Episode 17: Talking with Lord Jeffrey Archer

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

An ebullient Jeffrey Archer shares his lifelong passion for cricket as the latest guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller on their regular cricket-themed podcast.


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He describes his earliest memories of watching his beloved English county Somerset at the Clarence Park ground in Weston-super-Mare (sadly no longer used for first-class matches). As a boy, he demonstrated entrepreneurial flair selling scorecards and especially teas: this inspired resistance from trade unions and helped to shape his political outlook as an opponent of the British Labour party.

He gives vivid portraits of a host of cricketers he has befriended on and off the field, including:
-Derek Underwood (he took revenge on him through a charity auction for two consecutive dismissals in a match)
-Viv Richards (he sacrificed his wicket for him in a match at Taunton)
-Clive Lloyd (brilliantly catching his other friend Sunil Gavaskar in delayed amends for dropping him during the latter’s first great series in the West Indies). He also praises Clive Lloyd’s dedication to the cause of young people in Britain and the West Indies

He assesses Ian Botham, “a friend for over 50 years… the bravest swashbuckler I’ve ever encountered. Had he been born 20 years earlier, he would have won the VC in the war”. Having earned the CBE on retirement as a cricketer and a knighthood for his dedicated charity work, Botham now has a peerage for political reasons, but he will have a chance now to follow another friend and cricketing peer, Colin Cowdrey, as a frequent contributor to the House of Lords on sport and young people. (It leads him to a splendid story about Colin Cowdrey and Len Hutton.)

Jeffrey Archer highlights his strong relationship with India (23 visits) and his friendships with cricketers including Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman (“their long partnership at Kolkata was the greatest day in Test history”) – friendships which began when they became readers of his during their long stays overseas. He would be glad to make a first visit to Pakistan and to do what he can to promote the restoration of bilateral cricket links between it and India.

He explains why he has never put cricket into his novels (“200 million of my 300 million readers do not understand it”) but looks forward eagerly to the cricket match in the televised version of his friend Vikram Seth’s great novel A Suitable Boy, which has just opened on BBC.

Turning to art, he reveals his expert knowledge of how to pack a Caravaggio. Sadly, it is not one of his own, but he reveals his latest acquisition for his lavatory and how to get to it (“turn right at the Picasso.”)

Cricket plays an important part in his three diaries of prison life. He describes encounters with murderers and serious villains who behaved very ethically on the cricket field.

At last he gives his account of the terrible events following his run-out for the House of Lords against the House of Commons – when he had to placate a crowd of 60,000 at the Oval, baying their disappointment at being deprived of the chance to see him score a fifty.

Finally, he reveals his programme if offered the post of Prime Minister in a government of national salvation (he is still available for this, and as captain of England’s cricket team). No one would be allowed to build anything on land used for cricket or any other sport. Above all, “every child will get a chance to have a chance” to fulfil their dreams and become the best they can be.

Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast was produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.