With England engaged in an insipid, rain-ruined first Test of the summer, one of the more eye-catching stories of the last week was that of Adrian Shankar, the former Cambridge University captain, who was recently signed by Worcestershire only to be released after barely more than a fortnight amid allegations that he had exaggerated his experience and falsified his age in order to gain a contract.
Leaving aside what this says about Worcestershire's competence and gullibility off the field (and they're not too crash hot on it at the moment either), the strange demise of Shankar led me to recall the case of the late Barbadian Donald Weekes, whom Wisden, never a publication too wedded to hyperbole, described in his obituary as 'a yarn-spinner of international calibre'. Among other things, Weekes claimed to have scored 700 not out in a single innings, and was lavishly profiled in The Cricketer in 1975, an article which made quite an impression on me as a kid and continued to do so until Philip Bailey (now Wisden's Chief Statistician) informed me about twelve years later that it was a load of rubbish.
I noticed Shankar's name when Worcestershire signed him; partly because they'd unwisely made great play of signing someone who had never been much good, but also because I once met a member of his family.
During a rain break at Lord's a few years ago I got chatting to a couple of blokes from Bedford in the Warner Stand. One of them claimed to be Adrian Shankar's father, and I don't see any reason why he would have been lying. Looking back, he seemed more proud of the fact that his son had been to Cambridge than that, as has repeatedly been mentioned over the last few days, he'd played in the same school side as Alastair Cook, even though (before he started knocking years off his age) he was several years older. He probably knew his son's main claim to fame in the future would revolve around someone he'd played with.
Sporting success carries great currency among men. People look up to you. It might, perhaps indirectly, get you girls. Anyone can make anything up, but, in the end, you always get found out, and you end up where you deserve. Where your talent, and all the other ingredients that go to make a player, take you.
Adrian Shankar will never play county cricket again. Alastair Cook has made seventeen Test centuries.
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