September 24, 2019
In the entire history of cricket, only one British player has been knighted or made a dame before they retired from playing
The Spin | What should sports position be in the British honours system?
In 2009, aged 33 and four years before he retired from active competition, the cyclist Chris Hoy was knighted. “To become a knight from riding your bike, it’s mad,” he said. Five years earlier the rower Matthew Pinsent, already an MBE, OBE and CBE and still only 34, had been similarly honoured. “I was shocked,” he said. “I wasn’t convinced the powers that be would believe I’d done enough.” Andy Murray, then 29, and Mo Farah, then 33, were both knighted in the 2017 New Year’s honours list, when the rower Katherine Grainger, 41, and heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, 30, were made dames. “It’s a big honour, but with that comes a bit more responsibility,” Murray said. “I’m still competing and obviously don’t want anything to distract me or affect my performance on the court.”
This is not a problem that many cricketers have had to cope with. In the entire history of the sport, only one British cricketer has been either knighted or made a dame before they retired from playing: Alastair Cook, in 2018. His is the only English cricketing knighthood to have been bestowed on an athlete in their 30s – of the 15 cricketing knights 10 were at least 60, and there have been as many in their 80s (two) as in their 40s. Two of the 15 died of old age the year after their knighthoods. The average age of cricket-related English knights upon their investiture, a figure massively reduced by the ennoblements of Cook and the 42-year-old Andrew Strauss in the last couple of years, is a shade over 65. If this is a reward for sporting achievements, why is it not made while the achievements are still fresh in the memory? Why the long wait?
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