Category Archives: digital stories

The World Cup effect (1975-1983)

In my latest TTF story Kushil Gunasekera from the Foundation of Goodness talks about one of the effects the 1996 Cricket World Cup had on his country’s cricket – – it helped promote the game to rural areas in a way not seen before.  It got me wondering about the effect other Cricket World Cups might have had on their hosts, and the effect of the Cricket World Cup on cricket in general.

The first Cricket World Cup was in 1975 in England.  Tony Cozier described the event as “…the boldest and most ambitious innovation since the legalisation of overarm bowling.”  Was he right?  Did it really have such a massive effect?

Excited crowds invade the pitch at the end of the final.

The first Cricket World Cup really captured the public’s imagination.  Here excited crowds invade the pitch at the end of the final.

1975 – Limited Overs One Day Cricket had been introduced just a few years earlier, but perhaps the tournament did do a lot to cement it’s place in cricketing tradition.  It also introduced the format to parts of the cricketing world who were unfamiliar with it, such as India – who attempted to to play out their first game for a draw!  An important aspect of this first World Cup was the fact it was so popular.  It was very successful.  The tournamanet was helped by the fact that England was enjoying it’s hottest summer in around 30 years and luckily the matches were close and exciting.  The event made money, a lot of money relative to this time – around £200,000 from ticket sales and £100,000 from sponsorship.  How different things might have been had it rained and the crowds stayed away, perhaps Kerry Packer would not have been inspired and perhaps the really forceful commercialisation of limited-overs cricket (see previous post The Birth of Carnival Cricket) may never have happened.

WORLD CUP EFFECT ONE: Limited overs cricket introduced to the world on a big stage.

Teams line up at Lord's ready to compete in the 2nd Cricket World Cup in 1979.

Teams line up at Lord’s ready to compete in the 2nd Cricket World Cup in 1979.

1979 – The 2nd Cricket World Cup of 1979 was a post-Packer affair.  The Packer affair did have a direct impact on this Cricket World Cup with several of the best Australian players out of favour for signing up for World Series Cricket.  The Australian teams was therefore a much depleted one, containing several unknowns and the team did not perform well.  Another notable feature was the choice of host country, England again, despite interest in hosting coming from India and the West Indies.  England was chosen over these rivals by the ICC – run by the MCC – based at Lord’s…hmmm – eyebrows were raised but England it was again.  And again the Cricket World Cup was a big financial success and with the issue of player’s pay very much in the arena due to the Packer affair many players felt that their pay packets didn’t reflect the amount of money being made (the victorious West Indians were paid £350 each for the whole tournament).

WORLD CUP EFFECT TWO: Demands from players for better pay gains significant momentum.

India were not expected to win the World Cup but crushed the West Indies in the final.  The victory delighted Indian fans ignited a passion for the shorter format.

India were not expected to win the World Cup but crushed the West Indies in the final. The victory delighted Indian fans ignited a passion for the shorter format.

The next Cricket World Cup in 1983 (hosted by…you guessed it – England!) was to have a massive effect on world cricket for this was the tournament that began the Indian love affair with one-day cricket.

“One deplorable consequence of India’s 1983 victory was an overnight change in the subcontinent’s cricket culture.  Hitherto, one-day cricket had no appeal to speak of there, while domestic first-class matches drew substantial crowds, and Test matches usually played to full houses.  But soon Test-match attendances, even in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata – cities with deep-rooted cricketing traditions – showed a fall, while frenzied, jingoistic crowds packed grounds for one-day games.”  Dicky Ritnagur.

India’s surprise victory captured the nation’s imagination and there was to be no turning back.  The subcontinent’s new post as guardian’s of this lucrative form of cricket may also have had a knock on effect of swinging power from West to East and helping India gain the power and influence they wield over cricket today.

WORLD CUP EFFECT THREE: India’s love of shorter form cricket.

I've won the World Cup!  This trophy used in the 1975, 79 & 83 World Cup's can be seen in the MCC Museum.

I’ve won the World Cup! This trophy used in the 1975, 79 & 83 World Cup’s can be seen in the MCC Museum.

…next time, more cups and more effects!

(Bibliography – The History of the Cricket World Cup by Mark Baldwin,  Wisden History of the Cricket World Cup edited by Tony Cozier, Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack 1976 edited by Norman Preston, A Complete History of World Cup Cricket 1975 – 1999 by Mark Browning.  All these books are available in the MCC Library.)


Filed under Cricket, Cricket World Cup, digital stories, England, History, India, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC, one day cricket, oral history, Sri Lanka, test cricket

Other sports

I have tried to get into other sports - but cricket is the only one for me!

I have tried to get into other sports – but cricket is the only one for me!

I don’t mind a bit of tennis but apart from that cricket is the only sport I like.  I think football is frightful (I hate the noise, and don’t understand all that running about or why the crowd are so excited the whole time), I don’t really get athletics as a spectator sport either especially the running, I mean I quite like running myself but why anyone would want to watch people running fast in a straight line is beyond me.  Other sports I just find generally uninteresting.  I realise this attitude puts me in the minority, most cricket fans do enjoy other sports.

I found an example of this in my latest TTF digital story ( where two Wimbledon CC members discuss the club’s strong relationship with other sports – and this is not unusual.  Even at the highest level of cricket players can be multi-skilled.  The relationship between football and cricket used to be especially close in the days before cricket was a 12 months of the year occupation.  Football used to be viewed as a good way for county cricketers to keep fit in the winter.  Some players even played to a professional level in both sports.

Denis Compton: cricket AND football star.

Denis Compton: cricket AND football star.

The most famous example is probably Denis Compton who, on top of his cricket heroics, played football for Arsenal and England and wrote a coaching manual on football.  He cites one of the main draws of this dual career (aside from love of the game) as the financial benefits.

“Professional football, providing you make some headway and join a good club, can be a most happy medium by which one earns a living.  Especially, from a financial point of view, is it worth dove-tailing with cricket, for a man at the top of the  ladder receives £12 a week during the soccer season, plus £2 for a win, and £1 for a draw, and during the summer – again if he is on top pay – £10 a week.”

From ‘Playing for England’ by Denis Compton

I guess sport didn’t pay quite so well back then, these days most pick just one sport but there’s still quite a long list of footballing cricketers.  We have a football medal in the MCC museum collection that was presented to Jack Hobbs, Ian Botham played for Scunthorpe United and Viv Richards played in the 1974 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Antigua – to give just a few examples.

Football medal awarded to Jack Hobbs in 1905 - now held in the MCC Museum

Football medal awarded to Jack Hobbs in 1906 – now held in the MCC Museum

(Bibliography – Playing for England by Denis Compton, Cricket in Summer, Football in Winter by Kevin Moore published in the MCC Magazine issue 5)


Filed under Cricket, digital stories, England, football, History

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 – 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)


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

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. .

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.


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

Is cricket posh?


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 (  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

What’s in a name?

My latest TTF digital story ( includes an account of an opening bowling partnership called Mr Killer and Mr Dearth (pronounced ‘death’) I loved the idea of ‘killer and death’ bowling at you in tandem!  I’ve no idea if they were any good, they may have been quite ineffective bowlers but their names must surely have struck fear into the minds of the batsmen.

Other cricketers’ names that have tickled me are – Napoleon Einstein, he’s a young Indian cricketer who doesn’t look what I’d expect from his name (I pictured a Victorian gentleman with a big mustache!)  I’m not sure if those names have the same connotations in India, but I think a lot will be expected of him if he’s to live up to his name in the international game.

A rather sweet unassuming looking 'Napoleon Einstein'.

A rather sweet unassuming looking ‘Napoleon Einstein’.

I love the name ‘Arthur Fielder’ for a cricketer.  I can imagine endless funny conversations at the matches he played in i.e.

Spectator A – “Who caught that last one?”

Spectator B – “A. Fielder”

Spectator A – “I know it was a fielder, but which one?”

(Ha ha ha ha ha  – Oh come on!  I can’t be the only person who finds that funny!)

A. Fielder bowling for Kent c. 1907 (from the MCC photography collection)

A. Fielder bowling for Kent c. 1907 (from the MCC photography collection)

Alastair Cook isn’t a particularly funny name, but I am looking forward to seeing what the headline writers can do with ‘Captain Cook’ heading over to Australia this winter.  The idea of bowling ‘Onions’ at anyone has also always amused me.  But the favourite name I’ve come across today is ‘Jack Crapp’.  It probably shows my immaturity but I still can’t read it without laughing.  He played for England and Gloucestershire in the 1940s and 50s, maybe the media were more respectful back then as I’d hate to think what they’d say these days anytime he dropped a catch or got out with a silly shot.

Mr Crapp sits 2nd from the right.  Picture from Gloucestershire CCC Year Book 1953.

Mr Crapp sits 2nd from the right. Picture from Gloucestershire CCC Year Book 1953.

As you may have guessed, I find childlike amusement in funny names – please send me some more!

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Filed under Cricket, digital stories, England, History, India, MCC, names, oral history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!)


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