Sherlock wacked the ball with his bat and took off like a freight train, long strides eating up the pitch. Peter anxiously shot up into the air so he could see his running teammate better, nearly knocking poor Pooh off his feet. Sherlock was really the only good player they had; to win he had to get this run. And yes — he touched the crease!
“Hooray!” hollered Pooh, wondering if there would be any celebratory honey. Peter did a few exalting loop-de-loops before settling back on the ground in time to be crushed in a bear hug by Sherlock.
Okay, so Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, and Winnie the Pooh never really spent their summers playing cricket together. However, their creators did. A team called the Allahakbarries, created by Peter Pan Scottish author J.M. Barrie, debuted in 1887 and played until 1913 when some of their younger players headed off to fight
in World War I.
Barrie apparently found the English sport fascinating, despite being from Scotland, enough to found an amateur cricket team. Teammates included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and George Llewelyn Davies (who first said the famous line by Peter Pan, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”).
While J.M. Barrie at 5 foot 3 would probably never really excel at any sport, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes legacy) at six feet was an avid sportsman, and the only real hope for the otherwise blissfully ignorant team. Their name, Allahakbarries, was proposed by two explorers on the team while they were discussing which side of the bat was supposed to be used. They thought ‘Allah akbar’ translated as ‘Heaven help us’ in African, though it actually translated as ‘God is great.’ Nevertheless, the name stuck and the Allahakbarries it was.
After watching the 2004 film ‘Finding Neverland’ (with Johnny Depp as a much taller Barrie) and learning that two of the greatest Edwardian writers — Barrie and Conan Doyle — were friends, I simply had to verify and discover more. Therein I became aware of the Allahakbarries, their love of cricket, and their legacy. Add the author of Winnie the Pooh into the pot and you have something priceless.
In honor of Barrie’s 150th birthday in 2010, a match between the Allahakbarries and a Broadway XI was re-enacted. A book about the first celebrity cricket team, Peter Pan’s First XI, by Kevin Tefler was published as part of the birthday festivities and says that
There is something quite improbable about how these famous writers started playing together, and all their characters are quite fantastical.
Indeed it is.
Further reading and resources:
- How Peter Pan’s author invented celebrity cricket
- Peter Pan author JM Barrie and pals were lost boys at cricket
- Peter Pan’s First XI: The Extraordinary Story of JM Barrie’s Cricket Team
- Cricket Game Rules
- Cricket – Wikipedia