Wednesday, June 8, 2016

THE SPIRIT OF CRICKET ?


getty images.

Baron Cowdry of Tunbridge.

To a callow youth of the mid 20th century he was a true icon. Shown above wearing the "MCC" pullover, Colin Cowdry was at the very top of cricketers of his generation.

England only played "tests", touring English teams went under the team name of The Marylebone Cricket Club for whom one was invited to play and then from that touring party an "eleven would be selected for test matches.

Possibly one of the most able and elegant batsmen of his era, particularly when cover driving, he was a thorn in every opposition teams side. He scored hundreds against every nation of his era.
In reference to his elegance in the cover drive, his son Chris Cowdry was once asked why he did not drive with similar grace only to reply the "I would if I could".

Why this mission of memory, well one of the enduring honours this man  who passed a decade and a half ago, holds is in having his name associated with an annual speech to the MCC titled "The Spirit of Cricket", when an invited luminary of the cricket world is invited to give the address.
2016 saw Brendan  McCallum asked to speak following his retirement from all international cricket, and did he do New Zealand proud.

Just as in his approach to the game he clearly loved, respected and performed at the highest level, he delivered.
A scathing and carefully crafted discourse on the ICC's pathetic handling of corruption and with no resiling from his evidence in the Southwark Crown Court against his one time boyhood hero Christopher Cairns, a predecessor as a hero to New Zealanders, players, fans, writers, and punters.
Cairns who was found not guilty of the charges remains a troubled memory in many minds, but another NZ international, Lou Vincent is now a much tarnished figure under a total ban from all venues and forms of the 'Game' now run out of the Middle East with India holding the Aces. Sheesh "Louie The Fly" it is suggested cannot even enter a ground to watch his child play the game.
The ICC has many of the doubtful mantles that continue to cloud the images of FIFA, The Olympics governance and almost every international sport at times.
Once purely tribal, nationalistic and oh so personal to many followers of such heroic encounter, sport today dwells in a nether world between endeavour and betting, with liberal doses of a smothering 'dressing' in the form of substance abuse with a side salad of corruption.

Every result that varies from an expected result, whether by a bundle or one point is immediately suspect and that is so bloody sad.

Of course there were attempts to overcome another team by what some might regard as "unsportsmanlike" tactics but only within rules pertaining concurrently.
In the southern hemisphere, summertime 1932/33 The MCC toured their by now fierce rivals, Australia, where "The Ashes" were again at stake. Douglas Jardine and a team from the old country embarked on an attempt to defeat Australia, a team that contained a formidable bunch of batsmen with either consummate skills or just a bloody minded fearless desire to score more runs that could be overtaken. At the forefront for the home side was a man from the South Australian "Bush" one Donald Bradman.
With Harold Larwood and Bill Voce bowling  a barrage of short pitched deliveries at leg stump  coupled with a packed field behind square behind the batsman it was only a matter of time before damage ensued for the tourists. Either a hit on the batsman who had little or no protection from padding, arm guards,  helmets, and gloves were at best rudimentary, or a mishit with up to more than a dozen eager hands waiting to make a catch.  Jardine simultaneously earned success and opprobrium.
Now with incidents in the form of Trevor Chappell's bowling underarm to deny Brian McKechnie  an extremely unlikely six to draw off the last ball of a match and some rather OTT sledging incidents, the wearers of The Baggy Green are often regarded as somewhat outside the Spirit of Cricket, to his eternal credit though, Jardine's opposite Bill Woodfull declined to adopt the potentially lethal "bodyline" tactics.
After suffering a rather serious strike from Gubby Allen, the sole English bowler who refused to comply in Jardine.s controversial tactics, with a conventional delivery, the England manager, Pelham Warner went to the Aussie dressing room to comfort Woodfull only to be told Bill had no wish to speak with the England Manager as in his opinion only one team had been playing Cricket out on the Oval.

So although Cricket at any level is a game filled to over flowing with options for fierce combat in many guises yet still unique in its simplicity and complexity combined in a potential for true sportsmanship as embodied in Colin Cowdry and his memorial annual speech opportunity, there is much to be done yet, by players, administrators and the media to make such a great game Great again.
As "Bazza" suggested that could start at the very top, the ICC but with the massive money at stake I can't see it happening any time soon, and that remains a very sad indictment, more is the pity.

4 comments:

pdm said...

Colin Cowdrey was a big man but he was a superb slip fielder. An icon of the game.

Nookin said...

pdm

In one of his last tours of Oz, Cowdrey was in the slips and the batsman snicked the ball. Cowdrey spun round, lifted his hand to shield his eyes and watched, as did his team-mates, as the ball, theoretically, shot to the boundary. The ball was in fact in his pocket by the time he had turned.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Wonderful vignette, Nookin.

Did the umpire signal four?

Nookin said...

Neil Dibbs, commenting following Cowdrey's death, saw the same incident

"Neil Dibbs ( Australia )
MCC v Queensland at the Gabba, way back some time in the early 70s. Colin Cowdrey was fielding at first slip. He caught a quick nick with soft and fast hands, stuffed the ball into his pocket in a flash, and turned around and looked to the boundary as if he had missed the ball completely. The batsman, who didn't see the catch, was totally mystified and refused to leave the crease until Cowdrey politely produced the ball from his pocket. One of the funniest incidents I've ever seen on a cricket field."
Apparently this was a party trick that he pulled out of the box on a number of occasions. One story has it that in England, he took the catch as he turned, pocketed the ball and then set off to the boundary running after it.