Review of Duncan Stone on Different Class,cricket from below

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2022 by kmflett

Duncan Stone: Different Class, cricket from below

Duncan Stone’s new book on the history of English cricket, Different Class, will not be popular with the cricket Establishment. A discussion on Test Match Special seems unlikely, and mainstream media reviews, both positive,are limited. These were in the Yorkshire Post and the Northern Echo and let’s face it Yorkshire cricket has problems that need explaining. The left press has also had good coverage.

Stone did a PhD at Huddersfield and is a keen cricketer. We are talking here about grassroots cricket not the County structures let alone England. Yet without the former the latter struggle as the recent Ashes series underlined, again.

The book looks at his early attempts to become a league cricketer in Surrey where, compared to the North of England, the cricket was organised on a relatively exclusive class focused basis. He looks at class discrimination in cricket from the bottom up and how this has to an extent, but only to an extent, changed over time. After all the majority of the current England red ball team attended public school  as did the England Under-19 squad.

Of course this point reflects the reality that facilities to learn the skills of cricket for teenagers are often only to be found at public schools now, so attendance, as for example in the case of Joe Root, was a matter of necessity, rather than privilege. The disappearance of school playing fields and the lack of cricket played in State schools, as well as the decline of company cricket facilities in recent decades underlines the point.

Stone’s conclusion argues that the ECB which runs English and Welsh cricket cannot be reformed. It has to be replaced and a body with different assumptions about cricket brought into being. Here Stone sees the dominant, conservative, history of cricket as a key issue. The assumption cricket is about fair play and gentlemanly conduct reflects a game with origins in the ruling class. Cricket’s future lies with the grassroots, where it is played between equals and which school someone went to or club they belong to is not a relevant issue.

Stone then rightly overlays this with the rise of cricket competitions and leagues played by ethnic minority cricketers. These are separate to the existing leagues again no doubt with discrimination being a key issue. Official efforts to integrate and promote players into the upper professional structures of English cricket, for example Chance to Shine, have perhaps been well intentioned but had relatively little impact. The recent revelations about Yorkshire cricket underline the point and one of the key reasons for it: racism.

Work in very slow progress at best, not that you’d know it from much media coverage. I think Jonathan Agnew is a superb cricketer broadcaster. However when he pitched up on Monday 11th July for Yorkshire v Surrey at Scarborough the occasion was an invitation lunch with Michael Parkison and Geoffrey Boycott. Boycott one senses is being rehabilitated again. Fun though this may be in some ways. Enough !!

Stone’s book is an important historical intervention into an sporting debate that is touching on some of the key issues facing British society. In the summer of a Tory leadership contest ,essential reading

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