Legendary Test Captains Dinner
Watch fantastic Q and A sessions with twenty one of the greatest cricket players of all time. This fantastic event was in aid of The Lord’s Taverners to enable young, disadvantaged and disabled youngsters to participate in sport.
I have always believed that if you create an original concept and then persuade cricket’s greatest players to attend and participate then such a dinner will both sell out and generate significant funds for our charity.
I had this in mind when I set out 18 months ago to ‘sell’ the idea of a Legendary Test Captains around the World. They gave me an immediate positive response agreeing in principle to attend. I was absolutely delighted that 21 of them honoured that pledge and turned up!
Like my other dinners this was a Commonwealth based – and unique in that these great captains had never before all been together at the same function.
On Monday 23 September after an initial briefing from Paul Robin and me, the majority of them went to the Kia Oval to witness young handicapped children playing Table Cricket. This was a perfect demonstration to them of The Lord’s Taverners charity in action. All of the captains participated with enthusiasm and in a competitive manner.
The Prime Minister – the Rt. Hon. David Cameron – became aware of the dinner through the good offices of Sir John Major. No doubt he was inspired by the commonwealth element for he kindly invited the captains, their wives and the main sponsor – Macquarie XXX – to a private reception at No. 10 Downing Street. The Lord’s Taverners working group, myself and my wife were included in the invitation.
Sir John Major actually hosted the occasion as the Prime Minister was called to Balmoral. He subsequently returned due to the Kenya crisis and was able to join everyone in the cabinet room at the conclusion of the visit. Downing Street went to town allowing the State Rooms to be viewed with their finest silverware on display and the captains were given a guided tour of this historic building. This was a new experience for most of them. Also in attendance was the minister of sport – the Rt. Hon. Hugh Robertson.
Immediately following this reception all the captains, sponsors and patrons attended a private dinner given by my wife, Shirley and myself. This was not a Lord’s Taaverners function and follows a tradition that we have organised for many of my previous dinners. It was essentially a cricketer’s night where they could meet old friends and competitors in a relaxed atmosphere.
As members will know, the main dinner sold out in early December last year and the demand for tickets sadly surpassed the seating capacity of the Hilton in Park Lane.
As the captains marched in accompanied by suitable music, they were given a standing ovation. Once on the stage they were lined up for a team picture, a vacant seat in the front row was set aside to be filled by six individual diners after they had each pledged £6,000 for the privilege. In return they received this historic framed picture signed by each of the captains.
Chris Cowdrey was a truly excellent MC and Jonathan Agnew brilliantly hosted it hosted the five riveting sessions. Every captain participated in these and they ranged from the period of 1950 to the current day and contained facts, anecdotes and humour.
The dinner kicked off with an absorbing session covering the 1950’s to the 1960’s. Richie Benaud, Sir Garry Sobers, Ted Dexter and Ian Chappell recalled those times, including a discussion on the first ever tied Test between Australia and the West Indies where both Richie and Sir Garry (who scored 132) played in it.
Session two saw David Gower and Clive Lloyd in an informative and amusing dialogue about their Tests against each other which the West Indies always seemed to win!
In sessions three and four the lucky diners were able to gear the opinions of such legends as Sir Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Mike Brearley, Mike Gatting, Arjuna Ranatunga and Mushtaq Mohammad. Jeremy Coney (New Zealand) brought the house down with his description of going out to bat against a battery of West Indies fast bowlers in Jamaica on a rain affected wicket!
The last session reflected the views of current and recently retired captains, Strauss, Flower, Pollock, Sangakarra and Jayawardena. They debated the future of Test cricket, player burnout and the effect of multi one-day competitions on world cricket. Very encouragingly, all thought that Test cricket was the ‘ultimate’ game and had to be protected at all costs.
This was another memorable cricket evening for our charity and I am delighted and flattered that so many of the attendees described it as ‘their best ever cricket function’. It even concluded on time – a most rare occurrence, as those who have enjoyed our previous dinners will testify – thanks to the efficiency of Chris Cowdrey and Jonathan Agnew.
The dinner has raised at least £140,000 for The Lord’s Taverners to enable young, disadvantaged and disabled youngsters to participate in sport.
This is my sixth and last original dinner and over 150 great players worldwide have accepted my invitation to support our charity. These dinners have raised in excess of £550,000 so it has all been very worthwhile both financially and from an entertainment point of view.
I very much hope that The Lord’s Taverners will continue to create and run unique cricket dinners in the future.
It is impossible for one person to run an event of this magnitude so I have to thank the working party of Chris Cowdrey, Tom Rodwell, John Ayling, Peter Kirvan, Roger Oakley, Paul Robin, Kate Warren-Price and Andrea Quaine; and to James Gillson and Henry Hazlewood for so expertly looking after the Test captains at the hotel and our various locations around London.
In particular, I thank Andrea Quaine who did a great job in administrating and co-ordinating a range of activities, including getting the captains on the right flights at the right time! Finally, I thank my wife, Shirley, who has worked unceasingly on all these dinners on an almost daily basis for the last seven years.
Test captains attending:
Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell (Aus)
Ted Dexter, Mike Brearley, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Andrew Strauss (Eng)
Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly (Ind)
Jeremy Coney (NZ)
Mushtaq Mohammad (Pak)
Dr. Ali Bacher, Shaun Pollock (SA)
Arjuna Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakarra (SL)
Sir Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Sir Vivian Richards (WI)
Andy Flower (Zim)
Brian Downing OBE