Clubbing a Seal

The differences between the professional and the amateur game are many and varied, but perhaps the most stark is that without the driver of financial self-interest, the fundamental reason for turning out at the weekend or in the evenings is because it is fun, because the player wishes to perform in a sport that they love. It is a simple concept, and one that many paid to play struggle to grasp – cricketers love cricket. The same can be said in many areas of life, for there are plenty of cricket journalists who cannot get their heads around the idea of a blog that doesn’t seek to “monetise” its existence, and that those who write do so simply for the pleasure of it. But the difference is that this doesn’t matter a great deal, not being able to understand why people play cricket does.

Michael Vaughan has long banged the drum for converting club cricket into a replication of the short form white ball professional cricket, and this week was joined by Harry Gurney doing the same thing. Both have a perspective that is valid, but both have shown a complete inability to comprehend the differences and the motivations behind taking up a game. Gurney started off the row with this:

While Nasser Hussain answered as follows:

There are numerous issues raised by this, some valid, some not so much. The drop off in teenage participation is anything but new, for it has always been the case that clubs lose players at around that age, even 50 years ago. The reasons haven’t fundamentally changed, the transition into adulthood takes people away from many a childhood activity, and the high levels of university access these days have led many a club member to hope that they gain a talented, but extremely dim young player. Times change, and perhaps it is true that these days there are more distractions, but the central idea that this is something that has never happened before is both nonsensical and somewhat ignorant.

The central theme of Gurney’s argument that all club cricket should be T20 or Hundred provoked a strong reaction, and one that he first tried to defend, and then became progressively more sneery about contrary opinion while stating it was just a view. But what it did highlight was a complete lack of connection or empathy with those who play the game for pleasure, and an inability to separate his own career from the wider game. This isn’t terribly unusual, sportsmen who have reached a professional level often have a sense of superiority over those amateurs and a lack of awareness that cricket may not be the central activity in another person’s life – or to put it another way, success in cricket isn’t more important than success in life just because it is their life. It is an odd social phenomenon, and hardly a new one, but the belief that this extra ability allows both greater insight and a position of authority is downright weird. Gurney rather gave the game away a little later on:

This single tweet undermines so much of the debate, the sheer arrogance of assuming that social media followers imbue a sense of knowledge is quite something and more than anything expresses an inferiority complex on his part. An appeal to own authority is a very special kind of logical fallacy.

Still, the wider issues are worth examining, not least because the decline in player participation is something that ought to concern everyone. Yet Gurney has benefitted financially from the decisions taken by the ECB to extract as much revenue from the professional game as possible, and the Hundred is merely the latest iteration of that determination to turn the game of cricket into a revenue stream first and foremost. And it is here that the disconnect between his experience and that of the ordinary cricketer is most stark – the motivation behind a franchise cricketer is to provide his livelihood, the motivation behind a recreational cricketer is that he or she wants to play. That he undoubtedly played club cricket doesn’t mean he understands club cricket. It is therefore the case that format has irrelevance if paid to play, it is part of a job, and part of a career. This is not the same as turning out weekly because of love.

Quite why cricket has suffered so badly from a decline in participation is an open question, but responding to a symptom rather than a cause is equally fallacious. Rugby hasn’t suffered particularly badly, but football has. Both of those sports involve shorter games than cricket, and that one has suffered a drop off and the other not implies that it cannot simply be about the amount of time involved in playing. Simplistic answers to complex questions merely imply a lack of critical thought. The absence of cricket from free to air television is something that Hussain for one would never acknowledge given his role at Sky, and while Gurney did later say that he would like to see that, he didn’t go as far as saying he’d accept a lower income in order to make it happen. Again, here is a fundamental difference between those who play for fun and those who do so as a career, self-interest is entirely understandable, but it doesn’t help to provide a full picture.

Which leads to the question as to whether moving all club cricket to short form would actually help anything at all, for it is at least a valid question, however clumsily expressed. Young players begin with pairs cricket rather than 20 over games, and for good reason: it allows them to bat and bowl for a significant period rather than spending their time fielding and being out after a few balls. A fundamental misunderstanding about participation in cricket is that just being there wearing whites doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, players need to do the fun bits not just be a body on the field. Professionals can’t comprehend this, because when they were going through their age groups, they were always the best player and had the chance to do the all the good things – they dominated the game and while having a great time doing so, few would have spared a thought for the team-mate who sat on the boundary with pads on all innings.

There is no swifter way to discourage anyone who wants to play than to not give them a chance to do so, something club members are acutely conscious of, professional cricketers less so. And this is the major problem with all short form cricket – that if batting below number four, half the time a player is no more than a glorified fielder, especially if they aren’t one of the best four bowlers. This is not fun, and ensuring that everyone gets a game is the art of the club captain, again a concept entirely alien to a professional who is in a side on merit, and there to do a job.

Those youth players then move on to mostly 20 over cricket, a further reminder to those who lecture from on high that the professional game did not invent T20, no matter how much they try to tell themselves that they did. It is only in their teenage years that players have the opportunity to play a longer game, and is something that almost all cricketers want to do. Bowlers get more overs, batsmen get the chance to bat properly. Of course, if a player isn’t very good, standing around for 40 or 50 overs isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, but nothing cuts to the heart of the difficulty at amateur level quite so much as trying to involve a player who isn’t really good enough to play at that level. This doesn’t mean that clubs don’t try to do it, because they try incredibly hard – anyone who has been involved in a captaincy role knows all too well how difficult that can be.

For those better players, 20 over cricket is a great game, but not necessarily their favoured form of it. It ought to be obvious why not, but apparently it needs saying: People are doing this for enjoyment – if batting is fun and bowling is fun, they want to do more of it, not less. There is indeed the question of the time involved, but a casual cricketer who doesn’t want to give up all day both has the opportunity to play in the 20 over matches (for most clubs have that) and pushing away those committed players who do want to play a full game is no kind of solution. It is a consistent failure of both the ECB and those with little idea of the recreational game to view the existing base as a problem to be dealt with rather than a strength to capitalise upon. Gurney himself made that clear with a further tweet:

This is a straw man argument. Few bar the terminally dense would believe playing 50 overs on a Saturday is any kind of preparation for four or five day cricket, they are chalk and cheese. But it does highlight that Gurney is under the impression that the purpose of club cricket is to provide a pathway to the professional game rather than having an inherent value in itself, and that by saying it’s different he’s implying it’s the same and worthy of comparison – a perspective that’s simply weird. For a few, perhaps it might be viewed in that sense, league cricket being something that all professionals will have played as they rose up the ranks, but being under the impression that the other ten players on the side were thinking in such terms is quite remarkable. They were playing to challenge themselves and because they enjoyed it. Nothing more and nothing less, they didn’t see it as a stepping stone to anywhere.

This lofty attitude can be seen just as clearly in the assumption that playing 20 overs allows people to turn out for a couple of hours rather than giving up a whole day. Firstly, 20 overs is much slower at club level, because they don’t have people throwing the ball back from the boundary every time it’s hit – the principal reason for only playing evening 20 over leagues in June is because of how difficult it is to get a full game in before darkness when starting at 6pm. Secondly, unlike their professional counterparts, club cricketers have to prepare the ground and the clubhouse for a game. They don’t rock up, turn out, play and piss off afterwards, they have endless jobs to do, whether that be putting out the boundary rope or hoovering the clubhouse before leaving, and that’s without the travel involved getting there. Assuming it is two or three hours only highlights a spectacular ignorance and entitlement to a degree that reaches the level of both amusement and contempt. A Sunday afternoon game that started at 1pm and ended at 4pm would involve home players arriving at midday and leaving at 5pm at the very earliest – a player who merely turns up to play and leaves will soon find themselves extremely unwelcome – but perhaps when a pro does it they believe their greatness should allow them extra latitude while everyone else does all the work. Playing a T20 match does not save most of the day.

Vaughan talked about having music and a festival atmosphere at such games – does he imagine this doesn’t happen? Does he imagine that clubs have staff who do all this for them as at the counties? Everything at club level requires people to do this in the first place, and to put it all away afterwards. And the ones that do it all tend to be the “old fogeys” Hussain wanted out of cricket clubs.

Club cricket is in trouble, and does need creative solutions. But for those in a position of privilege to lecture everyone else on what they ought to do, not for the benefit of the game but their own personal position is quite extraordinary. It took Jade Dernbach to offer a dose of reality:

Club cricketers want to play cricket. This is the most obvious and important point of all; they don’t do so because they are supplicants to the professional game, but because they love the sport. They make lifelong friends doing so, they socialise with each other, and above all else they care deeply about the sport. This is why they volunteer, they coach, they prepare the ground for play, they re-decorate the pavilion each April in preparation. And they work extremely hard (for free) to encourage youngsters to take up the game. Retaining young players has always been a challenge, retaining young players whose families don’t have access to Sky is an extreme challenge. But clubs are far more aware of the issues than any professional can be; that’s why they go into schools to introduce the game to those who have never seen it while those in the professional game count their money. They play 20 over cricket, they play 50 over cricket, they play league matches, they play friendly matches. And still they struggle, with virtually no assistance from the professional game that appears to consider it an obstacle rather than an asset.

It would be a start if those who have made a comfortable living from the game spent time listening to those who work their backsides off trying to promote a sport for no other reason than that they love it. But of course, those ordinary clubs and ordinary cricketers don’t have lots of Twitter followers, so I guess they don’t really count. Being Outside Cricket has never felt as acute.


49 thoughts on “Clubbing a Seal

  1. Zephirine Mar 2, 2019 / 12:25 pm

    Excellent piece. As you say, Gurney’s problem is that he sees club cricket entirely as a feeder system, which for him it probably was.

    But actually the whole discussion is ludicrous. It’s like a professional actor saying that all amateur dramatic societies should only put on musicals, because that’s what makes money in the West End. Or a successful artist saying that local art exhibitions should only present conceptual art because that’s what sells for most in the posh London galleries.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Benny Mar 2, 2019 / 3:02 pm

    Yes I did stir the pot a little on this. Playing club cricket with friends on a Saturday and the occasional Sunday from 2.00 to 7.00 then into the pub afterwards has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life. You can guess my feelings towards anyone who wanted to deny me that.

    I’m not remotely concerned about number of followers. If people are kind enough to follow me, that’s great but certainly has no effect on my self importance. Jade Dernbach has a different view from Gurney and has 92,000 followers. So there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ab Mar 2, 2019 / 4:22 pm

    Some slight exaggeration here. I run numerous T20 games every summer, I have the keys so open up before and lock up after. I arrive at 545 to set up for a 6pm start, and it takes 15 minutes to bring the markers in, rope off the square, and lock up after the game. If we’re hiring a ground rather then using our Saturday ground, we don’t even have to do this, we just turn up and play. We’re in the pub by 9.

    Average game time is 2 and a half hours. Last year we finished one T20 game with normal rules in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I’ve never known a game go over 3 hours, even in games with multiple lost balls.


  4. C TROTH Mar 2, 2019 / 4:39 pm

    Superb thoughtful article written by someone who’s spent time doing just that: Club cricket


  5. LordCanisLupus Mar 2, 2019 / 4:41 pm

    For disclosure, Mr Gurney has replied, via Annie, on Twitter…..

    The usual nonsense, which I’ve experienced over the years – we are fans, not enemies. There’s never an engagement with the arguments, just bland comments. a broad brush without telling us what is specifically wrong.

    He started a debate he doesn’t want to have. That has been the evidence. Including his brother’s marvellous response to Benny (copying me in).

    The loss here is his. Very disappointing. The main thing that I’ve seen that has been unbalanced is Mr Gurney’s tweets. Nice to know he can scan an article and call it a name. Like him, I had a lot of feedback, the most “liked” tweet I’ve had. Lots of club cricketers.


  6. dannycricket Mar 2, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    If players (and the ECB) want club cricket to develop professional cricketers, they should pay for it. Pay for coaches. Pay for groundsmen. Pay for the facilities. If they don’t want to do that, then I reckon they can fuck off and leave club cricketers alone to enjoy playing cricket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean Mar 2, 2019 / 9:50 pm

      Couldn’t have put it better myself Danny!


    • Benny Mar 3, 2019 / 3:13 pm



  7. dArthez Mar 2, 2019 / 5:55 pm

    The pitch did something. Looks like West Indies might chase this down before the scheduled break.

    2-2 shared series would be an excellent result for the hosts.


  8. Mark Mar 2, 2019 / 7:08 pm

    I seem to remember hearing that when Ian Chappell retired from professional cricket he packaged up his kit, including boots in brown paper and then burned them. He had no intention of ever playing again. And as far a as I’m aware he never did. He had no interest in playing for fun after he had made it to the very top. The mindset of a pro is different, and I respect that, and understand it. Gurney should respect the club cricketer , and understand it. Unfortunately it would appear he is not bright enough or humble enough to do so. The professional should not lecture to the mere mortal as to how he lives his life.

    May I suggest that Gurney is being disingenuous about his motives. What he is really worried about is making sure there are sufficient customers to pay his wages. So he proposes that because he wants to be kept in the lavish lifestyle he has become accustomed to the entire non profit club game must be turned upside down to produce punters who will obediently keep him employed.

    This Stalinist approach is shocking in its contempt for the everyday player/fan but quite typical of everything that comes out of the ECB, and professional sport generally. Nobody owes you a living, and the real problem for cricket is they have pissed on their fan base for nearly twenty years. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

    The ECB has already stated that the 16.4 is not for the typical cricket fan. Let that sink in for a minute. The governing body is creating a format for people who may not exist, and even mocks those cricket fans who politely tell them they are not interested. So now one of their professional players thinks the entire club game can be be airbrushed out of history.

    If the amateur wants to play a 20/20 or 50 over or even an amateur Test match over two weekends in their own time it’s got fuck all to do with Mr Gurney.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Rooto Mar 2, 2019 / 7:54 pm

    My way or the highway. It comes across in this top-down lack of engagement from Gurney, and also in the performance of the England team today, failing to adapt, not for the first time. Does it all come from the top?

    (Sometimes, though, one has to accept that things are more complicated than you first thought – people can surprise you: first Surrey voting against the 100, now Jade Dernbach talking a great deal of sense!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean Mar 2, 2019 / 9:51 pm

      Dernbach talking a great deal of sense has shocked me somewhat too…


  10. dlpthomas Mar 3, 2019 / 2:49 am

    On a completely different topic – that game sums up why I’m skeptical of England’s chances in the world cup. They are an entertaining side but they have far too many bad days for me to consider them a great team.


  11. Riverman21 Mar 3, 2019 / 9:43 am

    Geez this is a seriously great piece of writing.

    The passion of the club cricketer is hard to put into words but you’ve done it as only a lifetime in club cricket could.

    Not only do we have a disconnect between EBC and the fans but now it appears the players. This can’t end well.

    Not for the first time I find myself nodding at Jade Dernbach who seems to have a firm grip on reality outside the bubble.

    Cricket has always had an issue I think with pushing talent up the ladder. Seen too many talented players whittling away in the comfort zone playing a level or two too low for easy runs and wickets.

    Participation is key but playing t20s on wrekends makes no sense to me. These games can be played mid week as we did 30 years ago with 15*8 ball overs.

    40 to 50 overs gives a massively different challenge to all skill sets and allows youngsters room to develop.


  12. Topshelf Mar 3, 2019 / 10:30 am

    This is excellent. The fact that Gurney thinks scanning it was good enough probably tells you how shallow he and his viewpoint are.

    Question: If all club cricket becomes 20/16.4 overs, and almost all youth club cricket is already 20/16.4 overs, where does the professional game get players for 50 over and, assuming it survives, FC and test cricket? No-one will ever have batted for more than say 70 balls, and a bowler’s longest ever spell will be 4 overs. Good luck making that transition.

    Of course, we all know the answer: private schools and county systems. Nice of Mr Gurney, alumnus of Loughborough Grammar School, to propose that the drawbridge is pulled ever more closed on those less lucky/privileged than him.


    • LordCanisLupus Mar 3, 2019 / 11:41 am

      We don’t get enough readers for him to bother his pretty little head with. And we’re unbalanced because we disagree with him.

      Harry Gurney wants credit for putting his view out there. Then acts up when he’s questioned. Not how it works.


      • Mark Mar 3, 2019 / 1:44 pm

        Quite typical of many celebrities these days be they sport or entertainment flavour. The live in a bubble of self congratulation and self interest where they are never challenged.

        In the rare cases like this when there is push back they pretend to be floating above everybody else. Balloon, and pin comes to mind.

        I expect to see more of this as the ECB ramps up The propaganda for its latest product.


  13. Mark Mar 3, 2019 / 2:04 pm

    One of the things that intrigues me, and legglance makes reference to it……….is that 20/20 was not invented in 2002. Club, school, and village cricketers we’re playing mid week 20/20 games back in the 1970s. I know because I played in such games.

    But of course we didn’t play in the modern format way. Batsman would bat conventionally, and a score of anything around 120 was seen as very competitive. We didn’t have the big bats they have today, and I am amused at the thought of how long it will take to retrieve the ball if you are hitting 10 sixes and 25 boundaries every innings. Some of the grounds I played on the ball would be disappearing into cow fields and rivers, and main roads. Good luck with.

    Also, are the modern club cricketers really good enough to play in this way? Can they really play like Josh Butler or Chris Gayle or Jason Roy? Seems to me you could easily have teams bowled out for 30 or so.

    I don’t know why so many players, and ex players want to dump on non professionals who are just enjoying themselves? They want them as customers I suspect, but many people prefer to participate rather than spectate. When they can no longer play they may try a lesser activity rather than become a couch potato.


    • AB Mar 4, 2019 / 10:55 am

      It depends a lot on the pitches, the standard, and the rules.

      When I used to skipper a T20 team in the midlands back in the 1990s, everyone had to bowl 2 overs except the keeper, batsmen retired at 25*, and the pitches often hadn’t been cut since the previous weekend. Many (not all) batsmen would bat in the same way they would at the weekend. 120 was definitely a competitive score.

      Even now when I play T20 (usual inclusive rules: retire at 25/30, 3/4 overs per bowler, much better pitches), a par score is still just 140.

      Some batsmen score quickly and reach their 25 off 15 balls or so, but there is always a period in every innings with a couple of weaker batsmen who can’t get the ball off the square that pulls back the overall rate.

      Last year we were defending 150 and the opposition were 100-3 off 10 overs but their last remaining gun bat had just retired and we had held back some of our better bowlers. We brought in the field, kept tight lines and won by 20 runs. This kind of pattern of play is pretty common.

      Personally I don’t think this detracts from the game at all. If anything it adds tactical nuance.


      • Mark Mar 4, 2019 / 11:31 am

        That’s really interesting AB, and of course by making batsman retire at 25 more people get a bat. This would be an anathema to Mr Gurney.

        120 works out at a run a ball or six an over. When I was playing that was regarded as a good score. But quite often it was less. There just were not that many sixes hit. It was very much bat normally, and then if wickets in hand hit out in the last five overs,

        We knew no different, and we didn’t have the equipment (big bats) to hit the ball miles. Of course sixes and fours were hit, and sometimes scores bigger than 140 were scored, but not on the scale you see in the professional game. Back then six an over in a professional county 55 over game got you 300, and that seemed huge. Anything over 270 was seen as a big score.

        Bottom line is if you and your team mates, and opposition are happy with the rules and format then we don’t need the ECB sticking their noses in the way.


        • AB Mar 4, 2019 / 11:45 am

          Absolutely – and its not like amateur teams don’t occasionally experiment with new rules/formats/points systems to see what works best. We play the rules we play because we know from decades of experience that they make for really good, exciting, fun, inclusive games. This is exactly what the ECB should be trying to promote, but don’t appear to trust the people they should be asking for advice.

          I guarantee your average experienced club skipper will know a hell of a lot more about what works in terms of making a good game than the entire weight of knowledge at the ECB (or Harry Gurney, for that matter).


  14. pktroll (@pktroll) Mar 3, 2019 / 3:10 pm

    I organise my club’s midweek games but I play weekend cricket too. I wouldn’t miss my midweek stuff for the world but don’t tell me what I have to play at the weekend.

    Midweek stuff is about the social post work relaxation with a bit of cricket thrown in. The weekend stuff is a bit more focussing on your skills and how to improve and make best use of them. I never was very good at the clear my front leg type of stuff but good at finding gaps in the field. Should I give up even the midweek stuff because I don’t have the game for it?

    That is nigh on what Gurney seems to be suggesting.


    • Rooto Mar 3, 2019 / 5:10 pm

      Don’t forget Nasser moaning last summer about older players bed-blocking places in club sides and thereby preventing more kids coming through. So, if you’re over 35, you’re seen as a problem whose love of cricket and years of effort count for nothing.


      • Mark Mar 3, 2019 / 6:16 pm

        Funny he never said that about 40 year old Graham Gooch when he was still playing at Essex, and blocking young talent.


        • LordCanisLupus Mar 3, 2019 / 8:22 pm

          Had an interesting chat with a friend of mine, actually the one who introduced me to club cricket, last night. Not seen him in ages, and he says his club is really struggling because, in part, a local club is hoovering up all the local kids. So while his team struggles to put out one XI, the neighbouring club has six teams. He too, says youngsters coming through aren’t blocked, they’re encouraged. It’s just there are so few of them.

          He says the same is true of football. He is a keen Sunday footballer, and yet he says the participation levels at “pro age” are frighteningly declining, but veterans football is burgeoning. This is in an urban area, so maybe local factors are at play elsewhere. Maybe we just aren’t in a participating culture any more?


          • Mark Mar 3, 2019 / 10:38 pm

            I’m not surprised to hear of the falling off of numbers playing both cricket and football. I would be pretty concerned ifI I was in the business of selling tv sports rights. In twenty years time who will be your customers? A 20 year old today will be a 40 year old then. Will he be bothered to pay when he’s not interested in playing now?

            Perhaps this is why Murdoch has decided to sell out Sky now at maybe the top of the tree. Sky (Comcast) have just put their prices up for their entertainment package. Someone has to pay for the huge debt they have taken on to buy Sky.


          • Duncan Stone (@StoneDunk) Mar 4, 2019 / 12:04 am

            Creation of ‘super clubs’, that hoard youngsters, is a worry but they’ve been around long before ECB Premier Leagues. They then fail to release them to local clubs who are often struggling to field teams.
            Our own club would have undoubtedly folded or at least gone down to one side a year or two back were it not for a large influx of Asian lads but a good deal of evidence suggests clubs – even whole leagues – are folding due to racialism.
            Cost is clearly a factor (approx six times as expensive to join a senior club in Surrey compared to Lancashire).Disposable income is important but so is disposable time.
            There is no such thing as the ‘weekend’ for young’uns today. Work is often a six day commitment and gender / family relationships are similarly different. I do, thus, see lower level leagues going towards T/20 as a standard and I don’t think the player’s or supporters enjoyment will be diminished.
            This blog is good but, to a cynical historian of sport like me, a trifle romantic. Basically, if the game fails to adapt to the prevailing social conditions, the future isn’t too bright.


          • AB Mar 4, 2019 / 11:27 am

            The main problem with the “super clubs” in my experience:

            – their existence vastly increases the likelihood of uncompetitive matches. Not only are they incredibly strong, they make every other club weak. There is a reason why close competitive games are so rare at the junior level. A game in which one team score 180-0 and the other team is 30 all out is a waste of time for everyone involved. No wonder kids are giving up the game in record numbers.

            – the experience of kids at big superclubs is not good. Their parents are charged the earth for poor quality coaching with 1 coach shouting at 50 kids, the groups are cliquey and particularly unwelcoming to state-educated students, and unless they’re county standard, they are left out of the team, and when they do play, they bat 11 and don’t bowl. To the club, they’re simply a source of revenue. Occasionally, these kids find their way to a smaller village club like the one I run, and report an enormous jump in their enjoyment of the game. Most don’t – most simply give up the sport entirely.

            – you can’t get into county if you’re not at a super club. Often the same coach coaches the private school U13, the superclub U13 and the county U13, and also offers expensive 1-2-1 tuition. There is a tacit understanding that if parents cough up for 1-2-1 coaching. the chances that their son/daughter gets into the county squad are miraculously increased. Occasionally a particularly talented state schooler forces their way in, but they find the experience extremely unpleasant, being the only one there who doesn’t attend the main private school.

            I would also add, some junior coaches are complete and utter pricks, who don’t give a fuck about player development and just want their team to win at all costs. I’ve got seriously fed up with the attitude of opposition coaches and umpires who allow their fast bowler to bowl deliberate beamers, or who deliberately give dodgy lbw decisions against 11 year olds simply because they can’t control their own emotions.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Duncan Stone (@StoneDunk) Mar 4, 2019 / 12:09 pm

            Good points AB and they hark back to my own experience as a thirteen year old at a ‘super club’ in Surrey. Cliquey and, if picked, I never got a decent a bat or bowl. Gave up the game until had my arm twisted by a mate via football at 23.

            Currently writing a social history of the game in England. If you’d like to expand on your reply do drop me a line.



      • pktroll (@pktroll) Mar 3, 2019 / 7:52 pm

        For what it is worth I often step aside if we have sufficient numbers for the evening games . Doesn’t mean I have to for weekend games when there are often two fixtures.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus Mar 3, 2019 / 8:08 pm

          I think the thing that has affected me the most in this whole “debate” is the number of cricket clubs who have liked or retweeted the link to this post. That’s either via BOC or my own Twitter feed.

          Incidentally, for a blog that has only three people reading it, this has been the busiest day of the year. We have had an astounding number of new visitors. We aren’t driven by numbers, but when we do get the recognition, we appreciate it.

          I would love to have written the post, but Chris does this a whole lot better than me. I would say one thing that has annoyed me is being accused by Gurney as being “propaganda”. If I, and Chris, and Danny and Sean, are propaganda for cricket loving enthusiasts, sick of being trampled on by an uncaring governing body, players who APPEAR to be concerned only about a pay cheque, and “experts” on TV ignoring the paywall elephant in the room and blaming lack of participation on old codgers blocking their way, then I plead guilty, and so do my colleagues.

          Liked by 4 people

          • dannycricket Mar 4, 2019 / 8:46 am

            Speak for yourself. I’m pleading “not guilty” and hiring Ben Stokes’ barrister…


          • pktroll (@pktroll) Mar 4, 2019 / 8:16 pm

            I will apologise for not having been on here as much as I would have liked over the last few months. Been really busy in real life and hadn’t much enthusiasm for the ODIS. However a real life thing that I do really care about and I don’t need a second invitation.

            Clearly a lot of club folk resonate with this and not just me and am glad others have a place that they will find kindred spirits.


  15. edbayliss Mar 3, 2019 / 8:57 pm

    Top stuff. Hit the nail on the head with “nothing cuts to the heart of the difficulty at amateur level quite so much as trying to involve a player who isn’t really good enough to play at that level.”
    Which is where League cricket has a problem – if wins and bonus points are key, teams can’t afford the sixth bowler who got out for a duck to bowl his two-overs-none-for-twelve.
    Club cricket would be a lower standard with higher participation if all captains gave everyone a game most weeks.
    As the article explains well, this is probably incomprehensible to elite cricketers.


  16. Duncan Stone (@StoneDunk) Mar 4, 2019 / 12:28 am

    I have played in Surrey, Yorkshire and Australia and a number of cricketers I’ve met professed not to like the game. Odd yes but not unusual it seems.

    How much ‘fun’ is on offer depends on the culture of a club more than the format and, as many Commonwealth migrants discovered when moving here from the late 1940s, the culture of English cricket – as this blog reflects – is very ‘traditional’ or, in their words, ‘boring’. Regrettably the racism they faced remains a significant issue from the top down.

    That aside it is also a selfish game that attracts what one correspondent to The Cricketer in the 1960s called ‘the conceited individualist’. I’ve met some right wankers via cricket sadly.

    Might all sound a bit ‘glass half-full’ but we do need to remove the rose tinted specs occasionally.


    • AB Mar 4, 2019 / 12:05 pm

      That’s that whole grade cricketer shtick that I’ve never really understood about hating your team mates and hoping the game is cancelled. If you don’t like them, find a new team. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t play it. Personally I’m incredibly peed off if a cricket game is cancelled at short notice and spend the rest of the day moping around being miserable.

      I think maybe some people take it a bit too seriously and lose some of the enjoyment. (Amateur) cricket is supposed to be fun.

      I’ve never experienced a “boring” team, but I have been part of some teams who were too confrontational, seemed only interested in themselves, or generally took it too seriously. I soon left. Teams that have a bit of a laugh at themselves, have a friendly joke with the opposition, and don’t put too much store in individual attainment (whilst still trying to win) are the best teams to play for.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Duncan Stone (@StoneDunk) Mar 4, 2019 / 12:23 pm

        Ha ha. That fella’s club is one of two I played for in Oz. The other was ‘social cricket’ in Canberra. Tinnies of the pitch etc. Superb fun and some very capable players involved.

        Mate in Yorkshire was the one who articulated it best. ‘Too time consuming’ ‘Too slow’. I think he’d have enjoyed social cricket in Oz but I guess family / regional traditions play their part? What I was driving at is the stuffy ‘genteel’ culture and norms of behaviour (faux politeness?) of ‘English’ cricket. I love the noise and revelrey watching Test cricket in the West Indies. Can’t bear Lord’s.

        In that regard I think the game is never going to appeal to ordinary young’uns. Coming onto the pitch to ‘Jerusalem’ doesn’t speak to me and I doubt an inner-city lad (irrespective of ethnic heritage) will identify with it either.

        That’s why the Surrey Slam ought to go from strength to strength. I love it.


  17. John Rolfe Mar 4, 2019 / 9:48 pm

    Great article. I really can’t see why anyone is wasting much time on Harry Gurney although it might be worth pointing out to him that those who prefer traditional weekend formats surely represent a large proportion of those who directly or indirectly pay his wages. Regarding the idea that 50 over cricket is no preparation for 4 or 5 days cricket: why should it be? How many pro cricketers nowadays have not been identified at aged about 8, put through an endless all-year-round cycle of cricket training and more training, been picked up by a county in their teens and ‘lent’ to clubs only so they can get more practice. Very few like Jimmy Anderson , Jack Brooks (who should know better by the way) or WIlf Slack decades earlier, have forced their way into the pro game via the club game alone. One more point: if Saturday cricket became T20 or Hundred only, then most of the people who support club cricket would stop and it would cease to exist. And then we would have to find something else less worthwhile to do on a Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. John Rolfe Mar 4, 2019 / 10:23 pm

    .. and one more thing from me in case you are reading this Harry. A quote from England’s greatest goalkeeper, spoken to his wife not long before he died. Different sport, but you’ll get the point: “I’ve had a great life,” Banks told her. “I’ve no regrets. I did a job I loved and got paid for it. I would have done it for free, though don’t tell ‘em, Wend.”


    • thelegglance Mar 4, 2019 / 10:26 pm

      Oh I think that’s unlikely. He “scanned it” apparently then decided it was unbalanced.

      I laughed a bit at that, I must confess.


      • Mark Mar 5, 2019 / 1:16 am

        “He “scanned it” apparently……”

        Is he a photocopier/printer?


        • thelegglance Mar 5, 2019 / 7:57 am

          We’re also propaganda, though who for he didn’t say. And only read by three people. Which is rather rubbish propaganda.

          Think he got a bit muddled.


          • Mark Mar 5, 2019 / 9:49 am

            It’s amazing how close his views are to the ECB/establishment regards us. Dismissive and patronising.

            What a coincidence that a current professional player comes out and makes these comments just as the governing body is “propagandising” on behalf of their new product 16.4?

            NOTHING TO SEE HERE……….

            Interestingly Shinny toy is pleading with the ECB to bring in Chris Gayle, and if necessary break the bank and go cap in hand to the Indian board and beg them to let Virat Kohli come over and play the first season of the 16.4.

            Not quite sure what would be the point, if, as they say this format is for people who are new to cricket, and can’t yet master counting to six? Surely they would be clueless as to who these players are?


  19. Mike Walton (@mwtheplumber) Mar 5, 2019 / 12:34 pm

    Very good article. This echoes what I have always said, the shorter the game, the less opportunity to get everyone involved. Club cricket is not about earning money or winning at all costs.


    • quebecer Mar 8, 2019 / 5:10 pm

      Hmmmm, I think Willey is rather leaving himself open to the somewhat obvious criticism of well, play better and Archer won’t get in. Seems like one of those things you can think in private but should keep your mouth shut about in public.


  20. quebecer Mar 8, 2019 / 5:18 pm

    I see also that friend of minorities and champion of common decency Darren Lehmann has got a new coaching gig domestically in Aus – after saying he didn’t want another position in international cricket. Somewhat gung ho of him, presuming international cricket wants to give him a job.


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