Allahakbarries C.C. - J.M. Barrie′s literary cricket teamby Richard Davies
The author loved the game so much he founded a team called Allahakbarries and recruited its players from the literary community. The peculiar team name come comes from a mistake. Barrie thought Allah akbar meant Heaven help us but in reality it means God is great.
Barrie, who died in 1937, needed God′s help. His writing ability far outweighed his cricketing talent. However, Allahakbarries will go down in literary history as a star-studded team quite unlike any other. H.G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K Jerome, G.K. Chesterton, A.A. Milne, P.G. Wodehouse , and A. E. W. Mason, who wrote The Four Feathers, and E.W. Hornung, who created the Raffles novels, all played for the team at various times.
This remarkable celebrity team was celebrated in a slim book, privately published by Barrie in 1890, called Allahakbarries C.C. A revised edition appeared in 1899 and a reprint followed in 1950 which contained a forward by Don Bradman - Australia′s legendary batsman. The pre-1900 copies are extremely hard to find and much sought-after by rare book collectors. However, the 1950 reprints are relatively easy to find and also affordable with prices under $100.
The book is dedicated ′To Our Dear Enemy Mary de Navarro′, the famous American stage actress, who retired to Broadway in Worcestershire, and played cricket against the Allahakbarries in games commemorated by the Allahakbarries C.C. book. The actress, who formed a team from the community of artists living in Broadway, bowled out Barrie during a match in 1897, much to Barrie′s chagrin and probably to the hilarity of the author′s team-mates.
The 1950 edition contains an introduction by Philip Carr, a former ‘junior’ member of the team. It begins with the words:
If you had met Barrie, a cricketer was about the last thing that you would have imagined him to be. For he was small, frail and sensitive, rather awkward in his movements, and there was nothing athletic in his appearance.
The Allahakbarries were basically Barrie′s long-running joke. The Allahakbarries book is filled with gags from Barrie about his team′s lack of talent. It sounds as if the majority of players had trouble with batting, bowling and fielding, although players of some ability were recruited from time to time to bolster the ranks. Carr describes Conan Doyle as Barrie′s "chief tower of strength." The creator of Sherlock Holmes had ample sporting ability - he was a good goalkeeper in soccer, a useful golfer and played a handful of first-class cricket matches for the M.C.C. (the Marylebone Cricket Club is the world′s most famous cricket club).
Other artistic players included Punch cartoonist Bernard Partridge and E.T. Reed, editor of Punch Owen Seaman, the book illustrator Henry J Ford, and Sydney Pawling who became head of Heinemann Publishing. Illustrations by Partridge, Ford and Reed can be seen in the Allahakbarries C.C. book.
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A selection of collectible J.M. Barrie books
Cricket in fiction
Joseph O′Neill′s acclaimed 2008 novel, Netherland, features a cricket club in New York and its immigrant players.
The Pickwick Papers has a short description of a cricket match between Dingley Dell and All-Muggleton.
Life, the Universe and Everything from Douglas Adams′ Hitchhiker series is cricket-themed with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect visiting Lord′s - the home of cricket.
Cricket features in Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes - how can a novel about an English public school not include cricket?