Category Archives: school cricket

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

Is cricket posh?

a-uniformed-eton-schoolboy-is-watched-by-local-boys-at-the-eton-v-harrow-cricket-match-at-lords-in-london-uk-in-1937

Eton schoolboy cricketer waiting to go into Lord’s being marvelled at by some local boys.

In my latest TTF story Barry Dennis tells us about a joke suggesting that his cricket team, Wimbledon CC, is rather posh (http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/joining-yahs).  But is cricket in general posh?

Growing up I always thought so.  We didn’t play cricket at my school, it was something that was played at posh schools or by the posh boys in Enid Blyton books.

Having visited a couple of cricket clubs now I realise not all cricketers are posh, some of the people I’ve met have been very common (ha ha only joking), but they have been what I regard as normal.  So where does the posh image come from?  Does it depend on whether or not your school teaches cricket?  Is there a north/south divide?  Is it because cricket spectators seem so much better behaved than those at the football (even though attending football is much more expensive)?  Is it down to the appearance of those immaculate cricket whites?  I would be genuinely interested to hear your views.

Although I admit my childhood impression was not entirely correct – I think it had some basis in reality.  For example, 7 out of 11 of the England test team who played in the last test were privately educated, that’s pretty high when you consider only 7% of the population attend private schools.  So is there something ‘posh’ about cricket?

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Filed under children, class, Cricket, cricket grounds, digital stories, England, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, oral history, school cricket

Naughty boys

I'm about to lose my beautiful old desk.

I’m about to lose my beautiful old desk.

Busy week here at Lord’s as the museum refurbishment is well underway.  I’m not involved really so have mostly been keeping out of the way, although I have been forced to take a bit of interested after finding out my desk is going to be part of the exhibit about Wisden.  I was pretty upset at first at being turfed out of my home, but have cheered up as I now know I will be getting a replacement desk (so won’t have to work on the floor).  It’s also nice to know that my desk will be admired by many, you too can come and view the famous desk at the MCC museum soon – it’s being displayed to symbolise John Wisden’s desk, but you will know the truth, it’s far more important than that, it’s actually the very desk where so many of my famous wonderful blog posts have been written.

Have a great new story on the TTF website this week ( http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/innocence-youth ) please have a listen.  I don’t want to spoil the ending for you but I will say that it involves a little boy being a little bit naughty.  His actions in the final over of a match remind me of the controversal ball bowled by Trevor Chappell in 1981, it was the last ball of the match and New Zealand needed 6 to win so Chappell ensured this was impossible by bowling the ball underarm and letting it gently roll along the ground to the batsman, a strategy not actually illegal at the time, but certainly rather naughty!

Trevor Chappell rolls the last ball of the innings along the ground to stop the opposition from scoring.

Trevor Chappell rolls the last ball of the innings along the ground to stop the opposition from scoring.

For some other examples of naughty boy behaviour I have turned to fiction.  In The Wicket Swindlers we a have a definite case of cheating, using a rather complicated method.  The baddies have invented a device that looks like a simple camera but can be pointed at the batsman from some distance away and will release ‘electrical waves’ causing the batsman to lose concentration and make silly mistakes.  Ingenious!  Luckily the hero of the piece discovers their scheme and sees them brought to justice.

The poor batsman doesn't know why he suddenly looses concentration.

The poor batsman doesn’t know why he suddenly loses concentration.

Perhaps a little less cunning, Harry Harper decides to teach the smug prefect fast bowler a lesson and stop him playing in a match by stealing his trousers!  Any young boys out there planning a trick like this should beware.  Poor Harry is spotted during his scam, ends up being accused of a crime he did not commit, his reputation lays in tatters and his plan doesn’t even work.  The lesson learned is that trouser stealing just is not cricket, avoid it if you can.

Steeling trousers can get you in trouble!

Stealing trousers can get you in trouble!

(Further reading: It’s Not Cricket: A History of Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game by Simon Rae, The Wicket Swindlers by Anthony Thomas, The Boys Book of Cricket for 1950 – all available at the MCC library.)

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Filed under cheating, children, Cricket, school cricket

Six of the best

Zoe and graceI’ve now been working on Taking the Field for six whole months, and to celebrate I’ve selected my six very favourite digital stories from the website.  Please listen to them and let me know if you agree.

Here’s the count down…

At six – A Good Place for People to grow up

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/abcc-good-place-people-grow

ABPh116a - Friday night youth (2)

I like this one partly because I’m just drawn to the lovely voices.  It’s an aspect of oral history I really enjoy, the tone of a voice gives so much more feeling than reading words in a book.  As to the content, I love the fact that the club has been a home to Fred for such a long time and that it’s just as central to the lives of today’s children as it was in the 1950s.

At five – How a feather and a glacier mint were a must for cricket coaches in Chirbury in the 1930’s

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/how-feather-and-glacier-mint-were-must-cricket-coaches-chirbury-1930s-0

This shows that the neglect of cricket in schools is not a new development.  I wish I could have met Mr Shaw, it sounds like he provided the type of cricket lesson I would have responded well to!  I’m looking for someone to teach me cricket at the moment but no one I know who plays will volunteer, if only I had a Mr Shaw in my life.

At four – In at the Deep End

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/chorleywood-cc-deep-end

CWPh289 - Club Day 11 (action)

I just love the drama of this story, it’s well told and really easy to imagine the moment and the bowler’s emotion.  (Plus I just love the ‘ASBO’ line!)

At three –  Grounds (1): The tea ladies and Royal Hill Road

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/spondon-ccs-grounds-1-tea-ladies-and-royal-hill-road

I love the historical documents and photos in this one, you really feel like you’re getting a good look into their history.  The video’s great too, (although I didn’t know who Brian Clough was and had to look him up).  My favourite thing about this one is that it once again demonstrates the amazing contribution women have made to their clubs since the very beginning.

At two – Playing for the Pits

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/playing-pits

Ernie Barber rescue team

I feel this one gives a fascinating glimpse into a lost world.  I was brought up in a mining village (although not in Wales) so I think this story represents part of my heritage, I can just about remember how much the closure of the pits transformed our community.  It makes me quite sad.

At one – The Final Over

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/final-over

My very favourite story!  It’s another sad one, but I actually find it quite uplifting.  I won’t spoil it – listen for yourselves.

Darky waiting to go in - away at Savile Stars 2011a

(If any of you are in clubs/know of clubs who’d like to get involved with TTF, please get in touch – you never know one of your stories might make my next top six!)

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Filed under bowling, children, club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, digital stories, History, oral history, school cricket