In each of our regular New Bulletins the Chairman, Nigel Hancock, writes his observations on Cricket Society matters. You can read the latest edition below.
By the time this edition reaches you English cricketing summer certainties will have returned as England and South Africa begin their Test series after a frenetic June of Champions Trophy matches and electoral and European encounters. What an early summer it was with England’s ODI side seeming as “strong and stable” as anything in the Kingdom. And, after the dramas of the General Election campaign and its outcome, it was good to return to the routines of beating Australia at cricket and (well, almost) Scotland at football on the same day. The delay between the BBC radio and Sky TV signals are often useful if one tunes into both, and it was good to discover that it was possible to watch the football on mute but, forewarned by the radio cricket coverage, switch over in time to catch strokes from Morgan or Stokes. Not that I was often away from the cricket.
OK, perhaps this column should have had a longer sabbatical than one issue. But a quick question before I move on: with Canterbury turning red on the political map, how many of the eighteen first class cricketing Counties have their headquarters in other than Labour-held seats? *
Our May/ June (No.580) Bulletin reported on The Cricket Society’s Spring Lunch and evening meetings in London, Bath and Birmingham. All of these events had excellent attendances and seemed to be well received, which suggests that we are getting something right. Our meeting convenors in four locations are busy arranging enticing programmes for 2017-18 and details will be announced as soon as they become available. Meanwhile, a party of forty Cricket Society members and their guests spent “a day at the cricket” at Worcester on 20 June, about which I will reveal more next time.
The Spring lunch at The Oval was attended by a recent record of about 250, was profitable, and clearly attracted members who prefer to come to events in the middle of the day. Dinner supremo Andrew ‘Cash’ Cashmore-Till (who when a little younger was sent off more than once when playing football for Peterborough United, but that is another story) is helping us develop approaches to these functions that both please existing dinner enthusiasts and attract new ones. This is a balancing act that we will not instantly get right. The trick will be to retain necessary traditional features whilst introducing new ones, such as enhanced raffle and silent auction arrangements that appeal to a wider audience and help us financially. The autumn dinner, fixed for Friday 27 October at the Royal Over-Seas League, will be a smaller event with the usual awards likely to be made.
But the cricket calendar has made it nigh on possible for our two young cricketer awards to attend in the late autumn. For example, Ben Duckett’s 2016 award was made recently in Northampton and Alex Hartley’s 2016 award was scheduled to be made during the England v Pakistan World Cup match at Grace Road. Sam Dorsey’s schools award was made at his Derbyshire school, with County cricketers in attendance, and this had a strong impact locally. The period after the season’s end and before England tours is congested with various PCA and media events with which we cannot compete. So should we be thinking in terms of having a regular Spring lunch, at The Oval or comparable-sized venue so as to maximise the attendance and the Society’s exposure, and making it our main such event with virtually all awards made there? Should an autumn dinner, at ROSL or elsewhere, become a smaller, quieter, more intimate affair with the focus on the food, conversation and a good speaker? Your Executive Committee will be considering these and related matters, but if you wish please let me or Cash (email@example.com) know what you think.
This year’s Book of the Year award evening, at Lord’s on 19 April, attracted particular praise from those present and we are poised to extend our partnership with the MCC for a further period. As we go to press, we await news of the names of two replacement judges to be nominated by MCC. I am also due to discuss future sponsorship arrangements with MCC. The success of the evening, as ever, was partly a consequence of the attendance of the short-listed authors, and their involvement in our celebration of good cricket writing, with just Gideon Haigh of the six (seven as one of the books was co-authored) unable to attend. It was also helped by a barnstorming address by Jim Carter of Downton Abbey and Hampstead CC fame. I have an audio recording of the evening’s proceedings and will endeavour to reproduce a version of Jim’s address in the autumn Journal.
I always keep an eye on the competition, and it is rewarding both to see our expert and independent panel’s judgements echoed elsewhere and, given that the margins between books in the frame are often small, for other deserving writers to be recognised. Mark Nicholas’s A Beautiful Game won both our award and the cricket segment of the Cross Sports Book Awards. Two of our six short-listed books - Emma John’s Following On and Gideon Haigh’s Stroke of Genius: Victor Trumper and the shot that changed cricket – were, respectively, Wisden 2017’s and Wisden India 2017’s books of the year. The William Hill sponsored book awards and that of the Cricket Writers Club are made in the autumn but it was pleasing to see that last time they chose cricket books that did very well in our 2016 competition – Tim Lane and Eliott Cartledge’s compulsive book about Peter Roebuck and Scyld Berry’s Cricket: The Game of Life. Reviews of all our 2017 competition’s long and short-listed books will appear in the Autumn Journal.
Meanwhile, we are half way through 2017 and several cricket books have already been published. If you would like to nominate one for consideration by the judges for our 2018 award please let me know. The book should be published during 2017 and available in the UK (including from dealers and on-line), and contain writing about cricket that has not been made available previously. Anthologies and reference works are not usually considered, and ‘ghosted’ books are not usually favoured unless the ghost’s work is clearly acknowledged. “What are the judges’ criteria?” I am sometimes asked. These can vary and “the best writing about cricket in book form that year” is as much guidance as I can give. The judges then bring their various expertises and judgements to bear and in the give and take of discussion decide first on the best few books and then on the best one.
In my next corner I will include an update for you on some of the items the EC will have discussed in June.
*Five: Essex, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Somerset and Worcestershire