Drawing: Henry Blofeld

Autographed drawing of cricket commentator Henry Blofeld

I had the pleasure of catching up with the one and only Henry Blofeld during this years Cricket Word Cup, which was hosted in England and Wales over the past seven weeks. ‘Blowers’ – one of the true legends of cricket commentary – took to the stage in for a Cricket World Cup Special: An evening with Henry Blofeld in conversation at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminister, where he kindly signed and dedicated my sketch with his signature saying, ‘My dear old thing.’

Before Henry entered the commentary realm, he was “an opening batsman of sorts” with sixteen first-class matches for Cambridge University, scoring his only fist-class century against the MCC at Lords in July 1959 in his penultimate game. Realising he had no taste for merchant banking after leaving university, he ‘drifted into sports journalism.’ While covering England’s tour of India in 1963/64 for the Guardian he was close to being picked as an emergency batsman when Micky Stewart fell ill before the second test in Bombay. He also did TV commentary for ITV and later, in the 1990’s for BSkyB.

In 1972 Blowers joined the BBC Radio’s TEST MATCH SPECIAL team. His commentary is characterised by a ‘plummy voice’ and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details regarding the scene, including construction cranes, pink shirts in the crowd, pigeons, buses, and other flying objects. He was also a regular member of the commentary team on New Zealand television while England toured there and I recall once sending a cartoon of him as a seagull, captioned ‘Henry Livingston Seagull’, which he displayed during the live broadcast. After 45 years with TMS, Blowers retired at the age of seventy-seven, after commentating the test between England and the West Indies at Lords in September 2017, receiving a standing ovation on a lap of the ground following the match.

He wrote on his website, “Listeners will now be pleased to know that their chances of being told the right name of the fielders at third man and fine leg have greatly increased. I hope some will be sad that they will now hear less about the lifestyles of pigeons, seagulls and helicopters, although I fear the general feeling will be one of huge relief.”

The final of the World Cup was played at Lords last Sunday between the hosts England and my beloved Black Caps from New Zealand. The thriller ended in a tie, as did the subsequent ‘Super Over’. England were crowned World Champions on a count back of boundaries scored – congrats to them. Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Henry wrote it was the “greatest cricket match of all time. What drama, what tension, what heroics. My dear old things, in all my years of watching cricket I cannot recall any match that kept me on my toes”.

Obviously as a New Zealander I was disappointed with the result, but immensely proud of our team, for the way they not only played and contributed to such a magnificent sporting spectacle, but also for the way they responded to the manner of their defeat. I was very pleased he wrote, “I felt for New Zealand, truly. Their undaunted spirit, their sense of decency even after they lost by that wafer-thin margin was an absolute tonic and very much in the spirit of the game.”

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Drawing: Feliciano Lopez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Feliciano Lopez

While his doubles partner Sir Andy Murray was grabbing the headlines for a successful return to competitive tennis after career-saving surgery five months ago, Feliciano Lopez completed a remarkable double winning both titles at the prestigious Queen’s Club in London on Sunday. Initially ranked outside the top 100 in the ATP rankings, the 37 year old Spaniard became the first wild card entry to lift the singles trophy since Pete Sampras in 1999 and the first player to claim the Queen’s ‘double’ since Mark Philippoussis in 1977.

As a consequence he has leapfrogged a massive 60 places to #53 in the world. He would have also become the oldest player ever to win a grass court event in the open era, but a certain Roger Federer, who is one month older secured his tenth Halle title earlier in the day. Given the inclement English weather earlier in the week, the disrupted schedule meant playing catch-up and multiple games in the same day. In Feliciano’s case it was a remarkable act of endurance.

On Saturday he played five-hours of gruelling tennis to reach the two finals. After beating rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime in the singles semi, he took a 12 minute shower and was back on court with Andy to wrap up their suspended quarter finals doubles clash against British pair Dan Evans and Ken Skupski, before taking on the highly-fancied Henri Kontinen and John Peers, which needed a championship tie-break to decide it. The following day, Feliciano beat Giles Simon in the singles and completed Sir Andy’s fairytale comeback, beating Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram in another tie-breaker to enter the history books.

Feliciano kindly signed this drawing for me when he arrived at the club on Saturday morning. I didn’t need to state the obvious and mention it was going to be a very busy day for him…but I did.

Drawing: Katarina Witt

Autographed drawing of figure skater Katarina Witt

Regarded as one of the most successful figure skaters of all time, Katarina Witt dominated the sport for over half a decade in the 1980s, combining technical skill with charisma and a dazzling flair for showmanship. Representing East Germany and often described as the “ most beautiful face of socialism,” Katarina won gold at both the 1984 Sarajevo and 1988 Calgary Olympics. She was World Champion in 1984, 85, 87 and 88 and won six consecutive European titles from 1983-88.

She also starred alongside men’s Olympic medalists Brian Boitaio and Brian Orser in the 1990 telefilm CARMEN ON ICE, which won the trio an Emmy Award. Since retiring she had pursued a number of sporting and entertainment ventures, establishing her production company ‘With Witt’ in 1995 and is a member of the Laureus Sports Academy.

I sent this montage sketch to Katarina at her production company in Germany and it came back signed and dedicated.

Drawing: Judd Trump and John Higgins – World Snooker Championship Final 2019

Autographed drawing of snooker player Judd TrumpAutographed drawing of snooker player John Higgins

Considered one of the greatest, certainly the most breathtaking final at the famous Crucible theatre in Sheffield, this years ultimate match of the World Snooker Championship saw the twenty-nine year old Judd Trump finally win his maiden title with an emphatic 18-9 victory over four-time champion John Higgins last night. Having been touted as a potential champion for many years the Englishman finally fulfilled his potential.

“The standard was astonishing,” said six-time winner and BBC commentator Steve Davis. “It may have been the greatest final we have ever seen and Judd Trump was at the heart of it. He dismantled one of the greatest players to have ever held a cue.”

With a record 11 century breaks – seven to Judd – and frame-winning breaks of 50 in 23 of the 27 played, it was a remarkable example of potting from both players, taking the standard of snooker to another level. For the forty-three year old Scot, it was his third defeat in a row, having reached the final in the last three years, and his fourth in eight appearances, but all agree, he played his part in this classic contest. “I was lucky to get nine frames,” John modestly said after the encounter.

Judd now joins John and nine other players in achieving the career ‘Triple Crown’, winners of the sport’s three most prestigious tournaments-the World Championship. The UK Championship and the Masters.

Both Judd and John signed sketches for me at the Crucible in 2015, which I’ve previously posted, but to pay tribute to such a classic sporting moment, here they are again.

Drawing: Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Autographed drawing of Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Described by the Guinness Book of World Records as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes 3rd Baronet, more commonly known as Ranulph ‘Ran’ Fiennes celebrated his 75th birthday at the beginning of this month, being interviewed by fellow adventurer and Chief Scout Bear Grylls at London’s Royal Festival Hall, discussing the new edition of his best-selling autobiography
‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’.

It featuring unparalleled stories that mark an unmatched career, including becoming the first person to visit both South and North Poles by surface means, circumnavigating the world on its polar axis using surface transport only and the first person to completely cross Antartica on foot.

In 2003, four months after a heart attack and a double by pass operation, Sir Ranulph completed seven marathons in seven days on seven continents as part of the Land Rover Challenge for the British Heart Foundation. Six years later, at the age of sixty-five he became first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest and cross both polar ice-caps. In 1993 he was recognised by the Queen with the Officer of the Order of the British Empire decoration for “human endeavour and for charitable services.” His exhibitions have raised £14 million for good causes, including the Marie Curie Cancer Care Delivering Choice Programme.

I had hoped to meet Sir Ranulph at the Royal Festival Hall event, but was unable to make it, so sent him this sketch through the mail, which he kindly signed and returned.

Drawing: Novak Djokovic

Autographed drawing of tennis player Novak Djokovic

Despite losing the ATP World Tour Finals – a title he has won on five previous occasions – in London on Sunday, Novak Djokovic ended the year as the world’s number one men’s tennis player for the fifth time. It was a remarkable return to form for the Serbian after elbow surgery threatened to curtail his career.

He dropped to number 22 in June. After reuniting with long time coach Marian Vajda, Novak gradually returned to form, reaching the Queens Tournament final, narrowly loosing to Marin Cilic. He headed to Wimbledon as the 12th seed, beating Kevin Anderson in the final after an epic five set semifinal victory over Rafael Nadal and followed that with his 14th major title, beating Juan Martin del Porto in the US Open final. When Rafa withdrew from the Paris Masters, Novak returned to the top ranking.

I caught up with him at the North Greenwich pier during the ATP Finals at London’s O2 as he was leaving via clipper. He was happy to sign my sketch and even took a quick video and commentary on his phone of the both of us with the drawing.

Drawing: Ivan Lendl

Autographed drawing of tennis player Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl joined Sascha Zverev’s team in August this year with immediate results. The young German stunned World #1 Novak Djokovic to win the biggest title of his career, the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London on Sunday.
The 58 year old Czech-American, who retired from playing in 1994 after winning eight major and seven year-ending championships was World #1 for 270 weeks during the 1980s, finishing with 94 singles titles. During his time coaching Britain’s Andy Murray, the Scot won three majors, two Olympic gold medals, an ATP Tour Finals title, (also defeating Novak) and reached World #1 in November 2016.
Ivan signed this drawing for me when he arrived at the O2 on Saturday before Sascha beat Roger Federer in the semifinal.

Drawing: Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev

Autographed drawing of tennis player Alexander 'Sascha' Zverev

The youngest tennis player in the Top 10, Alexander Zverev, ranked #4, caused a major upset on Sunday, beating World #1, Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim the biggest title of his career, the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2.

Known as ‘Sascha’ (a common Russian nickname for Alexander) the twenty-one year old German of Russian descent, also beat Roger Federer in Saturday’s semis. Novak comfortably won their group stage match, but wins over John Isner and Marin Cilic secured Sascha’s advancement to the last four. He previously beat Novak in the 2017 Italian Open to claim his first Masters 1000 title and enter the top 10 for the first time. Coached by his father, Alexander Snr since the age of five, the team was joined in August this year by Ivan Lendl, who was influential in Sunday’s victory.

Sascha did sign a sketch for me this year at the O2, but this one was graphed and dedicated at last year’s year-ending tournament.

Drawing: Justin Rose

Autographed drawing of golfer Justin Rose

English golfer Justin Rose returned to the World #1 ranking, defending his Turkish Airlines Open title after winning a playoff over Li Haotong on Sunday. Justin had briefly held the top spot in September this year as well as claiming the season-long FedEx Cup Playoffs and the $US10million prize. He was also runner-up at the Open Championship at Scotland’s Carnoustie Golf Links and was part of Europe’s Ryder Cup winning team in Paris a week later to round off a very successful month.

Justin won his maiden major – the US Open – at the Merioneth’s Golf Club in Pennsylvania in 2013 and has finished second twice at the Masters in 2015 and 2017 and was T3 at the 2012 PGA Championship. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiroo he won the gold medal.

I sent this drawing to Justin while he was competing in the Scottish Open at the Gullane Golf Club in July this year, where he kindly signed and dedicated it for me.

Drawing: Moeen Ali

Autographed drawing of cricketer Moeen Ali

One of cricket’s most popular players is the England all-rounder Moeen Ali. Known fondly as ‘The Beard that’s Feared’, Moeen is a Muslim of Pakistani descent born in Birmingham. He signed for Warwickshire County team in 2004 at the age of 15, making his first class debut the following year.

Moeen bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-breaks. While he built a reputation as an elegant batsman, it was his off-spin bowling that earned him the call-up to the England side in 2014 after the surprise retirement of Graeme Swan. He made his test debut against Sri Lanka at Lords and scored his maiden test ton in the second test at Headingly, unbeaten on 108 when England went within two balls of saving the series with Jimmy Anderson bowled off the penultimate ball.

Moeen plays in all formats for the National side. Earlier in 2014 he was selected for the ODI series in the West Indies and the World T20 in Bangladesh a few weeks later. He has 5 Test and 3 ODI centuries with a highest score of 155 and 128 respectively and 72 in T20. His best test figures are 6/53 against South Africa at Lords in 2017. Moeen’s charity work includes being an Ambassador for ‘StreetChance’, which holds free weekly cricket coaching clinics for deprived children across the UK.

Moeen signed my sketch after England’s victory over India in the 5th and final test of the series at the Kia Oval in September.