They became a blogging sensation, bagged interviews with England stars and recently witnessed their first book hit stores across Britain, but behind the boys from Cricket Banter exists an enviable tale of the unlikely lads.
Authors Dan Whiting and Liam Kenna hail from different backgrounds, different generations, even different countries but a love for cricket – particularly sledging – brought them together and inspired a book deal off the back of their hits-happy blog The Middle Stump.
Dan, 42, admits he still acts like a 15-year-old, but his cricket career at Southgate Adelaide CC in North London – where he is now chairman – began five years before Liam was even born.
Interesting then, that the managing director of a legal recruitment agency should end up putting pen to paper with a 24-year-old lad from Llanelli, who was drawn to London on the premise of a professional football career.
“I met Liam in 2004 when he came down from Llanelli to play football for the team I support, Barnet FC,” explained father-of-four Dan.
“One of the guys involved with Barnet was also an umpire at our club and got him to play.
“He got 70 odd in his first game and we chucked him the 2’s the following week – he was very young and very Welsh back then!”
“I was a young and naive 16-year-old,” added Liam. “Dan was captain of the 2nd XI and took me under his wing – I became known as ‘The Son of Whiting’.”
Their love for cricket is obvious. Dan is entering his 29th season with Southgate Adelaide and stato Liam admits to a wasted youth playing International Cricket Captain on the PC – as well as working his way up the Adelaide batting order.
However, having given up hopes of an Ashes call-up, the gents are delighted – albeit surprised – to see their sporting passion veer off down a rather unexpected path.
“Not in a million years had I considered a book deal,” said Dan. “The Middle Stump started as a laugh, but then got popular quite quickly – the book with the History Press came about a few months later.”
“I remember one day during the first week when we got 100 hits in a day and we couldn’t believe it,” added Liam.
“Now we are putting an extra 0 on the end – the book deal just came about so quickly, we didn’t have any time to reflect.”
The gents struck gold when Manchester-based Factor 50 founder Gill Nuttall recognised their work and utilised her links at Lancashire CCC to arrange interviews for The Middle Stump, with the boys raising awareness of skin cancer and melanoma in return.
“Gill as a person is someone you have to admire greatly,” said Dan. “She’s dedicated to her cause and is one of the warmest, nicest people around.
“She has been an absolute superstar and we wouldn’t have got half of the names we have interviewed without her.
“I only hope the book does ok so Factor 50 can get something back out of it, as well as some good publicity, as they are on a percentage of the royalties.
“Being the classy bloke that I am, I took her for fish and chips when she last came down to London! Seriously though, the work that she does saves lives.”
Gill’s involvement presented a list of greats, past and present, and has resulted in Cricket Banter featuring interviews with former Lancashire batsman Graeme Fowler, Bury-born Steve Kirby, and ex-England captain Mike Gatting, to name but a few.
But with exposure to some of his childhood cricketing idols came a few nervy moments for Dan, who confessed to being a little star-struck at bantering with the best in the business.
“Dan was like a 12-year-old girl when interviewing Graeme Fowler,” joked Liam.
“I was,” admitted Dan. “I shouldn’t have been, he’s a great bloke and a very funny man. I was nervous talking to Jason Gillespie too, and again shouldn’t have been as he is another top bloke.
“To chat with someone who played in probably the greatest team to ever grace a cricket pitch was fairly daunting.
“Mike Gatting too, it’s not often you get to have a good old chin wag about cricket with someone who has skippered England.”
Dan may have experienced a touch of the butterflies when approaching interviews, but Liam was certainly not afraid to wade in with some ballsy banter in order to get his man.
“I absolutely slated Rikki Clarke in an article called ‘The Ugly XI’,” he said. “I made him captain and said that girls wouldn’t even ride him into battle!
“He saw it via Twitter and didn’t take it too kindly, but I sent him a picture of Dan and I and he responded with ‘Dan can be 12th man’ – then he came round to the idea.
“He even photo-shopped a picture of himself to use as his display picture, we interviewed him and he is a funny guy and quick to have a laugh at himself as well as everyone else.
“Rikki is a top man and a very good cricketer, we are in regular contact and he still signs his emails with ‘Skipp’.”
So between holding down the day job, sledging opposition at the Adelaide and continuing their popular blog, what is next for these couple of unlikely lads?
“I’ll play a bit of cricket this year,” said Dan. “I’ll go balder, greyer and no doubt get fatter, much to the amusement of my kids!”
“I’ll be donning the whites once more,” added Liam. “Maybe as a specialist slip fielder. As for writing, there may be another book on the horizon, watch this space…”
To get your copy of Cricket Banter, visit http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/cricket-banter.html.