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Cricket: A Modern Anthology

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Section 3

Shane Warne bowling England captain Mike Gatting with his first ball in an Ashes Test at Old Trafford, June 1993

Sachin Tendulkar receiving his award for a Test Match Special ‘champagne moment’ from the author during the Second Test at Lord’s, June 1996

Muttiah Muralitharan bowling for Sri Lanka against England during the Second Test in Kandy, December 2003

Graeme Swann bowling for England against Sri Lanka during the Second Test at Lord’s, June 2011

England captain Douglas Jardine at the crease wearing his trademark Harlequin cap

Wally Hammond of Gloucestershire and England

A poster advertising Len Hutton’s benefit match at Scarborough, July 1950

Ted Dexter walking out to bat for Cambridge University, 1958

West Indian cricketers Kenneth Rickards, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, Roy Marshall and Everton Weekes at St Pancras station en route to Australia, September 1951

West Indies fast bowler Charlie Griffith bowling for Burnley in the Lancashire League, August 1964

A game in progress at Belvoir Cricket Club in the evening sunshine

One of many games of cricket played on the vast expanse of open land at the Oval Maidan in Mumbai

Sir Neville Cardus making a typically flamboyant speech

John Arlott bringing his broadcasting career to a close during the Centenary Test between England and Australia at Lord’s in 1980

The late Christopher Martin-Jenkins at home in 2008

Foreword Rt Hon. Sir John Major KG CH (#ulink_2f6e9b85-8ff0-5275-b2da-325b5f5ac493)

The words ‘cricket’ and ‘Jonathan Agnew’ have become synonymous to cricket lovers, and there can be no better guide to the evolution of the modern game.

It is a big story that deserves – and, in these pages, has – a sure guide.

By 1930, although cricket had matured from the country-house pastime of the pre-Grace years, it was still far from the game we know today. Since then, many more countries have entered the Test arena, and the administration of the game has passed into professional hands and away from gifted amateurs. Out-of-date class distinctions on the field have faded away – but only slowly, with reluctance – and the top-class game has become fully professional. New and shorter forms of cricket have emerged to attract millions of new supporters, alongside the grumbling disapproval of traditionalists.

To them, and to most cricket lovers, the spirit of the game – the way in which it is played – has always been at the heart of its charm. It is a rude shock when controversy enters the arena, and far worse when corruption is uncovered.

Jonathan Agnew’s story begins with the Ashes series of 1932–3. It was on-field cricket at its most distasteful, as the English fast-bowling attack targeted ‘bodyline’ bowling at the Australian batsmen instead of their stumps. It was an unscrupulous tactic to curb the mammoth run scoring of Don Bradman. Today, with television tracking every ball, such a tactic would never survive, but ‘bodyline’ soured a whole series and scarred cricket.

Later, the English cricketing authorities – with an arrogance that, eighty years on, is scarcely believable – ordered Harold Larwood, their fast-bowling spearhead, to apologise. Larwood was entirely right to refuse, saying that he was upholding the instructions of his team captain, Douglas Jardine. But Jardine was a ‘gentleman’ and Larwood was not – and so it was he who was pilloried. It was, in every way, an ugly and shameful episode.

As a fast bowler, Larwood was one of the heroes that cricket throws up in every generation: their reputation becomes enshrined in the folklore of the game, and lasts long after they have left the field of play. Among the most cherished names, Bradman and Sobers may stand alone on their pedestal, but I fancy Shane Warne might one day join them on it. Most of these great cricketers are a credit to the game.

But not all: some heroes have revealed a dark side and been seduced and corrupted by money. Their names need not be repeated here but match-fixing poses a threat the authorities cannot ignore. Some cricket authorities have reacted vigorously to curtail this evil – but all need to do so. The ‘Spirit of Cricket’ is important to lovers of the game, and where that is flouted, they may turn away in disgust. The extent of corruption induced by betting scams is unknowable but, if it is tolerated by any authority, the damage will be acute.

Over recent decades, cricket has been broadcast to a global audience by radio and television. To the avid listener or viewer, the players representing teams on the far side of the world have become as familiar as the stars of their own country. The media coverage is comprehensive, and generally superb.

But cricket is more than a game. For countless millions, it is part of their lives, and given added drama and charm by the skill of the broadcasters. For me, cricket has always been pure pleasure when described by the likes of Rex Alston, John Arlott or Brian Johnston and – more recently – Henry Blofeld, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and the author of this book, Jonathan Agnew – that valuable hybrid of Test cricketer and professional broadcaster. Their sheer love of the game – and the romanticism, sentiment and sheer fun of it that they impart – has woven them into the warp and weft of cricket: it would be sad, indeed, if the contributions of such men were banished from the game.

And, to this observer, that seems a risk. Increasingly, the commentators and summarizers of top-class cricket are former eminent Test players. I welcome their arrival at the microphone because, to this particular cricket lover, they have added an extra dimension of understanding about the game. Their contribution is unique – but I hope it will never be exclusive: a mixture of broadcasters, cricketers and writers may offer the best depiction of the game to listeners and viewers.

In its infancy, cricket spread outwards from England as the British Empire was built. It took root and, as it did so, ceased to be an English game; each country played it in their own distinctive style. As the game spreads further, the focused aggression of the Australians; the Caribbean swagger of the West Indies; the suppleness of the Indians, may yet be joined by the national characteristics of the Afghans and the Chinese. If so, cricket will be the stronger for it.

The question that now arises is – whither cricket? The present growth of the game suggests confidence about its future from the grass roots upwards, with one reservation. The huge appeal of the shorter forms of the game – and the huge money-spinner it has become – means that cricket at the very highest level, five-day Test cricket, must be protected and cherished. It is, to my mind, the finest expression of the game, the peak of its art and, if it were diminished – or even crowded out – by mercenary considerations, then the game itself would surely suffer.

In its long history, cricket has been blessed with great literature: no game has ever attracted so many authors, or so much magnificent writing. In this book, Jonathan Agnew adds to this great canon, and draws on it to illustrate the evolutionary changes of recent decades.

This book is for every lover of cricket who wishes to dig deeper into the history of the game, through the words and sentiments of those who shared – or still share – their passion for it.

March 2013

Preface (#ulink_a8df2dd0-3af4-5eb6-9eeb-54c10362fabb)

Cricket, more than any other sport, has always lent itself to expressive colourful writing alongside intelligent debate – in the sports pages of our daily newspapers, over the broadcasting airwaves, through the pages of Wisden dating back to 1864 or, indeed, around the bar in the village pub. Such is the depth and complexity of cricket – spanning its history, politics and characters – that a single, universal view is extremely rare. Even such momentous events as Bodyline, the D’Oliveira affair and World Series Cricket were all strenuously argued about, usually from diametrically opposed positions.

The beauty of assembling an anthology such as this is that those opinions, assessments and descriptions can all be brought together in one place. So this is where we are able to read about and compare the lifestyles and characters of two of England’s finest fast bowlers, Harold Larwood and Fred Trueman; savour the deeds of opening batsmen Jack Hobbs and my old friend Geoffrey Boycott; consider first-hand reflections on Bodyline by Sir Donald Bradman; and enjoy a graphic description of the first tied Test between Australia and West Indies by Richie Benaud, who lost his wicket to the second ball of that frantic final over delivered by Wes Hall.

To be given the opportunity to sit, read and select extracts from the works of some of cricket’s finest writers and players has been a most rewarding experience. The modern game is so time-consuming – with matches coming thick and fast and increasingly demanding deadlines to hit – that it is difficult sometimes to sit back, take a breath and reflect properly on what has just taken place. However, a book provides the opportunity to include additional information that was not available at the time and that vital element of context, which can only properly be given with the passing of the years. I have frequently found myself surprised as new light is shed on a subject I thought I knew reasonably well. For the first time, for instance, we learn that Basil D’Oliveira was the selectors’ third-choice replacement for the injured Tom Cartwright in 1968; he was definitely not rushed into the squad for that ill-fated tour as the South African government believed.

I am delighted that this book has offered me the chance to explore, and now share, some of the most joyful, illuminating and elegant writing ever produced about cricket – without doubt the best sport in the world.

Jonathan Agnew, March 2013

THE GREAT CONTROVERSIES (#ulink_1e931570-2f9d-564b-b9fc-8821a069bbcf)

‘I have sacrificed cricket’s most coveted job for a cause which I believe could be in the interests of cricket the world over.’

Tony Greig on his transition to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket

Tearful Batsman (after defying Umpire’s ruling). ‘All right, I’ll go! But it ain’t cricket. They wouldn’t do that at Lord’s.’

Chapter 1

‘I don’t want to see you, Mr Warner. There are two teams out there; one is trying to play cricket and the other is not.’

Australian captain Bill Woodfull’s disdainful response to the England manager’s suppliant knock on the Australian’s dressing room door during the 1933 Adelaide Test.

Given that cricket is supposed to stand for everything that is decent and upstanding in the world, it is remarkable how often down the years that the ‘sport of gentlemen’ has found itself embroiled in bitter controversies and rancour. It is also surprising how these disagreements quickly escalate far beyond the field of play – even in some cases leading to governmental involvement. Surprising, that is, until you consider the framework of international cricket, and how the sport was taken from the United Kingdom to the far-flung corners of the globe in the first place.

For that, we need to travel back to the time to what was supposedly the glorious age of the British Empire. Glorious for Britain, certainly, but not quite so much fun for those who suddenly found themselves conquered (‘discovered’ in some cases) and ruthlessly exploited as the developing European countries set about expanding their global trade.

Britain was not alone. The Dutch were particularly keen rivals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and evidence of their overseas occupations can be found on the cricket fields of Sri Lanka and South Africa today. Sri Lanka’s Burgher people are a Eurasian ethnic group formed by the union of predominantly Dutch settlers and local Sinhalese women. Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka vice-captain, is a member of the Burgher community. So too are Graeme Labrooy and the towering Michael Vandort, scorer of two laboured centuries against England in 2006 and 2007, who at six foot five must be the tallest-ever Sri Lankan Test cricketer. Meanwhile, descendants of the first Dutch colonists are regular members of the South Africa cricket team, and there is dedicated television and radio commentary broadcast throughout the Republic in Afrikaans, the guttural language that evolved from Dutch into a daughter language. Ewie Cronje, father of South Africa’s disgraced former captain Hansie Cronje, whose Huguenot ancestors took part in the Great Trek away from British rule in the 1830s, is one such specialist commentator.

The French and the Portuguese were also busily establishing overseas trading posts but following the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815 Britain enjoyed a century of almost unchallenged dominance, to the point that by 1922 almost a quarter of the globe and a fifth of the world’s population was ruled by the United Kingdom. (It is worth bearing in mind that this did not include the United States of America, which had successfully fought for its independence by 1783.) Wherever Britain ruled, cricket was played, and all the Test-playing nations – Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe – were former colonies within the British Empire. All but Zimbabwe are still associated with the UK through membership of the Commonwealth.

Bloody conflicts were usually Britain’s answer to putting down local insurgency, and these have left deep scars in the history of the Empire. Britain was responsible for much of the slave trade that transported Africans in the most ghastly conditions imaginable to the Caribbean to work on the sugar plantations. While African slaves worked in the fields cutting corn, Asians were shipped in from the Indian subcontinent to become the white-collar workers of the time. The resulting division between the two racial groups is responsible for serious antagonism in countries such as Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago today.

A drive along the potholed roads of Antigua to the little town of Liberta, which lies to the south of the island, is a reminder of those early days, for this is the settlement that was established by the first freed slaves in 1835. Meanwhile, on Barbados, on the main highway from the airport you will encounter the Emancipation Statue, which dramatically portrays a muscle-bound Afro-Caribbean slave stripped to the waist and staring skywards with a broken chain dangling from each wrist. The locals call him Bussa, after a legendary figure in the island’s history who helped inspire a revolt against slavery in 1816. Lining the highway is a succession of roundabouts dedicated to notable politicians and great Barbadian cricketers like Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Everton Weekes and the first black captain of West Indies, Sir Frank Worrell. I wonder if the planners ever intended that this series of roundabouts on such a friendly island should illustrate just how closely the Caribbean’s unhappy history is associated with cricket. Little surprise, then, that some opponents of the mighty West Indies sides in the 1970s and 80s believed that seeking revenge for the past lay behind the hostility of the most feared battery of fast bowlers there has ever been – that it was racially motivated, in other words. The West Indian players of the time deny this absolutely, pointing out that they were as driven and aggressive when they played against India and Pakistan, for example, as they were against England or Australia. Geoffrey Boycott, who stood in their way many times as an opening batsman, states categorically that he never heard a racist comment, or felt racially intimidated. Nevertheless, I am sure they gained a lot of motivation from their identity and great pride from being the first predominantly Afro-Caribbean team to sit on top of the world, relishing the new-found respect that came with it.

When the British claimed South Africa from the Dutch in 1806, they discovered a colony that was already established strictly along racial lines. The abolition of slavery in 1834 proved to be the final straw for the Boer settlers, who, in their frustration at British rule, began their migration inland from the Cape on what became known as the Great Trek. They established Afrikaner strongholds, which developed into Boer republics in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, thus setting out the background for the two Boer Wars against the British in the late nineteenth century. During the second (1899–1902) an estimated twenty-eight thousand Boers – many of them women and children – died in appalling conditions in concentration camps set up by the British, whose victory established the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire. In 1931 it gained its independence from Britain.

With racial segregation already implemented to some degree under colonial rule, independence enabled stricter laws to be imposed by the National Party, culminating in the establishment of apartheid in 1948 and the classification of people into four racial groups (‘native’, ‘white’, ‘coloured’ and ‘Asian’). Every part of everyday life was affected by apartheid, including cricket. The whites had their own cricket board, the South African Cricket Association (SACA), and only white players could represent South Africa. Non-whites were welcome to watch, but had to do so in segregated parts of the cricket grounds. Despite South Africa’s opposition in those days being exclusively from England, Australia and New Zealand (i.e. white), the non-white spectators usually vented their feelings by supporting the visitors. The D’Oliveira affair of 1968 (discussed at length later in this chapter) highlighted the true horror of apartheid to the world. The sporting isolation of South Africa contributed strongly to the dismantling of that abhorrent political system, and cricket played a leading role.

Over the border, in what is now Zimbabwe, the British formed the colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1895. This became simply Rhodesia when the then Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence from Britain in 1965. The Republic of Rhodesia was proclaimed in 1970 but was recognized only by its neighbour South Africa until full independence from Britain was gained after years of civil war, known as the Bush War, and Zimbabwe was formed in 1980. Zimbabwe appeared in the 1983 Cricket World Cup, famously beating Australia by 13 runs at Trent Bridge, and played its first Test match in 1992.

The Indian subcontinent was inextricably linked with the British Empire for centuries. Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, was ruled by the British from 1815, when once again they ousted the Dutch, and then imported up to a million Tamils from southern India to work in the tea and coffee plantations for which Sri Lanka is famous. The local Buddhist and Sinhalese population believed that their British rulers showed favouritism towards the Tamil immigrants, creating a schism between the communities. Caused directly by colonialism, this produced a long-running conflict and a civil war lasting twenty-five years that has cost an estimated hundred thousand lives and led to accusations of human-rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were apparently wiped out in 2009.

If anyone still harbours any doubts about the domination of the British Empire, then India, which had to be split into three countries, provides the most obvious and richest legacy. Pakistan and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) are the direct results of colonialism, having been formed by the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics. The plan approved by the British government in 1947 drew lines and frontiers where none previously existed to establish the Islamic state of Pakistan in order to enable the Hindus to live separately from the minority Muslims, and vice versa, if they chose to do so. Pakistan was divided into two, East and West, with the small matter of a thousand miles of Indian mainland between them. Estimates vary as to how many lost their lives as 14.5 million people rushed to relocate in their preferred country, but it is accepted that up to one million perished. Tensions dramatically escalated between the two religions, which had never been so obviously separated before, and such was the hostility and mistrust that relations between India and Pakistan have been plagued ever since. Ownership of Kashmir remains hotly disputed by India and Pakistan, but Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan after the brutal Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This conflict produced the highest number of prisoners of war since the Second World War, and an estimated ten million refugees flooded the eastern states of India.

British interest in India began with the traders dealing primarily in tea, cotton, silk and opium who set sail in 1601 to form the East India Company. The Dutch and Portuguese had already established trading posts in Eastern India and hostilities between the three were commonplace, but as Britain gained supremacy against the Europeans – including the French, who were late arrivals in that part of the world – relations with the suppressed locals were often fractious. The best known of the early uprisings occurred in June 1756 when the Nawab of Bengal attacked and took the British fort in Calcutta. Those British who were captured by the Nawab’s forces were placed in a dungeon measuring 14 ft by 18 ft, which became known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. In the stifling summer heat, it is claimed 123 of the 146 prisoners died as a result of suffocation, crushing or heat stroke. Major-General Robert Clive attacked the Nawab’s camp in February 1757 and the victory that followed resulted in the Nawab surrendering control of Calcutta back to the British. The Battle of Plassey followed in June and produced another victory for Clive over the Nawab, whose troops had failed to protect their gunpowder against the rain and were powerless to fight back. This established British military supremacy in Bengal and finally over Northern India as well, and Clive, by now known as Clive of India, returned to London as a legendary figure – and a very wealthy one too.

One hundred years later there was a mutiny among the sepoys – the Indian members of the British East India Company’s army – that quickly spread to most of Northern India, and became known as the Indian Rebellion. The British held out under siege for six months in the city of Lucknow, where more than three thousand men, women and children gathered in the Regency Compound; only one thousand survived. Fifty miles down the road, hundreds more lost their lives in the Siege of Cawnpore (now Kanpur) and the subsequent Bibighar Massacre after an offer of safe passage was reneged upon. I have visited the beautifully maintained Kanpur Memorial Church (originally called All Souls Cathedral), with its many monuments and graves for the British who died there, and recall seeing many headstones bearing the inscription ‘murdered by mutineers’.

The uprising, which has also been described as India’s First War of Independence, was finally put down in Gwalior the following year, but the rebellion led directly to the dissolution of the East India Company. Back home in London, it was decided that British rule of India had to become much more strictly administered and controlled. The army was reorganized, and the financial system restructured. In 1858, British Crown rule – the British Raj – was established and would last until 1947.
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