, page boys darted here and there calling his name. Someone suggested that he had been kidnapped. Just then the soft sound of piano permeated from the music room.   And there was Don quietly playing on piano a little tune he had heard at a show two nights previously! After all, what’s the difference between cricket and music? Both need scores!

Music was in Bradman’s family. As he grew up in Bowral in New South Wales, he had heard his father George play the violin and his mother Emily the piano and the accordion by ear. Don’s sister, Lilian, who later became a professional music teacher, taught him to play the piano and discovered that he had a natural ear. Don’s uncle Dick and cousin Hector were violinists.

Don’s granddaughter Greta Bradman, now 38, is a famous opera singer. She has sung at the finest concert halls in the world. The internationally acclaimed soprano has also performed at the home of cricket, Lord’s in London.

The great Australian cricket all-rounder Keith Miller was a lover of Western classical music. When I had interviewed him in 1996 for my cricket book Six Appeal, he told me, “Don’t ask me about cricket. Ask me about horse racing or classical music.”

England’s Sir Neville Cardus (1889-1975) is still considered as the greatest cricket writer and music critic. He wrote as eloquently on Don Bradman as he did on musicians Sir Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, Sir Thomas Beecham and Henry Purcell. Cardus would have loved to commentate on the Birmingham cricket Test match of July 2004. In that “musical epic”, England’s opening batsman Andrew Strauss played off-Key [Robert] as the West Indies bowler Dwayne Bravo applauded by taking a couple of wickets.

The celebrated tenor Luciano Pavaroti  was both a football and a cricket fan and actually played cricket in 1960s. A story circulates that when bowling in a match, the umpire gave a batsman not out. Pavaroti was so outraged that he appealed opera style “Howzattttttt” so loud and long that the umpire had to change his decision!

Sherbet’s album Howzatt topped the charts for many years.

Zubin Mehta, the music director and conductor of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is a cricket fanatic. A proud Indian, he was “in mourning” when the Indian cricket team lost to Sri Lanka during his concert tour of Australia in July 2008. We discuss only Indian cricket when we meet!

There are  other hit songs involving cricket: The Baggy Green by John Williamson, Shane Warne  by Paul Kelly, Here come the Aussies sung by the 1972 Australian cricket team, among many others.

And of course that Come on Aussies come on, come on jingle during the Kerry Packer Cricket World Series days in 1970s and 80s is still chanted with energy during Test matches around Australia.

Not to forget the Caribbean calypso, “We don’t like cricket; we love cricket”. Tall and fiery West Indian bowler Curtly Ambrose formed a band along with his captain Richie Richardson called  The Big Bad Dread and the Bald Head.  While Ambrose plays the bass guitar, Richardson takes on the rhythm guitar.

The former New Zealand cricketer Jeremy Coney could play guitar, double bass and the piano. He said that music was pivotal to his family; Mum sang, Dad played the piano and we kids danced.

According to H. Natarajan and Nishad Pai Vaidya in Cricket Country, famous Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar released an album called Rest Day. He also sang in a Bengali movie. “I used to worship Kishore Kumar”, he said.

Sunil Gavaskar, considered an all-time great opening batsman, released a Marathi song Ye jeevan mhanje cricket, meaning My life is cricket. Another Test cricketer S. Sreesanth brought out an album Jaago India. One-day cricket specialist Suresh Raina in 2015 sang Tu mili, Sab mila for a Hindi movie Meeruthiya Gangsters.

When English cricketer Ben Hollioake passed away aged 24 after a car accident in 2002, his Surrey teammate Mark Butcher sang  You’re Never Gone  at his funeral. This song was written by Butcher himself, who plays the guitar to back his singing skills. Butcher now has a  Mark Butcher Band,  with four others. They released an album  Songs of the Sun Horse.

Music guru Molly Meldrum once famously said, “If I have my time again, I won’t be coming back as a rock’n’roller, video buff or a TV presenter… I’ll be a cricketer and loving it.”

My suggestion to Swami Army, the group which follows Indian cricketers around the world: Give up the stereotype jingle India jitega, jitega and start crooning Saaré jahhan sé achha, Hindustan hamaara when India visits Australia this November.

Encore, do-baaraa!



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