Hampshire Cricket History

Very Little Chance
August 31, 2015, 10:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bob Elliott has posted a Comment alerting me to a long article in today’s Daily Telegraph by Scyld Berry which identifies how difficult it is for inner city kids to make the grade in English first-class cricket. As Bob notes, I have mentioned this before, indeed it is a pet theme of mine.

This is to a large extent because I’m wholly an inner city bloke, always was, still am, probably always will be. I did have five years teaching in suburban Portchester but otherwise employed always in Portsmouth or London, post-school studies in Portsmouth and Southampton and as a musician I’ve worked in pretty well every large English city. I think I may be the only person with a formal involvement in the running of any aspect of Hampshire Cricket who lives in a city. It leaves me very conscious of the failure to engage most inner-city kids in cricket.

There are kids from Portsmouth who play cricket but if you hear about them at the Academy/2nd XI they are almost certainly from Portsmouth Grammar School. Since I went there myself (albeit pre-Independent status) I’ve no problem with that, I’d just like all the other kids to get that chance. I’ve noted before that the last state school educated boy from Portsmouth to ‘make it’ with Hampshire was Neil McCorkell, although Gosport/Fareham produced Wassell, Jesty and Kenway. If you look at the final Southern League tables today you’ll see in 2016 once again not a team from Portsmouth or Southampton will be in the top division.

My concern is not just that it’s such a waste of cricketing talent but that these kids aren’t even growing to love and support the game. I was in a crowd of 100,000 on Southsea Common over the weekend with loads of kids and teenagers but I doubt whether any of them were doing what I was – checking the T20 scores.

As the Daily Telegraph headline proclaims cricket is “a game now in danger of shrinking into a middle class niche”. Blimey! If even the Daily Telegraph sees this as an issue of ‘class” it must be serious – and it is. The statistics Berry reveals are very sad and the only surprise to me is that he identifies “too many cold spots, notably cities in the Midlands and north of England” adding that not one Test cricketer has been born in Wolverhampton. But Woverhampton isn’t even in a first-class county. Not one Test cricketer has been born in Portsmouth either, and while Chris Tremlett was ‘born’ in Southampton, that’s because the hospital was there. Chris grew up in Chandlers Ford and had a certain advantage through family connections when it came to an interest in cricket. Otherwise AJL Hill (born in Bassett in 1871) and Shaun Udal in the north of the county is the sum total from Hampshire with a couple of ‘outsiders’ (Palmer, Roope and an Aussie from the New Forest) and that’s your lot.

But there aren’t even city kids on the county staff anymore. We have a good system of developing young cricketers but where do they come from? Crane – public school in Sussex, McManus & Barber – Dorset, Vince & Dawson – Wiltshire, Griffiths & Briggs – the IOW …

There is one initiative that has the potential to change all this, at least to some extent and that’s Cage Cricket which was designed in Portsmouth quite deliberately for inner city kids with no access to grass, white clothes etc. To date, the ECB has shown a marked reluctance to support it, showing a preference for Chance to Shine. But why does there need to be a competition if there are two schemes both designed to engage more kids in cricket? Maybe the ECB rather likes the idea of cricket as a “middle class niche”. If so, I’m intrigued to read that Jeremy Corbyn is said to like cricket.

3 Comments so far
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Thought-provoking article by Scyld Berry but unlikely to arouse any concern amongst the cricket authorities. For me it comes down to the state schools where there is very little cricket activity generally with very few games teachers having the interest, funding, equipment (e.g. wickets, nets) or the ability to organise and coach the game. The same probably goes for tennis. Its only in the independent schools that such sports can be provided where they can afford to make a commitment to offer a broad spectrum of sport.

Comment by Peter Jeffs

Portsmouth has had some near misses.

Comment by Paul

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