Cool is ageless but…

Cricket ought to contain a thousand men of cool, of course: either from the grouse shooting guys of the 19th century who looked on a Test match as a few days away from the cares of their landed lives, or from the Caribbean where cool is a way of life, or Australia where they play until they find there is no further advancement and retire early to work in a bank or join a rock group or travel the world. By Ted Corbett.

Is it possible for a sportsman — born to win, bred for aggression and with his mind fixed on a clear target because his career is likely to be short — to be cool in the true modern sense? Like Bob Dylan or Bob Marley, for instance.

I wonder only because the front page of an English magazine was covered recently with the faces of five cricketers it reckoned to be 21st century cool. Frankly, I never saw five characters with fewer qualifications — apart from that interesting man M. S. Dhoni — but we will let that go and search out those who might be truly cool.

First, I will nominate Viv Richards if only for his hauteur, his air of one born to rule, his look of an African chief ready to take a thousand wives, battle a deadly foe and save his tribe from starvation without breaking sweat.

I know him well. He exhibits all the qualities I have described but in a moment he can also be a furious leader or a lad who likes a big giggle.

Many years ago I met up with another immortal — nothing like as cool as Viv — who described a night out with Viv as being the most interesting of his career.

“I realised, after half a dozen glasses of this and that, that I had never met the real Viv Richards. He told stories I had never heard, showed an immense love of cricket and at the same time seemed to be totally indifferent to what anyone in the world thought about him,” said this great man.

He even suggested that the pair of us sat down with Viv and fed him a few drinks and collected his stories for a book. Somehow we jet-setting, wandering, cricket-centric folk, never put that plan into action. The world has missed a great book. Cricket ought to contain a thousand men of cool, of course: either from the grouse shooting guys of the 19th century who looked on a Test match as a few days away from the cares of their landed lives, or from the Caribbean where cool is a way of life, or Australia where they play until they find there is no further advancement and retire early to work in a bank or join a rock group or travel the world.

There are one or two who are pretty cool.

Michael Holding is really a serious man whether he is releasing the ball with serious intent or sitting at a microphone gently wondering if the fast bowler of today will ever be able to land the ball on a rupee.

I will also nominate that most casual man Phil Simmons, now the astute coach with Ireland. He worked in a cardboard box factory before his cricketing ability brought him to the notice of the Test selectors.

I caught up with him one day at a charity match in Trinidad. He was sitting in a deck chair, making sure he was in the shade and offering late comers like Jo and I a drink while chewing on a cocktail stick.

It was the second over of the day. “When are you batting, Phil?”

“I batted already.” And, true enough, the scoreboard showed his brief innings. Two balls, one six, and then that slow drag off the ground that was, sadly, seen all too often during his career.

We have to search further afield to find more cool customers.

Football has David Beckham who, casually, took a walk from Manchester United, to Real Madrid to America; who married that eligible lady Posh Spice and is still adored by girls all around the world; who accumulated millions of pounds and dollars en route; all with a shy smile and no change in the Essex accent that was part of his upbringing.

When the tabloids crowd him for details of some lurid story he seems able to gain time and space with a shrug of the shoulders and a sidestep as graceful as anything he achieved on the field; when his country called he managed to magic the Olympic Games in our direction with the aid of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the miler-turned-administrator Seb Coe.

It is just one side of the Beckham cool that he can look at home with such powerful men and he is always as elegantly dressed, as one might expect of a man married to a lady who has achieved her own mark by designing clothes for the rich and being a mother.

I guess they must the coolest couple in the midst of sport.

There is also the unthinking master of football cool Mario Balotelli, a footballer who seems unaware that he is bound to cause trouble whatever he does or Mr Super Cool David Gower, calm and collected when everyone else was losing it.

So few names from the wide world of sport, you ask? I guess it’s a question of age. The coolest guy on the planet at the moment is the actor George Clooney who has been a permanent fixture on the front pages for the last month or two leading up to his marriage to a lady as beautiful as he is handsome.

Clooney demonstrates how much cool is a matter of learning as natural ability. But then he has had fifty years on earth to polish his act and, as Richards, Holding and even the retired Beckham demonstrate, cool is ageless, but age is a necessary part of the ability to act cool whether you are a cricketer, a footballer, a musician or an actor.