A cricket team for the ages. Celebrity authors, adventurers, illustrators and a naming pun gone-wrong. This is the story of Allahakbarries C.C, an amateur cricket team from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that showed how passion above all kept the love for the game alive.
Cricket seemed to be the choice of sport for many famed English authors, artists and politicians of the late 19th century. So much so, that the author of Peter Pan, Sir James M. Barrie, founded an amateur celebrity cricket team that included several acclaimed writers, politicians, illustrators and novelists, by the name of the Allahakbarries.
While we’ve all heard of celebrity cricket teams, and nowadays even know of celebrity cricket leagues such as the CCL in India, the Allahakbarries, were by far the predecessors and original amateur cricket team of celebrities.
The Allahakbarries did possess a star player, who had played at the First-Class level and once even took the wicket of WG Grace. This star was Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle.
And yes, you read that right, the name, ‘Allahakbarries’, was both, a play on the Islamic and Arabic phrase ‘God is Great’, and the inclusion of the founders’ surname.
The cricket club was never meant to be a serious sporting venture, rather the players themselves wanted it to be recognised that their lack of skills on the pitch was no match for their enthusiasm and passion for the game.
And while the name might have all been for a bit of a laugh, ironically, the members of the Allahakbarries also got the meaning of ‘Allah hu Akbar’ wrong, assuming it meant ‘Heaven Help us’ rather than ‘God is Great’.
Upon becoming aware of this error, they recognised that it was befitting of the team they had created. After all, the purpose of the Allahakbarries, in true sporting fashion, was not to take things too seriously. But the members of the team were seriously accomplished people, there is no doubt about that.
The Allahakbarries consisted of the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), JR Kipling (creator of The Jungle Book), HG Wells (The War of the Worlds), AA Milne (Winnie The Pooh), PG Wodehouse, GK Chesterson and many more.
And while they didn’t necessarily possess the same abilities on the pitch that they did in their respective fields of work, the Allahakbarries did possess a star player, who had played at the First-Class level and once even taken the wicket of the legendary, WG Grace. This star was Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle.
Renowned for his sporting abilities, Doyle also played as a goalkeeper for an amateur Porstmouth team in the 1890s, competed in amateur boxing and billiards tournaments, and of course, played cricket with the famous Marylebone Cricket Club.
The founder of the club, JM Barrie, however, wasn’t exactly renowned for his game, once stating that he could go and collect the ball from the other end of the pitch before it had even reached the batsman.
Others such as George Llewelyn Davies, the foster son of JM Barrie, and along with his brothers the inspiration behind Peter Pan & the Lost Boys, also etched his name into Allahakbarries history.
But much like all other good things, the Allahakbarries also came to an as an amateur cricket team no thanks to World War I, which took the lives of some of their players too, including the ‘boy who never grew up’, George Davies, and his successor, Percival Drewett Lucas, who also died from war wounds in 1916.
However, Barrie’s dedication to the game and flair for writing meant that a lot of the stories and details of the Allahakbarries’ cricketing adventures were well-documented in a 40-page book titled Allahakbarries C.C. The foreword for the reprinted edition of the book in 1950 would be written by none other than the great, Donald Bradman.
And while the team may be no more, and even though its players were never cricket superstars, it is a memorable and treasured piece of cricketing history that intertwines the love for the game with that of famed authors and literary superstars of the age, showing how the game meant as much to people over 100 years ago as it does today.