Nagraj Gollapudi, in The Cricket Monthly, where the title runs thus “Pipe Man, Lord’s will feel empty without you”
June 24: Lord’s felt empty last weekend. Because Keith van Anderson had left the ground to talk cricket with the Lord. Keith van Anderson, you were baffling. When I heard about your death last month, on Twitter, I felt a dryness in my mouth, followed by the kind of emptiness that engulfs one on losing someone close. You and I were not related in any way – blood, friendship, profession – but we knew each other through cricket, over many meetings at Lord’s.
Lord’s regular the Pipe Man, in his MCC hat © Clayton Murzello
By name you were Keith van Anderson. But to us cricket fans you were the Pipe Man. You were no Gravy. You were never a performer. Yet, like Gravy, you were one of the most famous and loyal fans of Caribbean cricket. You were easily spotted: always dapper in a suit, a tie or a bowtie, a walking stick, a hat, a goatee beard, and that pipe dangling from the corner of your mouth, present at every Lord’s Test since 1973. Like a moth to a flame, the TV camera would be drawn to you.
For the journalist in me you were an instant story. The legends and the lesser-knowns of cricket doffed their caps to you, and made me wonder who the hell you were.
I interviewed you just once and never wrote the story because my laptop was stolen. Still, we would meet frequently and talk cricket, sitting by the side of the Nursery Ground at Lord’s. There were many tales.
When you told me of how you arrived in London from Guyana. When you revealed in confidence the type of cancer you had, which did not allow you to eat much. When you told me that, following your illness, that famous pipe of yours held no tobacco. When you disclosed that it was Clive Lloyd who had nominated you as a member of the MCC.
Each time I tried asking you where you lived, those big eyeballs behind the dark glasses almost popped out. No words were spoken. I got the message. You were a private man and you wanted others to respect your privacy.
Keith van Anderson, you were baffling. You were Big Brother at Lord’s – your eyes didn’t miss much, and they were wired to that Deep Blue brain of yours. You never forgot to say hello. You never forgot to ask: how are you and your good ones? And this not just with the players. You even knew the exact age of my daughter, every passing year.
Your Caribbean heart always remained loyal to West Indies. You were frustrated by the modern West Indian cricketer’s sense of entitlement. But the fan in you never died. You became a throwback to the West Indies fan of the last century – the ones who demanded quality from the region’s cricketers, who would cry hoarse in defeat but dance through the night in victory.
“Keith is the loyal dog of Caribbean cricket,” is how Michael Holding once described you to me. Holding wasn’t looking down upon you. It was the highest praise, I think you would agree.
Yes, Lord’s felt empty this weekend. Keith van Anderson. I will miss you. Cricket will miss you.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo