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.

October 2017

“Good toss to lose, we should bowl out the Windies by close of play” said the cheerful stranger in one of the Lord’s gentlemen’s conveniences on the opening morning of this late summer’s Test. Cricket talk between men can transcend place and time in ways other men’s talk tends not to. I had thought that fewer inhibitions characterised the interactions of women and cricket, but have it on good authority that this is much less the case than it was. Indeed, the last time my informant spoke to someone at cricket conveniences was to point out that whatever one was doing in front of the mirror could be seen by those outside, an arrangement to be avoided. It was my first day of Test cricket this year. Surprisingly, the closing Saturday was the first time our distinguished Bulletin editor had been physically present at an England Test victory, or indeed any country’s Test victory. Cricket, like other sports but because of length even in its shorter forms, is followed in increasingly varied ways. It is about shared experience as much as live presence. Attendances were good for this year’s women’s World Cup but the main audience was the 50 million plus watching on TV or on-line the group games alone. More than one million users followed England's final victory on the BBC Sport website.

But there is nothing quite like meeting old friends and acquaintances at a good game of cricket, and it was good whilst walking around Lord’s to bump into several Cricket Society members, including our distinguished former Chairman Bill Allen in fullish MCC regalia, an enduring form of the fancy dress that remains a significant social feature of our summer game. It would be interesting to know the volumes of food and drink consumed during a typical Test day’s play, and how this compares with other Test grounds. Grounds vary so much in character and by spectators, between countries, within countries and even between locations at the same ground, Edgbaston. A London newspaper in August 1926 reported a spectator thus: ‘... After Lord’s it was good to be back e.g. at the Oval. Marylebone is too much a social centre and has too little flavour of locality about it. People drop in there to find friends or to find a seat in the sun, while in Kennington you get real partisan feeling and real knowledge of the game.” Sneaking preference though I have for The Oval, it was refreshing in more than one sense to be able, despite ICC Regulations, to be welcomed into Lord’s with a single glass bottle …

Why and how people follow cricket is a subject that fascinates me, and which I spoke about at a recent sports history conference. Scyld Berry in his Cricket, The Game of Life (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 2015) quotes his own survey showing that “… what three-quarters of them liked most was ‘the friendship’, or ‘camaraderie’, or social life’.” At County cricket, he says, “anybody can go and sit behind a stranger and talk without a formal introduction: about Grace or Hammond, cricket or football, politics or people. Behaviour which would be regarded as weird or antisocial in a public park or cinema or train becomes acceptable in a public house or an English cricket ground. This sport promotes socialisation among those who watch it. It offers friendship in a society which can value privacy too highly.”

I am re-visiting a survey of ‘traditional’ cricket supporters I conducted a few years ago and would be interested to engage with some of you about how your experiences of spectating and following cricket have changed over time. If you are interested please let me know at nigelhanc@gmail.com.

Our autumn dinner – on Friday 27 October at the Royal Over-Seas League – is fast approaching and please contact our dinner organiser Andrew ‘Cash’ Cashmore-Till for late places – andrewcashmoretill@cricketsociety.com. We are focusing on the themes of Test Match Special – Simon Mann is our main speaker – and the Cricket Society Trust, whose Christopher Box-Grainger Award (Chris was a former Chairman of the Cricket Society) will be made on the night. TMS luminaries Vic Marks and Shilpa Patel will also be present. The stress will be on conviviality, good cricket talk, food and drink and we hope to have a full house there. The Spring Lunch, at The Oval on 16 March, is planned to appeal to a wider Cricket Society audience and will be the larger and more boisterous of our two ‘dinners’ with most of our awards made. Please support both events as best you can.

I am pleased to announce that Mike Selvey will be joining the Book of the Year team for the 2018 award (for books covering cricket published during 2017). He will be one of two new judges nominated by our partners the MCC; the name of the other will be announced on our website when known. Mike joins Cricket Society nominated judges Chris Lowe and John Symons on a panel independently chaired by Vic Marks. At the time of keying this column, members have nominated for consideration the following six titles:

Michael Burns, Russell Endean: A South African Sportsman in the Apartheid Era, Nightwatchman Books

Douglas Miller, Raman Subba Row, Cricket Visionary, Fairfield Books

Jeremy Lonsdale, A Game taken Seriously: The Foundations of Yorkshire’s Cricketing Power, ACS

Andrew Murtagh, Gentleman and Player, The Story of Colin Cowdrey, Cricket’s Most Elegant and Charming Batsman, Pitch Publishing

Mark Rowe, Brian Sellers: Yorkshire Tyrant, ACS

Mike Thompson, The Lord of Lord’s: The Life and Times of Lord Frederick Beauclerk, Christopher Saunders

In 2018 we will again be having a Cricket Society ‘day at the cricket’ and will be announcing early next year which County Championship fixture we will be gracing with our presence. A little more ambitiously, we would like to test demand for a Cricket Society visit to Sri Lanka during October and November 2018, perhaps in collaboration with Lycafly with whose representatives we had exploratory discussions a year or three ago. Please let me (nigelhancock@cricketsociety.com ) or Phil Reeves (phillreeves@cricketsociety.com ) know if you would be interested. We think the trip would need to be bespoke to our members’ needs with flexibility. But which sort of matches (all three formats are scheduled) would you like to attend and any preferred locations? How long should the visit last and what flexibilities would you like?

I am sorry that, for technical and other reasons, the autumn Journal will reach you a little later this year, with our next mailing. Well, the English cricket season itself seems to be finishing well into autumn and a combination of global warming and floodlight availability … It will I hope be worth waiting for, with a striking cover and an increased use of colour. The centrepiece will be an illustrated article by Paddy Briggs on 60 years of Test Match Special. Coverage of women’s cricket continues with pieces by Raf Nicholson on her history of women’s cricket in Britain and, with Indian journalist and former cricketer Snehel Pradhan, at the contrasting fortunes of the Indian and England teams. Other contributors include Eric Midwinter on aspects of “the spectator’s perspective”, Patrick Ferriday on “Masterly Batting”, and book reviews from John Symons and others. As ever I will be happy to consider for future editions contributions from any member.

Nigel Hancock