Chairman's Corner

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.

April 2017

Rather like an old girl or boy friend seen again after many years, it is understandable to remember retired cricketers as they were in their prime or when you appreciated them most. Images of an apparently apprehensive Derek Randall prodding the turf, or coiled ready for action whilst fielding in the covers, or performing excitable summersaults, are I imagine widely recalled. He remained instantly recognisable at the onset of the February meeting of the Leicestershire Cricket Society, after speculation from fellow attendees seated near me that he was in the gents. preparing himself to face the Society’s members: better us than a battery of fast bowlers I thought.

Derek recalled many aspects of his career both at County and international levels. Among the former were nervously arriving three hours early for his County debut, against Leicestershire, and leaping over the gates virtually into the arms of John Arlott; the time he scored two ducks on a day of the same match on different pitches; and in some detail the 1985 NatWest final which Essex won by one run despite Randall scoring 16 of the 18 needed from the first five balls of the last over (then a prodigious scoring rate). For England, there were a host of memories including his 174 in the Centenary Test in Melbourne in 1977 in the presence of Bradman, Lindwall and Miller, Larwood and Voce. Today, Derek regularly addresses cricket gatherings, plays his guitar and tends his garden. And he continues to play cricket shots, some of which he would want to play in the T20 form of the game he loves, and demonstrated regularly during the evening whilst answering a host of questions from those present.

By the time this Bulletin reaches you in March our special event performance of James Graham-Brown’s When the eye has gone about Colin Milburn will have taken place and the Spring lunch at The Oval will be imminent with at the time of composing these notes an attendance of about 250 assured. We will be carefully assessing reaction to the lunch format and will be pleased to hear from any of you with views, whether you attend or if you don’t but might in future want to come to such an event. The autumn dinner will be at the Royal Over-Seas League on 27 October, with Mike Selvey a possible speaker. Should we move towards having a single lunch or dinner at which we present all of our awards rather than splitting them across two functions? And continue with a smaller, more intimate event at somewhere like the ROSL with the focus on speakers?

Dinners and lunches, and related matters about our awards structure, were among the subjects discussed by your Executive Committee in February. As usual we covered a mixture of immediate and longer term issues. Protocols for updating our website material, the forthcoming Oval lunch and other national events, such as the second David Frith film night for which we are still searching a suitably central and affordable venture, were among the shorter terms issues discussed. The financial accounts – to be presented to the AGM in the autumn – suggested that the Society’s finances were in good order. Whilst we have no immediate plans to raise annual subscriptions, there is a need to increase revenue, for example through additional advertising, in order to maintain Cricket Society products at their current levels, and perhaps through charging at the door for some London meetings to better cover speaker and room hire costs. And, as ever, we need at least 100 new members a year simply to replace those who leave us for a variety of reasons. We plan a fresh look at overall strategy and marketing, aided by relevant experts from the wider cricketing community. We would also like to commission someone to write a history of The Cricket Society for publication in 2020, our 75th anniversary of founding.

Our prestigious Book of the Year evening takes place on 19 April and the early March press release announcing the short list of six is on our website. The six books are listed below and before 20 March is past the judges will have met and determined a winner. Unlike other cricket book competitions, some of which rely on nominations from publishers and charge authors for attending their events, the books considered are put forward by Society or MCC members and short listed authors and their publishers have complimentary tickets for the ceremony at which they are feted. As award administrator on behalf of both organisations, I seek to ensure that all books deserving of serious consideration are in the frame. Books published during the relevant calendar year are relevant, and these can include books published outside the UK if they are available here (ie if necessary from specialist booksellers or via the internet).

The award seeks to reward good writing about cricket and the evening in the Long Room at Lord’s aims to celebrate all the short listed books and the year’s cricket books as a whole. Authors are encouraged to say a few words about their books and the processes of writing them. After this year’s Hollywood Oscars event, I shall be doubly sure that I give the correct envelope to Downton Abbey actor and cricket enthusiast Jim Carter when he announces the winner! I hope to include a version of Jim’s keynote address in the Autumn Journal.

The 2017 Book of the Year competition will be the last for MCC nominated judges David Kynaston and Stephen Fay. David is an eminent historian, whose magnum opus is a to be completed please David multi-volume history of Britain since 1945. The writer of three cricket books including volumes about Bobby Abel and WG Grace, he addressed a London members meeting a couple of years ago. Stephen, the author of Tom Graveney at Lord’s and a former editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, wrote regularly for the Independent on Sunday and is a hugely respected author of a range of other books about financial institutions and music. Both David and Stephen have brought their wide knowledge and mature judgements to BOTY over several years and I take this opportunity to thank them publicly before a Cricket Society audience.

Cricket Society nominated judges Chris Lowe and John Symons will continue with two new judges to be appointed. The judges – who act as individuals and not as representatives of their nominating organisation, and are ably managed by the independent Chair Vic Marks who is appointed jointly by both organisations – read and rank order the nominated books and send to me their lists. I put these together and engage with the judges to produce an agreed short list. The judges then re-read those selected and meet to reach a final decision. These discussions are usually long and lively, but always erudite and civil as each book is dissected and judged and a consensus of sorts emerges. Individual judges of course have to swallow disappointment when, as is inevitably the case, the book they most favour misses out on the top prize. This year’s short list comprises:

Alan Butcher’s The Good Murunghu; Pitch Publishing

Graeme Fowler’s Absolutely Foxed; Simon and Schuster

Gideon Haigh’s Stroke of Genius; Simon & Schuster

Richard Heller and Peter Oborne’s White on Green: A Portrait of Pakistan Cricket; Simon and Schuster

Emma John’s A Memoir of Teenage Obsession and Terrible Cricket; Wisden

Mark Nicholas’s A Beautiful Game, My love affair with cricket; Allen and Unwin

As announced in our February/ March issue, this year’s members’ day at the cricket will be at Worcester on Tuesday 20 June for the second day of the Worcestershire v Kent four day game and about 25 members have already signed-up to be there. I will be visiting New Road in April to inspect the marquee facilities we will be using which accommodate 40 people plus. There is healthy interest too in an informal evening out on the Monday: Phil Reeves has identified suitable hostelries and, in deference to some who are not too keen on curried food, a restaurant not far from the cricket ground and central hotels.

The package will comprise:

  • Match admission
  • Exclusive use of a dedicated area
  • Tea/coffee & biscuits on arrival
  • Two course luncheon
  • Traditional afternoon tea
  • Complimentary scorecards
  • Private cash bar facility
  • Private viewing balcony
  • Complimentary match day parking (1 per 4 guests).

The inclusive cost of the day is £50 per person. To secure your place (s) now please send a cheque payable to The Cricket Society, and confirm your preferred email address, to me at: Tynrhyd, Llanafan, Aberystwyth SY23 4BD. We'll probably need a ballot to allocate on-site car parking places so please also let me know your car registration number if you want to be included.

“Ah, you follow cricket then”, noticed Prakeep my urologist as we talked about my prostate and options for its future. “Perhaps we’ll go and watch some cricket together in Kolkata after you’ve recovered from the surgery.” His success record and on-line ratings from (by definition surviving) patients seem pretty good so I had better renew the passport I let lapse when I realised I couldn’t go to the Chennai Test match last December. And I’ll try and recruit him for The Cricket Society. There is a report on that Chennai test in the Spring issue of the Journal, and much else. Both the Journal and the next Bulletin will be with you in early May by which time the domestic cricket season will be well underway. May all your Counties make good starts, except when playing Leicestershire …

Nigel Hancock