From the heroically virtuous to the tearfully metrosexual - the changing face of manliness and Yorkshire cricket


We'll Get 'Em in Sequins, by Max Davidson

Published by: Wisden Sports Writing

What's it about?

In short, it is the story of the evolution of manliness and masculinity written by an author with a fascination for bravery and chivalry in sport and an astute observer of human behaviour.

What counts as manliness is, of course, quite subjective and author Max Davidson is open-minded enough to accept all manner of interpretations of what makes a man.  But when he watched Darren Gough, a fast bowler with the heart of a lion, wearing make-up and spangled tops to win Strictly Come Dancing, sharing a stage with "gay prima donnas, weeping women and superannuated comedians" and saw an England cricket captain, Michael Vaughan, break down in tears as he announced his resignation, he clearly felt that conventions were being challenged enough to start asking a few probing questions.

What Gough and Vaughan had in common is that they are both Yorkshiremen, albeit an adopted one in Vaughan's case. Davidson had always supposed Yorkshire to be the heartland of manliness and Yorkshire cricketers its most upstanding ambassadors.  If their behaviour did not cast doubt upon this notion, perhaps it was time to redefine it.

It inspired Davidson to set his examination of manliness within the framework of Yorkshire cricket, building what he describes as "as much a social history as a cricket book" around portraits of seven Yorkshire players, beginning at the turn of the last century with George Hirst, a man admired for his Edwardian virtues and for visiting his mother, every Sunday, and ending with Vaughan, who not only revealed a painfully human face as he relinquished the captaincy, but had also left a cricket match early and unapologetically to attend the birth of a child.

In between, to accompany him on his journey, Davidson chose Herbert Sutcliffe, who sprinkled cologne on his flannels and brilliantined his hair, followed by the war hero Hedley Verity and the contradictory Fred Trueman -- "the blunt Yorkshireman...who could drink for England" but who would emerge standing from marathon sessions at the bar by hiding near-full pint pots behind handy curtains.

Then came Geoffrey Boycott, another who spoke his mind but who also had an unusual faith in star signs and horoscopes and who at least once visited a medium, and Gough, a fast bowler almost as broad in the beam as Trueman but who worried about his pointy ears as a boy and, finally bedecked in the sequins of the title, uttered the once unthinkable assertion, the mantra of metrosexuality, that he was "comfortable with my sexuality...in touch with my feminine side."

Legend has it that, at the critical stage of the last Ashes Test of 1901, with 15 needed to win and one wicket standing, that Hirst conferred with his partner, Wilfred Rhodes, and told him: "We'll get 'em in singles".

Some reviewers have suggested that Davidson's title is a play on words that doesn't work, or at least does not so justice to the book.  Irrespective of that,  the author makes his arguments well and does so with elegance and humour.

Who is the author?

Max Davidson is a prolific journalist, a regular in the pages of the Daily Telegraph, as well as a seasoned traveller who spent part of his childhood in Africa and makes an annual food pilgrimage to Venice every October. He is the author of six comic novels as well as books about sporting courage and chivalry. Although not a Yorkshireman himself, he had a Yorkshire grandfather and has a lifelong love affair with cricket that led him to join the MCC when he was 16.

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