English cricket: origins of the present crisis, a matter of race & class?

Keith Flett writes, that the Ashes result may have been disappointing but scratch beneath the surface and you will find a lot more wrong with English cricket.


A slightly edited version of a blog post from Kmflett’s blog

The capitulation of the England cricket team in the current Ashes series has made for depressing watching and listening. Fortunately these days there is lots of other cricket in various formats, men and women, that can be engaged with instead.

I’m far from a gung ho England cricket supporter. What I enjoy is the ebb and flow of a competitive cricket match – best seen at a Test match, though shorter form games can sometimes also provide it.

The Ashes has not been even slightly competitive. England’s bowlers have had some decent moments. The same can’t really be said about the batting. I don’t think the players can be blamed. I’m sure they try hard in what are currently difficult and less than ideal circumstances. Whether all the players are of a Test standard is another matter.

As several others who write far better on cricket than I’ll ever do – Duncan Stone and Jonathan Liew for example – have argued the problems in English cricket go far deeper and goes back far further than the current Ashes debacle.

It’s a matter of race and class and the connections between them. Let’s consider two points. Firstly that a substantial majority of the England Test team have been educated at public schools. A lot more gentlemen than players then. In a sense, this is not surprising. Many State schools don’t give that much time or resources to cricket, whose season comes toward the end of the school year and for older pupils in the exam period too. As it happens I did play for the (State) school cricket team back in the day, but I was of course useless.

Even so, this public school background means the Test team is drawn from a very narrow layer of potential and misses out not just many working-class youths from all communities interested in cricket but also specifically large numbers from the Asian and Caribbean communities who do actually play cricket competitively.

That is where the race element of the race and class question comes in. The reality is that the ruling body of English cricket the ECB was complacent about racism at Yorkshire cricket club and indeed institutional discrimination across the game. Occasional fine words and policies were produced but nothing was done.

The Yorkshire scandal eventually made national headlines earlier this year. One suspects that even if there were paths to get more involved in England cricket to representative level many from ethnic minority backgrounds might very reasonably wonder what they would be letting themselves in for.

Analysing the problems is one thing working out the key point- what is to be done- is rather different. You’d hope that the England captain, coaches and those in charge at the ECB would step down. Given the current public culture in the UK, I’d be slightly surprised if they do although no doubt a scapegoat or two will be found, while meanwhile nothing changes.

Expecting change from the top is unlikely to work. It will require a campaign and pressure from below. Normally I’d look to the relevant union – in this case, the PCA – to be central to that but the Yorkshire situation suggests it may well be compromised. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Rather I think it will need to come from supporters of cricket, commentators and writers and hopefully at least some senior ex-players.

And don’t get me started on The Hundred. Enjoyable in itself the ECB’s obsession with it has clearly started the process of undermining the County game and hence the Test team. The reality is however that until access to England cricket at representative level is widened that remains a secondary issue.

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