Category Archives: Ashes series

Questions in the House

“It is surely right that the House should discuss the burning topic of the South African cricket tour, which has aroused such grave anxiety throughout this county…”

(MP Philip Noel-Baker, quoted in Hansard 14th May 1970)

As a boy Andrew Redfern caused a mini political scandal with his letter to a government minister – http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/scandal-started-youth-cricket. The relationship between politics and cricket goes back along way, despite the desire of some to separate politics and sport.  Both are important parts of life stiring strong emotions so this ‘ideal’ rarely exists.

Tony Blair

Possibly the most famous incident of cricket and politics colliding was during the D’Olivera affair.  ‘Non-white’ cricketer Basil D’Oliveira was not selected for the test side due to tour South Africa 1968-69, despite having scored 158 not out against the Australians just a few days before the selection meeting.  The selection committee maintained that their decision was purely based on cricketing considerations including an assertion that D’Olivera’s style would not suit the South African conditions, but many suspected that the decision had more to do with ‘not rocking the boat’.  Under South African laws D’Olivera would not have been permitted to play on a South African tour.

“We will not allow mixed teams to play against our white teams here.”

(South African Minister of the Interior, January 1967)

His omission from the team drew the attention of the general public.  When another player dropped out of the tour due to injury there was great pressure on the MCC to replace him with D’Olivera, which they did – South African Prime Minister Vorster then banned the tour stating…

“It’s not the MCC team.  It’s the team of the anti-apartheid movement…it’s the team of political opponents of South Africa.  It is a team of people who don’t care about sports relations at all.”

In 1970 cricket was debated extensively in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  A full account of the debates can be found in Hansard.

In 1970 cricket was debated extensively in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. A full account of the debates can be found in Hansard, these copies are from the MCC Archive.

The South African’s were due to tour England the following year, but the ‘Stop the Seventy Tour’ campaign was launched with protests and threats of direct action and the tour was eventually cancelled after a direct appeal to the Cricket Council from the Home Secretary James Callaghan.

This was not the first time politicians became involved in the game.  During the bodyline scandal the friendly relations existing between England and Australia were under threat as a sporting tactic transformed into a near diplomatic incident!  During the furious exchange of telegrams between the two cricket boards the press and politicians such as the Governor of South Australia Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven and Stanley Baldwin also became invovled and it was alledge that there were formal discussions in the cabinet by both nations.  Why bodyline became so political is a murky issue, many members of the MCC committee had strong links to the Conservative Party which may have had some effect, also for some Australian nationalists the tactic was symbolic of English imperialistic and authoritarian attitudes.

Rather glib little momento of the 'Bodyline' series from the MCC Museum.  The series came close to upseting relations between two countries.

A rather glib little momento of the ‘Bodyline’ series from the MCC Museum. The series came close to upseting relations between two countries.

As in Andrew Redfern’s youth, the issue of cricket in state schools is still seen as a political issue today, especially as we live in a time when fewer players from working class origins reach the top than probably in any time of the cricket’s history (see previous post – Is cricket Posh?).  Many state schools do not have the space or facilities to provide cricket, and the problem was exacerbated by the sale of playing fields in the 1980s and 90s.

So whether it’s race, class or international relations cricket has often proved a political hot potato.

(Bibliography – Anyone but England: Cricket and the National Malaise by Mike Marqusee.  Bodyline by Philip Derriman.  Bodyline Autopsy by David Frith.  All available in the MCC Library)

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Filed under archive, Ashes series, Australia, British Empire, class, Cricket, digital stories, England, History, MCC, MCC, politics, school cricket, test cricket

My Ashes

Here are some pictures from the last 4 days.

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The Queen!

I had to hang right out of the window to catch a glimpse of her.

I had to hang right out of the window to catch a glimpse of her.

The members queued all down the street to make sure they were among the first in the ground...

The members queued all down the street to make sure they were among the first in the ground…

...and then ran like mad to reserve a good seat!

…and then ran like mad to reserve a good seat!

...or a prime picnic spot.

…or a prime picnic spot.

Managed to find a great seat to watch a bit of cricket at the end of the day.

Managed to find a great seat to watch a bit of cricket at the end of the day.

Last minute team talk on day 4.

Last minute team talk on day 4.

After working here through the winter a full ground is just an amazing sight.

After working here through the winter a full ground is just an amazing sight.

(Pictures taken my myself and MCC Archivist Alan Rees)

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Filed under Ashes series, Australia, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC, Queen, test cricket, WG Grace

The birth of “Carnival Cricket”

In a recent digital story Arjuna Ranatunga bemoans the dominance of ‘carnival cricket’ and the threat it poses to the longer form of the game.  http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/protecting-test-cricket .

I was surprised to learn that limited overs cricket didn’t really develop until the 1960s, and even then it would have looked very much like ‘normal’ cricket.  One-day cricket as we now know it, with music, coloured clothing, day-night matches etc could probably be accredited to Kerry Packer.

ODI

1975 Prudential World Cup semi-final. Games were played in traditional whites with the red ball and all matches were daytime matches.

In the very early days of cricket matches were often low scoring, meaning that they could often finish within a day with all 4 innings being bowled.  But as batting techniques improved 3 day games became the county norm.  One-day games were played during World War 2, usually fundraising events, but these matches depended on generous declarations rather than restricted overs to ensure a result within the day.  In 1956 a MCC research committee suggested a limited-overs county knockout competition be introduced to attract more spectators, but the suggestion wasn’t taken up.  It wasn’t until 1963 that a limited overs contest, the Gillette Cup, was finally launched and the world had to wait until 1971 for the first official international one-dayer – and even this only came about as a last resort to offer the crowds a meaningful contest after the first 3 days of a test match in Melbourne were rained off.

World Series cap worn by the Australians team, now part of the MCC museum collection.  Coloured caps and kit were a real novelty when they first appeared.

World Series cap worn by the Australians team, now part of the MCC museum collection. Coloured caps and kit were a real novelty when they first appeared.

It was Kerry Packer’s World Series in 1977 that seriously increased the profile of the shorter game.  Surrounded by a range of controversies this series introduced many of the now familiar features of limited-overs cricket including day night matches, coloured clothing and white balls.  I’m not sure whether Kerry Packer intended to invent all these new features.  He wanted to attract a big TV audience and knew the best way to do this was to have the cricket on in the evening and night primetime, so floodlights were needed, but the players had a problem seeing the red ball well under artificial light so it was changed to white, but then they couldn’t pick up the ball from the cricket whites so the next step was coloured clothing.   Not that I think all the changes had a practical origin, you only have to look at our collection of mementoes to realise that this was intended to be a livelier more colourful style of cricket!

WSC 'boob tube', also in the MCC collection.  Not sure if you'd get away with wearing that in the Lord's pavilion!

WSC ‘boob tube’, also in the MCC collection. Not sure if you’d get away with wearing that in the Lord’s pavilion!

Intentional or not Packer had a real and lasting impact on the world of cricket, and this was even recognised by some at the time.  Wring in 1978 Henry Blofeld stated –  “Already Packer has had a considerable effect on cricket, and if he were to disappear tomorrow his influence would remain.”

So is Test Cricket safe?  I certainly hope so and if the sell out crowd today at Lord’s is anything to go by then I think it will be safe for a while yet.

(Further reading –  One-Day Magic edited by Ken Piesse.  One-Day Cricket by David Lemmon.  The Packer Affair by Henry Blofeld. All available in the MCC library.

Cricket boob-tubes and many other unexpected exhibits can be seen in the MCC museum at Lord’s)

You shouldn't really put on museum objects - don't tell anyone!

You shouldn’t really put on museum objects – don’t tell anyone!

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Filed under Ashes series, Australia, Cricket, digital stories, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC, one day cricket, war

from 11 to 1?

Number 11 debutante Agar is the top scorer in the Trent Bridge test so far.  So now seems like a good day to take a look at some batting 11s from history.

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Wilfred Rhodes was another left-arm spin bowler who started his career at a young age.   By the time he retired from the Yorkshire team he had scored a phenomenal 30,000 runs and taken an amazing 3,608 wickets for Yorkshire.  But it’s a feature of his international career I’m more interested in highlighting today.  During his career he held the record for both a first and last wicket partnerships!  In 1903 in the 1st test of an Ashes series he batted at number 11 and took part in a 1st innings last wicket stand of 130.  England went on to win the match.  8 years later he took part in another great partnership of 323 this time he was opening the batting.  Will Agar go on to achieve this?  Will he move up the batting until he’s the opener in the 2021 Ashes series?  Let’s wait and see.

Wilfred Rhodes going out to open the batting for Yorkshire in 1919.

Wilfred Rhodes going out to open the batting for Yorkshire in 1919.

 

(The idea and information for this blog were provided by MCC Research Officer Neil Robinson).

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Filed under Ashes series, Ashton Agar, Australia, Cricket, Cricket records, England, History, Wilfred Rhodes