Friday, 24 January 2014

Ellyse Perry & Arthur Milton - The Last Of The Dual Internationals?

You've probably never heard of Arthur Milton. He was a Gloucestershire batsman who made his debut in 1948, going on to score over 30,000 First Class runs in a career which spanned 4 decades, and playing a handful of Tests for England in the late 1950s.

But it was his 'other' career to which Milton owes his place as a footnote in history. In the early 50s, he spent his winters playing football on the right wing for Arsenal; and in 1951 he appeared for England in a single international -  a 2-2 draw against Austria at Wembely Stadium, playing alongside Billy Wright and one Alf Ramsey.

Milton's Test appearances and sole football 'cap' make him one of only 12 men to have played international cricket and football for England. The list includes legendary names like C.B. Fry and 'Tip' Foster; but Milton was the last. It has never happened since, and will probably never happen again.

This is not for want of talent in many cases - to cite just two of the better-known examples, both Phil Neville and Gary Lineker played high-level schoolboy cricket and would probably have played for England had they chosen that path.

But there's the rub - the demands of top-level professional sport mean you have to choose these days: cricket or football? One or the other?

I thought about Arthur Milton when I caught a brief shot of Ellyse Perry at the end of the 2nd ODI earlier this week. Although Australia had won, you wouldn't have known it from her expression, which looked more like the '1000 yard stare' associated with traumatized Vietnam veterans.

Some wondered if she was injured?

I think it was both more, and less, than that.

Like Milton, Perry is a dual-international. Just a few weeks ago she was playing professional football, getting hacked-to-pieces in Australia's ultra-competitive W-League; and now she has thrust herself into the furnace of an Ashes series.

When Perry began her dual-careers, they were semi-professional at best; but both games have become increasingly professionalized in the past half-decade, demanding ever-more commitment both on and off their fields of play. Perry's achievements have been remarkable, but are they sustainable in the new professional era?

Both sports are rumored to have asked Ellyse Perry to chose - a question she has even moved football teams to avoid answering - but perhaps the time has come when she must do so; taking consolation in the fact that she has done something that, in all probability, no one ever will again.

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