Sachin, Pavarotti and the great cricket-music connect

Updated: May 13, 2019, 10:42 IST | Kersi Meher-Homji

The willow game enjoys a fascinating connection to music. Here are some examples...

Sachin, Pavarotti and the great cricket-music connect
Sachin Tendulkar and Luciano Pavaroti

The 12th Cricket World Cup commences this month in England and let the Indian cricket fans bring it in with a patriotic song, Saaré jahhan sé achha, Hindustan hamaara. By the way, the Swami Army's chant of India jitega, jitega has become a bit hackneyed. My two loves in life are cricket and music. And it's more now than before. No IPL match looks complete without the dancing girls raising their hands and legs to jazzy music welcoming every six, every wicket.

Even in the pre-IPL/BBL days, music and cricket went hand in glove. Add movies dealing with both and you have an eternal triangle of bliss and harmony. How many musicians play cricket and how many cricketers sing professionally? Australia's former Test fast bowler Brett Lee has mastered Indian film music and sang duets with Asha Bhosle in Hindi. With brothers Shane and Grant, he formed a popular band Six and Out in the 1990s. Along with other former cricketers Richard Chee Quee, Gavin Robertson and Brad McNamara, Brett and Shane Lee released a song, Can't Bowl, Can't Throw which was about the infamous Scott Muller-incident of 1999. This song made the Top 100 of the ARIA charts.

Australian cricketers Shane (left) and Brett Lee join Richard Chee Quee (centre) of the rock band The Nevilles at Last Lap at Home 2000 nightclub during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Brett later sign with Asha Bhosle. Pic/Getty Images
Australian cricketers Shane (left) and Brett Lee join Richard Chee Quee (centre) of the rock band The Nevilles at Last Lap at Home 2000 nightclub during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Brett later sign with Asha Bhosle. Pic/Getty Images

Chandra's tunes

India's mystery spinner BS Chandrasekhar hummed songs of legendary Indian singers KL Saigal and Mukesh while bowling and Mumbai spinner Padmakar Shivalkar is an accomplished singer. Shane Warne the Musical was staged in front of packed audiences in Australia in 2008 and Sachin Tendulkar listened and sung Lucky Ali's Jaane Kya Dhoondta Hai throughout the 2003 World Cup in Southern Africa.

A few years ago was released a biopic MS Dhoni, the Untold Story. It grossed R66 crore in the first three days. The Dhoni movie was on worldwide release and winded up as one of the highest grossing sports flicks. It had the hit song, Har gallimein Dhoni hai.Azhar, the story of former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin, included songs Bol Do Na Zara, Itni Si Baat Hai and Oye, Oye.Harbhajan Singh brought out a musical album as a tribute to his mother titled Meri Maa. Also, West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo launched a Hindi musical album, Chalo Chalo and former West Indies spinner Omari Banks is a full-time musician in the Caribbean. "Don't look back on what you could have done, just move on and learn you champion," form the lyrics to his song, Move On.

John Wright's CD cover
John Wright's CD cover

The legendary Sir Donald Bradman played piano with panache. The snappy Fox Trot Our Don Bradman was a best-selling 78 RPM record in 1930s. 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.

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.

Former West Indies all-rounder Omari Banks during his 2018 trip to India. Pic/Getty Images
Former West Indies all-rounder Omari Banks during his 2018 trip to India. Pic/Getty Images

Don's granddaughter Greta Bradman, now 40, is an internationally famous operatic soprano. She has sung at the finest concert halls in the world. She once performed at Lord's in London. In 2014, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra performed a concert "Our Don" at the Adelaide Town Hall, music by Natalie Williams, a monologue by actor Gary Sweet with archival footage of the cricket icon with Greta Bradman humming in the background.

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." His teammate John Wright, the former India coach's album Red Skies is unbelievably good.

Zubin Mehta
Zubin Mehta

'Classical' Miller

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 had replied, "Don't ask me about cricket. Ask me about horse racing and 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 Ranji, Hobbs and Bradman as he did on musicians Sir Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, Sir Thomas Beecham and Henry Purcell.

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Cardus would have loved to commentate on the Birmingham cricket Test of July 2004. In that match, England's opening batsman Andrew Strauss played off-Key [Robert] as the West Indies bowler Dwayne Bravo applauded by taking a couple of wickets. New Zealand fast-medium bowler Neil Wagner came on the scene a decade later. The celebrated singer Luciano Pavaroti was both a football and a cricket fan and actually played cricket in 1960s. A story circulates that when bowling in a social match, the umpire gave a batsman not out.

Pavaroti was so outraged that he appealed opera style "Howzattttttt" so loud and for so long that the umpire had to change his decision! Australian rock band Sherbet's album Howzatt topped the charts for many years in 1970s and 1980s. Zubin Mehta, the famous music director and conductor of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is a cricket fanatic. A proud Indian, he was "in mourning" when the Indian Test team lost to Sri Lanka during a concert tour of Australia in 2008. When we meet we discuss only Indian cricket!

There are hit songs involving cricket: The Baggy Green by John Williamson, Shane Warne by another Zubin — Sydney-born Dr Zubin Kanga. In his 30s, Kanga has won many international awards as a contemporary pianist. The Kanga family is renowned for its exploits in cricket. Zubin Kanga's great grand uncles PD, MD, DD and HD Kanga were well-known cricketers in India from 1888 to 1903.

No one can forget the C'mon on Aussie C'mon On jingle during Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket days in the 1970s. It is still chanted during matches around Australia. Not to forget the Caribbean calypso We don't like cricket; we love. 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 played the bass guitar, Richardson took on the rhythm guitar. This year Ambrose took part and danced well in Australia's high rating TV show Dancing with the Stars.

Famous England all-rounder Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff hosted All Star Musicals on television. Famous Indian Test cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar released an album called Rest Day. He also sang in a Bengali movie. "I used to worship Kishore Kumar", he once said. The great Sunil Gavaskar released a Marathi song Ye jeevan mhanje cricket. Another Test cricketer S Sreesanth brought out an album Jaago India. Suresh Raina sang, Tu Mili, Sabmila 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.

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Hit flick

The 2009 multi Academy Award winning Indian movie Slumdog Millionaire featured cricket as one of its major themes. The magic moment came when Jamal Malik from the Mumbai slums won big money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire by correctly naming the batsman scoring the most number of centuries in first-class cricket. There were references to cricket legends Jack Hobbs, Sachin Tendulkar (of course!), Ricky Ponting and the quirky umpire Billy Bowden, among others. The song Jai ho was the highlight of the movie.

Australian 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." I can't wait till July 14 when hopefully the Indian supporters at Lord's in London will sing Saaré Jahhan Sé Achha, Kohli Bumrah humaara at the presentation. Not exactly sound of music but sound of cricket.

With inputs from Clayton Murzello

Kersi Meher-Homji is a Mumbai-born cricket historian based in Sydney.

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