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By Suresh Menon
Till Adam Parore broke the barrier, so to speak, by becoming the first international cricketer to climb Mount Everest, the most significant achievement in the field was that of Bob Crisp, a South African fast bowler whose centenary fell in May, the same month that Parore reached the top of the world.
Crisp was picked to tour England in 1935, soon after he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, and must rate as one of the most fascinating characters to have played the game. He had an ‘attention span’ problem, possibly a medical term for someone who got bored easily.
He was a War hero, and duly recognised as such, but he rubbed too many people the wrong way including General Montgomery who downgraded his honours. How he ever found time to play cricket in the midst of his many activities remains a mystery.
Asked by the King if his War injury would affect his bowling, he is reported to have said, “No sire, I was hit in the head.” He remains the only bowler to have twice taken four wickets in four balls.
In South Africa, Crisp started a paper for blacks, Drum. In England, he tried mink farming and wrote two accounts of his war exploits. Diagnosed with cancer, he spent a year walking round Crete, selling accounts to newspapers. He died with a copy of Sporting Life on his lap, reportedly having just lost a £20 bet. Crisp's 276 wickets cost 19.88, but, as Wisden notes in its obituary, “statistics are absurd for such a man.”
Statistics do sound absurd for those who have gone beyond them. Adam Parore, for example, made two centuries in 78 Tests, but will he want to be known as an Everest-tamer who made international hundreds or a cricketer who climbed the tallest peak in the world? Later this year, former England captain Michael Vaughan hopes to trek the Great Wall of China. At the time of writing, Munaf Patel has no plans to swim the English Channel, and if Jesse Ryder is planning to drive a tractor to the South Pole, it is a well-kept secret.
Cricketers are not usually adventurous. They might occasionally flash outside the off stump or dive headlong onto the boundary boards to save a boundary, but generally they prefer to leave mountain-climbing and trekking to the experts.
If Parore’s achievement was treated with less than the awe it deserved, it might have had something to do with his own reaction that followed.
“I just wanted to come back,” he was quoted as saying. “I had great plans on what I should do and how I might feel but in the end it was a bit of an anti-climax. I just wanted to get down and live. You can see the end of the world. It's just a shame that you’re so out of it you don’t know what you’re looking at.”
Honest, but too casual and no talk of world peace. His countryman Edmund Hillary’s reaction when he (and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) became the first men to step onto Everest was quite dramatic. “We have knocked the bastard off!” he exclaimed. If Hillary thought it was an anti-climax, he kept the thought to himself.
Parore is 40, and in his international days, he was one of the fittest players on the circuit. He often jogged home after a day’s work on the field! He hopes to raise at least a hundred thousand dollars for charity as a result of the climb. Perhaps he will inspire a few willow-and-leather men to follow in his footsteps too.