Hampshire Cricket History

September 30, 2015, 3:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last year I invited you to write about your early experiences, thoughts about, hopes for cricket. I still have them all and some others. I published the first part in the Handbook this year and I have a hope to use them more.

I mentioned this new book I’m working on, which is about Changes to Cricket in my lifetime

Without necessarily doing lots of research/reflection I’d like to invite everyone who reads the Blog to tell me in particular the single most significant change in cricket since you first watched/[played/got involved – whatever. It would help if you identified your starting date (mine is 1959 so mine has to be since then)

I won’t tell you my nomination yet but I will eventually, I’d like to know your nomination

It doesn’t have to a good thing necessarily – it may be a bit of both – just the most significant. And it might be to do with schools, or clubs, or counties or Test Matches, on-field, off-field etc.

I’m asking for the one – but you can add others if you wish

I’ll leave this post in prime position for a day or two. All contributions gratefully received


29 Comments so far
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There are several aspects of the game itself that have taken on new dimensions particularly with the astonishing growth in the ‘white ball game’ but for me the single most significant change has been the fielding which has become an art form on the same level as batting and bowling. The athleticism in the stops, the throwing and the catching have added a spectacle to the game that was simply not around when I started watching in the late 1950’s. In those days I can recall some mention of Alan Rayment being a good cover point, Peter Sainsbury smart at backward short leg but that was as far as it went.

Comment by Peter Jeffs

Cheers Peter

Comment by pompeypop

Kerry Packer.

I was going to go for “Vulgarity” as a negative, “Internationalisation” as a positive. To some extent both flowed from Packer.

Very difficult to narrow it down though, and fielding is a good one!

Comment by Jeremy

1952 (probably) 1953 (definitely) Unlike football (where the ball is the most significant change) I would say the bat, but the throwing has to be up there too. My first visit to the U.S.A. was to New York in 1972, and I was taken to see the Yankees. The throwing in Baseball was sensational, and cricket is catching up . . .

Comment by Bob Elliott

Started watching in the late 1960s.

Crowd encouragement and participation particularly in the variants of the one day game; a reflection of many things, but taken overall a positive.

Four day county matches……oh dear.

Comment by StephenFH

. . . and crash-helmets!

Comment by Bob Elliott

These are great – many thanks. Don’t be shy, keep them coming.

Comment by pompeypop

Ist September 1958 v Derbyshire at Dean Park. RWC Pitman got his highest score – 77 – for Hampshire that day.

Where to start? Then only 3-day cricket on uncovered pitches without overseas mercenaries. Now 4-day (in 2 divisions) + various one day formats, on covered pitches with it seems different overseas ‘stars’ every month and in every format. 20/20 leaves me cold; 40/50 overs I will watch; but the cream is the County Championship. I enjoy the 4-day as much I use to enjoy the 3-day.

I agree about the fielding. Every side would have a few donkeys. Now the overall standard is much higher. But you have asked for one, and I think the cricket we watch is most dependent on the pitches. So the change from uncovered to covered pitches is the most significant. This I think has led directly to heavier bats, faster scoring rates and fewer good slow bowlers. I haven’t checked but presumably we have lost less time to bad weather though?

The other thing that bugs me a lot nowadays is the way mainly overseas ‘stars’ move around. Where is their loyalty? I got quite annoyed when I read that Nottinghamshire had signed Imran Tahir for the last few county games. I was pleased when he got injured and was not able to play for them in their last match against us.

I think I had better stop…

Comment by Ian Laidlaw

1988 watching on TV but didn,t start attending games other than on the village green until 1995. 2 Divisions has to be significant. 20 years ago we wouldn’t have had the excitement/nervousness of last week if it wasn’t for promotion and relegation. More at stake each year even if it’s to aim to avoid relegation as in the past we would have bumbled around lower mid table.

Downsides are of course the widening gap in standards between the two and of course the controversy in 1999 when they were sorting the teams out for the two divisions.

Comment by Ian

I watched my first match in 1963 which coincidently was the first season of one day cricket. So I have grown up with one day matches and still enjoy them. However, I don’t enjoy the shorter T20 form. There have been many changes in my life. Overseas players, covered pitches, player fitness, fielding, T20, central contracts and over rates. The last 2 are what annoys me most. We hardly ever see top English players in the County Championship which is a shame. In 1989 Robin Smith played in 5 Ashes test matches and 3 ODI’s but still managed 12 first class and 16 List A matches for Hampshire. How tired must he have been! Over rates, well don’t go there.

Comment by Tigger

1937: spectator, Middlesex v Surrey at Lord’s. Really enjoyed playing and watching club and county cricket until pyjamas and the 2020 circus arrived and ate into the soul of the sport. Although I accept that ‘change is a constant in life’ the corporatization of cricket has undermined the fundamental ethics and sanitized the romance of the game I fell in love with at Lord’s in ’37. Conclusion: disenchantment.

Comment by Alan Punchy Rayment

Sorry, I should have said, 1968. That’s first game attended. First memory, recently revived, was of seeing Close catch Sobers first ball. On TV of course.

Perhaps a spin on this, if all history is really just biography, is which people had most influence/impact… I’m working on a list, first name D’Oliveira (perhaps should be Arlott?!). Lillee & Thomson. Packer. Dalmiya. And so on…

Comment by Jeremy

Started watching Hants in late 1950s when all schools included the opportunity to play cricket and it was our summer national sport. Now very few schools feature it so unfortunately this must be the most significant change to the game in the UK.

Comment by Ian White

!965 as a child taken by Dad.

A real frustration of mine is the emergence of stadiums instead of grounds and the decline of the county ground bringing county cricket around the county (and into Dorset). I loved deckchair cricket, the picturesque/relaxing nature of it, kids playing on the outfield, ice-cream van, updated scorecards, players walking around the ground with a friendly smile and ready for autograph books, groups of old members reminiscing and telling fascinating stories (I suppose that’s us now !!) etc.

My single biggest event I suppose would be the removal of live test cricket from free to air TV. It is the standard bearer of our wonderful sport and so many people grew up with it and it engendered their interest from an early age. I remember me and my mates running back from school to watch it on BBC2 and talking about it the next day in lessons (and then in detention!!!). I understand the economics of it but………………….

This has been brought home to me more recently by Champions League in Football moving to BT. I’ve always had Sky but adding BT as well was a step too far. I’ve been amazed at how little interest I have in it now I can’t watch it !!!

Comment by Richard Griffiths

I started watching / following in the early or mid 1970s.

I was wondering if someone else would mention the loss of free-to-air TV, not just for Tests but for the modern equivalents of JPL, Gillette cup etc. Most people cannot attend many matches in person, but in those days every household could get a good ration of cricket on TV.

My next point would be the relative dearth of Test stars to entertain the county crowds. Not just England players, but the likes of Greenidge, Viv Richards, Holding, Zaheer, Clive Lloyd, Hadlee etc. Every county had at least one internationally acclaimed star, as the county scene was the only stage on which they could perform in the northern hemisphere summer.

Comment by Hedgehog

You’re right to mention JPL of course. It was part of our routine at home on a Sunday and another element in my growing addition to the game. We watched it most Sundays with Sunday Tea watching Anne of Green Gables/Black Beauty during the tea interval at the cricket! It familiarised us with the stars of the county cricket scene and made us want to go and watch them live. In my case I lived in Southport and was desperate to be taken to see Clive Lloyd, Farouk Engineer et al at Old Trafford. (To echo your other point!)

Comment by Richard Griffiths

It has to be Kerry Packer because all the players are now Kerry packered

Comment by Mike Peaker

Brilliant! These are all fabulous. When I asked the question I was as sure as I could be, that having started watching and playing (organised) cricket in 1959. the answer was simple – limited overs, single innings cricket (initially 65 overs per side, now 50:50, 40:40, 20:20 etc). I still have a school scorebook from 1962/3 and even we (12/13 years old) were playing timed, declaration stuff with the draw legitimate. I doubt whether kids ever play that now, so it’s not just about watching the first-class game, although the impact of that was slight until 1969 and the Sunday League. But you guys have given me much more to think about, for which many thanks. And there’s still room for more. Cheers!

Comment by pompeypop

Cricket being dropped by State schools.

On names, mostly self explanatory:

Sir Richard
Majid Zaheer Javed Imran Wasim Waqar
Sunil Kapil
Illy Greig Both
Border, SWaugh, mental disintegration,
Chris Adams (first £100k+ nonTest County players post Sky£)
Subhash Chandra (Zee TV, guy who forced BCCI’s hand re IPL)
Lalit Modi

And Rothmans, for the International Cavaliers.

Comment by Jeremy

First involvement was playing at a state primary school in 1966.

When I first read the request there seemed to be so much to choose from so I decided to think about it for a while before replying.

Having done so there is only one possible answer in my opinion. The single most significant change is the introduction of T20 cricket which I believe is responsible for the declining standard of both batting and bowling (but not fielding) and is also well on the way to destroying the County Championship.

(You may guess I’m not a fan of T20 cricket!).

Comment by James

And given the current spell of balmy weather, eminently suitable for cricket, the ECB has missed a trick by not starting the 2016 T20 this week, which would free up a week next summer for real cricket.

Comment by Hedgehog

So balmy that Hedgehogs have delayed hibernation?

Comment by Ageas

Well again, as with your ‘earliest experiences’ exercise, my memory has been proved fallible. My earliest county cricket would have been at Leyton, sadly no longer a county ground, in the mid-sixties. I vividly remember the Notts captain, Norman Hill, getting extremely narked, and Trevor Bailey hitting fours. The latter I deemed remarkable, because of his reputation as the Barnacle, stemming from the famous Test, but that’s something which I think has demeaned the reputation of a remarkable cricketer, with tremendous career figures as an all rounder. However, those were separate incidents, as Bailey didn’t play in the Notts game.
Unlike many of your correspondents here, I have enjoyed T20 ( a bit of fun) – and applaud its effect on fielding – whilst the Championship has always been my favourite format. However, I have been lucky enough to see 65 days cricket this year, including most of our last 5 Championship games, and there’s no doubt about the way the Championship allows you to watch a huge canvas developing- the struggles and ups and downs of individual players as well as the collective heads going down or up in the course of a match, a month, a season. My other great love is the theatre, where similarly character development is the crux. And over a season you develop relations with other supporters- and over four days with opposition supporters – in a way that T20 doesn’t allow.
Watching the Championship is thus not just – or even primarily (?) – a sporting activity, but a social and cultural one.
So what’s the one change? Not the Championship being beleaguered- that’s been the case throughout my life. Perhaps one day cricket, starting with the Gillette Cup and Player’s League. But probably the changing role of the spinner from a strike bowler to a defensive and containing one, unexpectedly finding a new lease of life in the shortest form, but, as said above, hampered in the longer form by the preparation of bland pitches, in a neurotic fear of points deductions. ( Have Hampshire taken that Notts game too much to heart?)

(Btw apologies for not contributing to the debate on the future form of cricket – all that travel, plus squeezing in the odd bit of theatre, left me little time)

Comment by Ageas

Feeling a little under qualified to comment on this as I’m virtually a newbie compared to all the others. I only really started watching live cricket when Hampshire moved to The Rose Bowl (hopefully get away with calling it that as that was the name when I first became a member!). My dad did take me to a couple of games at Northlands Road but can’t remember dates so I’m going to have to say 2001.

The one thing that has made a change to my viewing is…….drainage!! I have a particularly vivid memory of taking a few days off work to watch the county championship (although can’t remember the opposition – probably because I hardly saw them!!). I spent the whole of one day sat in blistering sunshine….not a drop of rain actually fell but I didn’t see a single ball bowled nor any players warming up…….because of a wet outfield. I read a book, applied several layers of suntan lotion, ate my lunch, read some more & waited & waited & waited. To no avail……..finally the announcement came that the umpires had declared there would be no play so off home I went…….slightly pinker than when I arrived!

Not sure that would happen now with the improved drainage…..although I’m sure there are those that think this has contributed negatively to the game.

& apologies if this seems very trivial to those of you that have decades more experience than me.

Comment by Jo Summerton

Two more names, one a cheat as I didn’t see him – Colin Bland. But Clive Lloyd at cover was for me the start of the fielding revolution. And of course as Windies captain he had an enormous influence (but was just extrapolating Lillee & Thomson?).

Perhaps one of the moments cricket changed was when Andy Roberts skulled Cowdrey at Basingstoke?

Drainage has been brilliant. And Floodlights, for daytime use at least.

Two divs have dramatically improved the Champo. How fantastic it would have been to have had them when most of the world’s greatest were playing here!

Comment by Jeremy

First match attended was a family day out with parents in September 1978, when Hampshire beat Middlesex (Mike Brearley as captain) at Dean Park to win the John Player League.. A lovely afternoon and a memorable start to following Hampshire. Greenidge scored a century and Jesty took 5 wickets.

For me the rarity of one day cricket at weekends has been the major change meaning I have to take more time off work to watch any form of cricket. Although I go to championship games now on a Sunday, I prefer days 2 and 3 to day 1 and there was only one occasion when a 4 day match spanned a weekend,

T20 and 2 Divisions in the championship have also had a major impact.

Comment by Martin

I started watching in 1965, and for me the biggest change is covered pitches. The balance is too far in favour of batsmen and there is an increase in draws as a consequence

Comment by Paul

First match attended – Hampshire v Australians 1972, having watched on TV for years.

Most significant change I thing is 2 division championship. While it gives us the excitement of the last week of the season I think it stops teams blooding youngsters in the last few matches when promotion/relegation are at stake. As all 4 div 1 matches had a bearing on relegation none could afford to play youngsters.

Comment by Bob Murrell

Lots already mentioned. Two additional ones. The first is tribalism. We don’t see too many England players in county cricket but when I first started watching in 1961, England players always received a warm reception went walking to the wicket. Tony Greig was responsible for changing that scenario as he deliberately wound up crowds with his behaviour and therefore attracted the crowd’s ire and I remember him being booed at a JPL match in Southampton. Because of his courage, Robin Smith was warmly applauded everywhere. I think he was every fans’ favourite “away” player. But the treatment he was accorded was rare. England players usually walked to the wicket with little or no applause in the 80s and beyond.

Three players who polarised opinion quite starkly in my lifetime have been Greig, Boycott and Pietersen. Guess this is a change also. Understand crowds used to love life than life characters, such as Compton, beforehand.

Secondly, behaviour and good manners. Occasion s when Hampshire players take off their helmet to acknowledge the crowd’s applause are almost extinct. Normally only after they have scored a century. Otherwise they just stomp off. Interestingly, England players in the test against India in 2014 did raise their bats and remove their helmets. They set a good example but it is, sadly, rarely replicated in county cricket.
This is only one example. Bowlers’ sledging of batsmen is another.

Appreciate all this negative. Positives? The extraordinary stroke range and bowlers’ variations in T20; dramatic increase in appreciation of the art of the possible in chasing declarations.

Comment by Alan Edwards

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