“…no foreigner understands.”

Another busy week cataloguing, working on taking the field and crawling around on the floor.  I’ve been working on a digital story from Kushil Gunashera who works with the charity Foundation of Goodness (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/foundation-goodness).  He talks about his experiences of playing school cricket in Sri Lanka and about how passionate the crowds were who followed cricket enthusiastically even when Sri Lanka didn’t have test status.  I wonder what they would have made of an article I found this week which states that cricket “…can be played in it’s proper form by Englishmen only.”

This fascinating article was taken from a series of booklets called ‘The British Empire in World Politics’, published in 1940 by the German Institute for Foreign Political Research.  They were commissioned partly in the spirit of know your enemy and also perhaps because Hitler saw the British Empire as a possible model for a German empire and wanted to understand it better – either way it was felt that the British couldn’t possibly be fully understood without a study of cricket.  I’m not sure how successful they were!

Here are a few highlights

“The game of cricket is something which, according to an Englishman, no foreigner understands.  If he should try and give the impression that he does understand, the Englishman has only an ironical smile for him.”

“A man who proves himself a really good cricketer…and who can repeatedly score a century (that is 100 points) is assured of a great future in the British Empire.”

“If the Americans had kept cricket as a national game, the English would not have regarded them as semi-savages.”

“It is a game which requires not only a measure of bodily adroitness, not only the ability to put up with painful contusions and injuries , not only a certain courage, but above all things the strength to suffer boredom, the ability to cultivate a beautiful but idle figure on the green.”

“If an Englishman conversing affably about sport in Germany to a man who originates from the expanse of the European Continent asks quite incidentally ‘But don’t you play cricket in Germany?’ and if the German then harmlessly says ‘No’ and perhaps replies ‘But we play football, though’, the German has then lowered himself to the lowest rung on the English ladder.”

So what do you reckon?  Have they understood the essence of cricket and how it relates to Englishness?

These matches played in 1937 shows that at least some Germans must have a decent understanding of cricket…

…although the Berliners did lose all three matches by large margins, perhaps they hadn’t quite the same ‘strength to suffer boredom’ as their English competitors!

(Article supplied by Andrew Trigg at the MCC library).


Filed under British Empire, Cricket, Germany, Librarianship, Sri Lanka

2 responses to ““…no foreigner understands.”

  1. julanne

    Oh my goodness, it’s no wonder everyone took such pleasure in trashing the poms. They really did ask for it back then. Thankfully, the world is changing and attitudes like this are fading away.

    • Yeah, weirdly I think the Nazis were quite perceptive in some of their views on cricket and the English, although rather oddly expressed at times. In the longer article they write about cricket and the public school system and I think they get the spirit of it pretty spot on.

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