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The last hope for English cricket Forget the Ashes – our team must look to CLR James for salvation

Stokes: Keeping the spirit alive (Clive Mason/Getty)

Stokes: Keeping the spirit alive (Clive Mason/Getty)


July 27, 2023   8 mins

The furore over the “spirit of the game” suggests, misleadingly, that there is indeed some such thing in contemporary cricket. But take a closer look and it becomes apparent that the much-fetishised “spirit”, a code of honour about as anachronistic as knightly chivalry, is honoured only in the breach. The sneaky stumping of England’s Jonny Bairstow by Australia’s wicketkeeper in the second Test was taken as a foul contravention of cricket etiquette. But more than that, it was a sign of the times. To begin with, there was the hypocrisy of the English commentariat. No English cricketer, it was insinuated, could be capable of such an ungentlemanly act. Only Bairstow himself had tried pulling the same stunt two days earlier with the Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne — unsuccessfully, as it turned out. Tu quoque, as they say.

As teams do whatever it takes to win, swearing by the rather un-cricket mantra of by hook or by crook, is it any surprise that esprit de corps has wound up a collateral casualty? This is more significant than it appears at first blush. Historically, especially in the early decades of the previous century, the sentimentalisation of sportsmanship enabled cricket to declaim a unifying myth that was for the better part true. The “spirit of the game”, trite as this might sound, was the glue holding together the riff-raff and the ruling class, black and white — or so the Trinidadian Marxist historian C.L.R. James argued in Beyond a Boundary, indisputably the best book on cricket, published 60 years ago. On the field, he argued, all social divisions were transcended, even if only fleetingly. For players were bound together by the “code” of cricket.

What the game looks like in default of such a code is plain to see. Around the same time Bairstow was having his battles with the bails, there detonated the bombshell ICEC report, “Holding Up a Mirror to Cricket”. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Over three in four black and brown respondents spoke of having faced racial discrimination, substantiating the Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq’s charge made before a parliamentary inquiry last year. Since then, heads have rolled — though not those of his harassers. Rafiq has left Britain on account of the abuse following his testimony. Incredibly, the man tasked with reforming Yorkshire’s club, Kamlesh Patel, has been hounded out his position as well. As in Yorkshire, so in Essex, where the black cricketer Maurice Chambers was repeatedly called a monkey and taunted with a banana. C.L.R. James, one suspects, must be rolling in his Trinidadian grave. For the game he describes in Beyond a Boundary is many worlds apart from the game it has become. Time was the “spirit of game” was more than a cynical expedient to clobber opponents. As James has it, it is something of a higher, even egalitarian calling.

James was drawn to cricket at an early age. It was, he describes, one half of a double inheritance. There was, on both sides of the family, the Puritan bequest, which translated into a generosity of spirit embodied by his aunt Judith: “whenever I went to see her, [she] fed me with that sumptuousness which the Trinidad Negroes have inherited from the old extravagant plantation owners”. The spirit of cricket was only an extension of this habit of mind. And it was a stroke of luck that his home gave on to a cricket pitch, his “window exactly behind the wicket”. Tunapuna, his hometown of 3,000 a stone’s throw from Port of Spain, was a cricket-crazy place. All in all, “a good case could be made for predestination”, he slyly writes.

But the sport was also an engine for rising above hoi-polloi. It’s no secret, of course, that cricket has always been a game of certain pretensions. We immediately understand, for instance, the significance of Paul Pennyfeather’s social handicaps in Decline and Fall when he declaims, “I don’t know a word of German, I’ve had no experience, I’ve got no testimonials, and I can’t play cricket.” For James, the game furnished a certain respectability — and “respectability was not an ideal; it was an armour”. The older Jameses craved it just as the young C.L.R. did. His father saw to it that the young C.L.R. acquired the cultural capital needed to secure a spot at Queen’s Royal College, Trinidad’s Eton. There, he studied Latin and Greek under Oxbridge types, who, more importantly, “taught a code, the English public-school code”. If all of this sounds Bridesheady, it’s because it is. He took a de haut en bas view of his fellow natives, whom he disdained because they were less au fait with Burke than he was. “Intellectually I lived abroad, chiefly in England.” Vanity Fair came as a revelation: “George Osborne was the hero.” One can see the appeal of snobbery. Later in life, he would credit “Thackeray, not Marx”, for his turn to the Left.

A career path had been cut out for him: Oxford (read: prestige), lawyering (read: prosperity), political office (read: power). But the rebel had other plans. The lure of cricket wasn’t feasibly resisted. Though he would later be embarrassed by his choice, he plumped to play for Maple, the club for light-skinned West Indians. Shamrock and Queen’s Park Oval were “almost exclusively white… I would have been more easily elected to the MCC than to either.” Stingo was “plebeians: the butcher, the tailor, the candlestick maker, the casual labourer, with a sprinkling of unemployed. Totally black and no social status whatsoever.” Shannon belonged to the “black lower-middle class: the teacher, the law clerk, the worker in the printing office”. Maple, by contrast, was distinctly “brown-skinned and middle class”.

As he later explained, though not entirely in an attempt at self-exculpation, “the Negroid population of the West Indies is composed of a large percentage of actually black people and about 15 or 20 per cent who are a varying combination of white and black. From the days of slavery, they have always claimed superiority to the ordinary black… It is not too much to say that in a West Indian colony, the surest sign of a man having arrived is the fact that he keeps company with people lighter in complexion than himself.” All of which is to say cricket in James’ time was no post-racial, anti-elitist Eden. Yet it was the “spirit of the game” that prevented the uglier instincts of a hidebound society from raising their head: “The foregoing makes it easy to misunderstand the atmosphere in which we played. We never quarrelled. When we played, Shannon, Maple, and Stingo members mixed easily on the same side.” Social tensions were sublimated into a sporting register, the cricketing drama of strokes and catches. “The sportsmanship was clean… Racialism did very little harm… If I had the power, I wouldn’t alter one selection.”

Racism and elitism very simply were, as the common phrase goes, “not cricket”. More than a game, it seems, cricket for James was a temperament: “as soon as we stepped on to the cricket field, we were a motley crew: the children of some white officials and white business men, middle-class blacks and mulattos, Chinese boys, Indian boys, poor black boys… We learned to play [as a] team, which meant subordinating your personal inclinations, and even interests, to the good of the whole. We kept a stiff upper lip.” It is no accident that such a worldview — ironically of patrician derivation — primed James for a life on the Left. A political awakening of sorts swiftly followed. The snobbishness retreated. His sympathies for the lower orders became more pronounced in industrial Lancashire, where he arrived in 1932 to help the cricketing giant Learie Constantine write his autobiography. Not long after, he became a cricket columnist for the Manchester Guardian, as it then was, on the strength of that connection. For five years, he shuttled between his Hampstead home and Lord’s, while also working on his pioneering survey of the Haitian Revolution. Black Jacobins appeared in 1938, the year he left for the New World.

There he stayed for 15 years, not seeing a single cricket match for all of that time. Instead, he immersed himself in the Pythonesque quarrels of the American Left, one micro-party accusing the other of selling out. The most formative episode of his American stay, though, was a basketball scandal in the early Fifties. What transpired was far from revelatory: in time-honoured fashion, college players fixed matches in cahoots with bookies. Yet, such an innocent James was, it came as a revelation to him. How could these young men betray their teams? His American friends understandably rolled their eyes. But the middle-aged James just couldn’t get over it. Rather touchingly in Beyond a Boundary, he records his “instinctive repulsion” on learning of “these crimes”.

America proved too much. James, unsurprisingly, came hurtling back home to reacquaint himself with that treasured breed of his, the cricketing “genus Britannicus”. In later years, he did his bit to make the gentleman’s game a fairer one. In his brief spell back home in Trinidad as the editor of The Nation in 1958, for instance, he combined political activism and cricket to bring an end to the age white Test captaincy in West Indies. By all accounts, it was an unpleasant campaign — most definitely “not cricket”. The previous captain, Gerry Alexander, whom James insinuated was a racist for sending back the intemperate Roy Gilchrist from the team’s India tour, possibly had his reasons. Gilchrist had bowled one too many beamers and — apparently — even pulled a knife on Alexander. Still, installing the black Frank Worrell was an important milestone. Less rational was James’ uncritical adoration of the mediocre batsmen Wilton St Hill. With a batting average of 27.15, he was, rather perversely, likened to Bradman (the Don’s average: 95.14). It would have been a baffling encomium but for James’ appropriation of the comedian Jimmy Durante’s signature phrase: “that’s my boy”. As James put it with candour, “Wilton St Hill was our boy.”

“Our boys”, as it were, are in short supply these days. Most Brits no longer relate to the players on the field. In our time, the talent pathway runs through public schools. A curious inversion has transpired: in society at large, and indeed football among other ball games, meritocracy has become a watchword and racism has declined; in cricket, however, the opposite has been true. The day the ICEC report hit the front pages, a visual corroboration materialised in the England XI selected for the second Ashes Test. It was Lord’s in the year 2023, but it could have been the House of Lords circa 1923. All 11 players were white; nine were privately educated.

Of all the Test batsmen who have debuted for England since 2011, some 95% have been white, and 77% from private schools (a mere 7% in the country have attended these). This when one in five cricketers at the academy level are South Asian. Likewise, between 1995 and 2020, the number of black professional cricketers has fallen by 75%. Adil Rashid, from a Bradford two-up two-down, these days it is the exception that proves the rule. What we have witnessed, in nuce, is nothing less than the strange death of progressive cricket. What on earth has happened? For one thing, cricket has ceased to belong to our zeitgeist. Football has stolen a march on it, not least because run-of-the-mill cricket kits can set you back north of £500. At the turn of the millennium, moreover, penurious schools across England set about selling their playing fields. Furthermore, Test cricket has moved behind a televisual paywall since 2005.

It is worth remembering that a hundred years ago, it was cricket, and not football, that was the national game, binding the classes together. Emblematic was the popular Gentlemen vs Players fixture that ran from 1806 to 1963, paid working-class professionals in the employ of county clubs playing against unpaid amateurs of aristocratic and bourgeois stock. The two classes also played shoulder to shoulder in the same teams, though in a singularly and preeningly English way. The lower and higher orders took the field through separate gates at Lord’s, the latter having their initials precede their surnames on scorecards (and vice versa for the former). Freud would have described this as the narcissism of small differences. More substantively, though, cricket was a game for all. Received wisdom had it that when England needed a fast bowler, “all it had to do was whistle down a Nottinghamshire coal mine”. Just as D.H. Lawrence was saved from a career at the colliery by his facility with words, his near-neighbour Harold Larwood was whisked away from the pits thanks to his way with the ball. From Fred Trueman to Freddie Flintoff, it’s been a subaltern’s game. As late as the mid-Nineties, four in five Test cricketers were state school kids.

Now is a good time to remember this history. Clearly, we’re in the midst of a cricketing renaissance. “Bazball”, the new style of cricket — bolder, riskier, faster — inaugurated by the captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, has given the game a new tenor. Victories in white-ball cricket, too, have been infectious. Some of the stardust has rubbed off on the unabridged game. The opening fixture of the Ashes brought in a staggering 2.1 million viewers, Sky Sports reported, the highest ever for a Test match. Even the stumping affair showed a renewed interest in the game, the British and Australian prime ministers crossing bats over the matter. Australia will retain the Ashes, but there is now a momentum to English cricket. There’s no telling how the next Ashes will pan out. But first, England will need to cleanse the Augean stables and rediscover the Jamesian spirit of the game.


Pratinav Anil is the author of two bleak assessments of 20th-century Indian history. He teaches at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

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Paddy Taylor
PT
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

There has been criticism of Lord Botham for not reading the “bombshell ICEC report” – with one of its “Equity Commissioner” authors writing that “Botham’s comments also, regrettably, give licence to others to essentially ignore the report. The message is: relax folks, no need to read on, no need to worry about the evidence, no need to confront the challenge.”
The trouble is that there really was ‘no need to read on’. One only had to look at the people compiling the report to know – without the slightest doubt – what the report would find.
Ask a man whose business is fitting damp courses to survey your house and guess what …. he’ll find damp that needs fixing.
Ask an “Equity commissioner” and guess what, …. he’ll uncover inequity.
We’ve already seen how this goes – the absolutely scandalous treatment of Michael Vaughan was the most obvious – but it happens all the time, in almost every area of modern life.
Vaughan and others in the frame denied the charges levelled against them, yet faced sanction, criticism and a substantial loss of earnings.
They were shamed in the media as racists and had no right of reply or opportunity to clear their names.
Azeem Rafiq was afforded the chance to speak – under parliamentary privilege – and his every word was believed without challenge. He was also awarded very substantial payments from Yorkshire CC as recompense for his suffering(??)
Yet, of all the many people involved in this sorry tale, there was only one PROVEN racist.
Step forward …… Azeem Rafiq.
And yet supposedly Botham is disrespectful for not hanging on every word of the ICEC report.
If there are problems in Cricket that need addressing I would suggest that Equity Commissioners are the last people you’d want to turn to for solutions.

Last edited 8 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The lack of mention of the reason for Rafiq’s fall from grace (pretty outrageous anti-semitism) is telling. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. Beyond a boundary is great literature – it should be considered a masterpiece of english literature and on every school curiculum (not the atrocious “world literature” course we were forced to study of literary pygmies from around the Commonwealth).

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The lack of mention of the reason for Rafiq’s fall from grace (pretty outrageous anti-semitism) is telling. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. Beyond a boundary is great literature – it should be considered a masterpiece of english literature and on every school curiculum (not the atrocious “world literature” course we were forced to study of literary pygmies from around the Commonwealth).

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

There has been criticism of Lord Botham for not reading the “bombshell ICEC report” – with one of its “Equity Commissioner” authors writing that “Botham’s comments also, regrettably, give licence to others to essentially ignore the report. The message is: relax folks, no need to read on, no need to worry about the evidence, no need to confront the challenge.”
The trouble is that there really was ‘no need to read on’. One only had to look at the people compiling the report to know – without the slightest doubt – what the report would find.
Ask a man whose business is fitting damp courses to survey your house and guess what …. he’ll find damp that needs fixing.
Ask an “Equity commissioner” and guess what, …. he’ll uncover inequity.
We’ve already seen how this goes – the absolutely scandalous treatment of Michael Vaughan was the most obvious – but it happens all the time, in almost every area of modern life.
Vaughan and others in the frame denied the charges levelled against them, yet faced sanction, criticism and a substantial loss of earnings.
They were shamed in the media as racists and had no right of reply or opportunity to clear their names.
Azeem Rafiq was afforded the chance to speak – under parliamentary privilege – and his every word was believed without challenge. He was also awarded very substantial payments from Yorkshire CC as recompense for his suffering(??)
Yet, of all the many people involved in this sorry tale, there was only one PROVEN racist.
Step forward …… Azeem Rafiq.
And yet supposedly Botham is disrespectful for not hanging on every word of the ICEC report.
If there are problems in Cricket that need addressing I would suggest that Equity Commissioners are the last people you’d want to turn to for solutions.

Last edited 8 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
8 months ago

Cricket is very close to.my heart. It was devastating (in a sporting sense) that what promised to be a great Ashes was ruined by two days of Manchester rain. Our hopes of regaining the urn disappeared with the view of the Pennines, which disappear from view when the weather sets in, in these parts.

My first trips to Old Trafford in the early 1970s were to marvel at the exploits of West Indian Clive Lloyd (soon to become the captain of possibly the greatest cricket team in the history of the game) and Farouk Engineer, the Indian wicketkeeper/batsman. Racism? Elitism? Not in this Lancashire team, which included Jack Simmons and Harry Pilling, as working-class as they come. The talent and spirit of the team won trophies consistently.

So the article resonates, because even as a young teenager, i knew that my team was an exception. The story of CLR James could be told many times over, but comes to prominence due to his other, non-cricketing talents.

Ben Stokes, backed by Brendan McCullum, is indeed transforming the way test cricket is not only played, but perceived. Just a few short years ago he was banned from a tour of Australia after bring involved in a brawl outside a nightclub. When the case came to court, it transpired he was defending two homosexual young men who were being threatened by thugs. It was an act of bravery. He carries that spirit into his captaincy. Whilst the England team at Lord’s was entirely white, that was pretty much an exception to the norm and due to injuries to players such as Jofra Archer rather than any other factor. Moeen Ali, restored to the team from retirement, is an icon of English cricket of Pakistani heritage.

Does racism and class privilege still exist in the game? In about the same proportion that it exists outside the game. It’s just not cricket.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Great post.

Have you ever heard the story about David “Bumble” Lloyd having to look after a young Wasim Akram when he first came to Lancashire? Bumble took him to his mum’s house and had to spend the afternoon translating from Lancashire colloquialisms to normal Englsh.
Wasim: “what does a ‘cuppa’ mean?”

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Thanks. Not heard that story, but testament to the hospitality, allowing overseas players to settle in. Many of them stayed on after careers in local cricket, a famous example being Sonny Ramadhin who ran a pub in Delph (a Pennine village).

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Thanks. Not heard that story, but testament to the hospitality, allowing overseas players to settle in. Many of them stayed on after careers in local cricket, a famous example being Sonny Ramadhin who ran a pub in Delph (a Pennine village).

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Great post.

Have you ever heard the story about David “Bumble” Lloyd having to look after a young Wasim Akram when he first came to Lancashire? Bumble took him to his mum’s house and had to spend the afternoon translating from Lancashire colloquialisms to normal Englsh.
Wasim: “what does a ‘cuppa’ mean?”

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
8 months ago

Cricket is very close to.my heart. It was devastating (in a sporting sense) that what promised to be a great Ashes was ruined by two days of Manchester rain. Our hopes of regaining the urn disappeared with the view of the Pennines, which disappear from view when the weather sets in, in these parts.

My first trips to Old Trafford in the early 1970s were to marvel at the exploits of West Indian Clive Lloyd (soon to become the captain of possibly the greatest cricket team in the history of the game) and Farouk Engineer, the Indian wicketkeeper/batsman. Racism? Elitism? Not in this Lancashire team, which included Jack Simmons and Harry Pilling, as working-class as they come. The talent and spirit of the team won trophies consistently.

So the article resonates, because even as a young teenager, i knew that my team was an exception. The story of CLR James could be told many times over, but comes to prominence due to his other, non-cricketing talents.

Ben Stokes, backed by Brendan McCullum, is indeed transforming the way test cricket is not only played, but perceived. Just a few short years ago he was banned from a tour of Australia after bring involved in a brawl outside a nightclub. When the case came to court, it transpired he was defending two homosexual young men who were being threatened by thugs. It was an act of bravery. He carries that spirit into his captaincy. Whilst the England team at Lord’s was entirely white, that was pretty much an exception to the norm and due to injuries to players such as Jofra Archer rather than any other factor. Moeen Ali, restored to the team from retirement, is an icon of English cricket of Pakistani heritage.

Does racism and class privilege still exist in the game? In about the same proportion that it exists outside the game. It’s just not cricket.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago

Only Bairstow himself had tried pulling the same stunt two days earlier with the Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne

Labuschagne was batting out of his crease. Bairstow was dozily assuming the over was complete after the umpire started handing the bowler his glasses back. Bairstow probably deserved his fate, but the two incidents are not comparable.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

The curse of “sandpapergate” lives on, much to our amusement!

tom j
tom j
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Totally – our esteemed author lacks credibility from this point on. Best case he just doesn’t understand cricket.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

The curse of “sandpapergate” lives on, much to our amusement!

tom j
tom j
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Totally – our esteemed author lacks credibility from this point on. Best case he just doesn’t understand cricket.

Andrew Dalton
AD
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago

Only Bairstow himself had tried pulling the same stunt two days earlier with the Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne

Labuschagne was batting out of his crease. Bairstow was dozily assuming the over was complete after the umpire started handing the bowler his glasses back. Bairstow probably deserved his fate, but the two incidents are not comparable.

Guy Haynes
GH
Guy Haynes
8 months ago

As a now-declining league cricketer of 30+ years’ standing, I found this article very interesting and doubtless well-meaning. I can absolutely agree with the overall premise, and while I have little in common with CLR James’ political views, that shouldn’t detract from the value of his works on cricket.

I’d like to give my personal take on the subject of racism in cricket in the UK. As stated above I’ve played league cricket for many years in the North West of England, in an area where there is a high concentration of black and Asian cricketers. As well as some playing at my club, we have also regularly employed Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan professional players at my club. I have personally housed a Sri Lankan player for 3 seasons and currently have a black South African living with me – and I have done so for free. So I have to say that when this report was released, one of the first feelings was one of anger – I am among the targets of this report, this report is accusing me of being racist.

Leaving base emotions aside, my overriding conclusion is that this report drew its conclusion first and then tried to gather the evidence to fit the conclusion. There was one specific instance cited which I know about very well, because it happened in a different part of our town, and I know the players involved. Basically a local lad had told a player of Asian descent to (I paraphrase) go back where he came from. Doubtless an awful thing to say, doubtless a racist thing to say – but I also know that this guy was chucked out of his club within 24 hours of it happening and hasn’t to my knowledge played cricket since, I doubt he would be welcome. I’ve not heard a single person say (even unguardedly) that the sanctions on the offender were harsh, nobody has sought to defend him. His club has apologised. The report’s authors use this as an example of why the game of cricket is inherently racist; I would argue the exact opposite – in cricket, as in life, racism exists, but the reaction to it is one of universal disgust. Nobody accepts it when it does happen.

Am I saying that there is no racism at all within cricket? No, not at all. I’ve heard racist things being said, including by the odd teammate over the years. Not defending any of that, but it’s a massive stretch to say that cricket is inherently racist. Look at the participation in the game among minority groups – far higher than the population as a whole. Yes, I get that some of this comes from the love of the game in certain parts of the world but would such a disproportionately high proportion participate in mainstream UK league and recreational cricket if it was such a cesspit of racism.

Sorry, I just don’t buy it, the suggestion does offend me. Is it elitist at the top level? Hell yes, but I’ve written far too much already so that’ll have to be a conversation for another day.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
8 months ago
Reply to  Guy Haynes

Excellent comment. As the author alludes to, if the only tool available is a hammer the chances are a nail will be found.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
8 months ago
Reply to  Guy Haynes

Excellent comment. As the author alludes to, if the only tool available is a hammer the chances are a nail will be found.

Guy Haynes
GH
Guy Haynes
8 months ago

As a now-declining league cricketer of 30+ years’ standing, I found this article very interesting and doubtless well-meaning. I can absolutely agree with the overall premise, and while I have little in common with CLR James’ political views, that shouldn’t detract from the value of his works on cricket.

I’d like to give my personal take on the subject of racism in cricket in the UK. As stated above I’ve played league cricket for many years in the North West of England, in an area where there is a high concentration of black and Asian cricketers. As well as some playing at my club, we have also regularly employed Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan professional players at my club. I have personally housed a Sri Lankan player for 3 seasons and currently have a black South African living with me – and I have done so for free. So I have to say that when this report was released, one of the first feelings was one of anger – I am among the targets of this report, this report is accusing me of being racist.

Leaving base emotions aside, my overriding conclusion is that this report drew its conclusion first and then tried to gather the evidence to fit the conclusion. There was one specific instance cited which I know about very well, because it happened in a different part of our town, and I know the players involved. Basically a local lad had told a player of Asian descent to (I paraphrase) go back where he came from. Doubtless an awful thing to say, doubtless a racist thing to say – but I also know that this guy was chucked out of his club within 24 hours of it happening and hasn’t to my knowledge played cricket since, I doubt he would be welcome. I’ve not heard a single person say (even unguardedly) that the sanctions on the offender were harsh, nobody has sought to defend him. His club has apologised. The report’s authors use this as an example of why the game of cricket is inherently racist; I would argue the exact opposite – in cricket, as in life, racism exists, but the reaction to it is one of universal disgust. Nobody accepts it when it does happen.

Am I saying that there is no racism at all within cricket? No, not at all. I’ve heard racist things being said, including by the odd teammate over the years. Not defending any of that, but it’s a massive stretch to say that cricket is inherently racist. Look at the participation in the game among minority groups – far higher than the population as a whole. Yes, I get that some of this comes from the love of the game in certain parts of the world but would such a disproportionately high proportion participate in mainstream UK league and recreational cricket if it was such a cesspit of racism.

Sorry, I just don’t buy it, the suggestion does offend me. Is it elitist at the top level? Hell yes, but I’ve written far too much already so that’ll have to be a conversation for another day.

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

I didn’t like the article. It offered no evidence for the racism it cited apart from the report. Racism is cited for self interested reasons sometimes. I suspect there was male banter in the Yorkshire team. Was it racism? Was it shocking? Were the accusations well founded or just self interested? I would want more evidence than the article offered.
I heard an interview about a city in France. The interviewee was told not to go to a certain cafe because it was full of white racists. He went along and found blacks, Arabs and whites in equal number all bantering and getting along well including sharing off colour or racist jokes. They were all men and mostly working class. This is how men relate to each other from this class. Perhaps the nice middle class investigators and journalists don’t get this.

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

I didn’t like the article. It offered no evidence for the racism it cited apart from the report. Racism is cited for self interested reasons sometimes. I suspect there was male banter in the Yorkshire team. Was it racism? Was it shocking? Were the accusations well founded or just self interested? I would want more evidence than the article offered.
I heard an interview about a city in France. The interviewee was told not to go to a certain cafe because it was full of white racists. He went along and found blacks, Arabs and whites in equal number all bantering and getting along well including sharing off colour or racist jokes. They were all men and mostly working class. This is how men relate to each other from this class. Perhaps the nice middle class investigators and journalists don’t get this.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

You omitted to to mention that Azeem Rafiq had “left the country “ because he had been revealed to be a vile antisemite. “Hoist on his own petard” as the great Bard would say.

Mention of Harold**Larwood might also have been an opportunity to mention that he and Douglas Jardine* nearly caused the whinging Australians to declare UDI.

Still mustn’t grumble, the Eton and Harrow match continues, despite some ‘woke’ whining.

(*Winchester and New College.)

(** Thanks to Philip Gerrans for the correction.)

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Philip Gerrans
PG
Philip Gerrans
8 months ago

That would be Harold Larwood. Who migrated to Australia and lived happily to old age.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Gerrans

The very same, my apologies!

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Gerrans

The very same, my apologies!

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Philip Gerrans
Philip Gerrans
8 months ago

That would be Harold Larwood. Who migrated to Australia and lived happily to old age.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

You omitted to to mention that Azeem Rafiq had “left the country “ because he had been revealed to be a vile antisemite. “Hoist on his own petard” as the great Bard would say.

Mention of Harold**Larwood might also have been an opportunity to mention that he and Douglas Jardine* nearly caused the whinging Australians to declare UDI.

Still mustn’t grumble, the Eton and Harrow match continues, despite some ‘woke’ whining.

(*Winchester and New College.)

(** Thanks to Philip Gerrans for the correction.)

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

Oh please. The ICEC report wants equal pay for women in cricket, appointment of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion officer, a “new, independent regulatory body,” an end to Eton-Harrow games at Lords, an overall of school cricket and “talent pathways.”
Did I mention that I think that the entire educated class should be sent to Antarctica to research climate change for ten years? And don’t come back until you have a ten point plan to rid the world of educated-class hegemony.

Last edited 8 months ago by Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
CC
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

Oh please. The ICEC report wants equal pay for women in cricket, appointment of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion officer, a “new, independent regulatory body,” an end to Eton-Harrow games at Lords, an overall of school cricket and “talent pathways.”
Did I mention that I think that the entire educated class should be sent to Antarctica to research climate change for ten years? And don’t come back until you have a ten point plan to rid the world of educated-class hegemony.

Last edited 8 months ago by Christopher Chantrill
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
8 months ago

This mis-reads CLR James a bit, in my imagination. The benign image of British Colonial rule he extrapolated from the laws of the Cricket he observed implied that Britain, the mother country would of course keep is word to its children and let them grow up and become free.
When he read of the Bodyline tactics in Australia in 1933 he formed a different conclusion, that the empire was not a benign family and the mother country would happily break both its own laws, the spirit of them and its word in order to hold onto to power and wealth. While he continued to love the game into his very old age he lost his illusions about both Britain and the Cricket establishment. Nothing in the reports to do with Yorkshire (or my County Essex) would have surprised him

Richard Slack
RS
Richard Slack
8 months ago

This mis-reads CLR James a bit, in my imagination. The benign image of British Colonial rule he extrapolated from the laws of the Cricket he observed implied that Britain, the mother country would of course keep is word to its children and let them grow up and become free.
When he read of the Bodyline tactics in Australia in 1933 he formed a different conclusion, that the empire was not a benign family and the mother country would happily break both its own laws, the spirit of them and its word in order to hold onto to power and wealth. While he continued to love the game into his very old age he lost his illusions about both Britain and the Cricket establishment. Nothing in the reports to do with Yorkshire (or my County Essex) would have surprised him