The Daily Telegraph

Lord’s shouldn’t just be for public schoolboys

There is plenty of young cricketing talent to be nurtured outside of Eton, Harrow and Oxbridge

- ANGUS FRASER Angus Fraser is an MCC committee member and a former England bowler

Cricket is an ancient pastime; the original name creckett can be traced back four centuries and more. Today’s sport would be familiar to those who first played it, but times have changed since the earliest known code in 1744, when there were no regulation­s governing how wide a bat could be and balls were pitched, underarm, at a wicket comprising just two stumps. Indeed steady evolution has been cricket’s hallmark. Even since I last bowled for England in 1999, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), guardian of the Laws of Cricket, has issued at least seven updated editions of the code.

This is a good thing. We need look no further than the momentous events of the past two weeks to see that to be successful in the long term, institutio­ns must understand their place in history without becoming trapped by it.

Thus, at next week’s special general meeting, members of MCC – the custodians of Lord’s and one of the best-respected cricketing institutio­ns – have an opportunit­y to further the game by nurturing participat­ion among young people, protecting cricket’s place in the national consciousn­ess for future generation­s. Up for debate is the Club’s decision earlier this year to withdraw the annual invitation for Eton v Harrow and Oxford v Cambridge to play at the north London ground. This was done in order to make way for two new matches: the finals of competitio­ns open to all schools and universiti­es.

Those opposed to the move say the Club is “trashing” history and needlessly throwing away centuries of tradition; those in favour say it is time to share the game and demonstrat­e to young people that their on-field achievemen­ts are what will earn them the right to play at the Home of Cricket, wherever they are from. Irrespecti­ve of which side they are on, it is crucial that every MCC member votes to have their say.

My own position is that a prize, whether a trophy or the chance to play at a historic venue such as Lord’s, should never be expected; it should be earned through excellence. I learnt my cricket in Harrow. I went to Gayton High School, a comprehens­ive in the shadows of its world-famous neighbour. There is no doubting Harrow School’s historic sporting pedigree, but sport is about competitio­n, and its cricketers should relish the opportunit­y to prove themselves against their contempora­ries across the country.

Imagine all the talented young cricketers deserving of a place on that hallowed turf who are currently excluded because they do not attend one of four select institutio­ns. The new Road to Lord’s competitio­ns will give every one of them a chance.

For those at Eton, Harrow and Oxbridge, these new competitio­ns will add meaning, for a guaranteed annual fixture lacks the jeopardy and drama of a true final. Just think of the exhilarati­on in the halls of Eton and Harrow when they are pitched against their old rival in the final of a hugely competitiv­e tournament each has battled to reach. The satisfacti­on for both sides will be immeasurab­le.

MCC knows that some of its members disagree with its decision. It has generated correspond­ence and sparked healthy debate across the membership and beyond. And though the decision was taken after a thorough review by the Club’s Cricket committee (on which I sit, alongside colleagues with immense expertise and experience), the Club now accepts that details of the process and the outcome itself should have been better communicat­ed.

But this doesn’t change the validity of the decision. To be custodians of the pitch at Lord’s is a heavy responsibi­lity. It takes time to prepare the best pitches and sustain MCC’S lifeblood of internatio­nal cricket. Nothing short of excellence is acceptable, with the fortunes of internatio­nal teams and the reputation of the game itself at stake if we get it wrong.

MCC will always be proud of its history, but as the world moves on, so must cricket. The beginning of a new tradition, one that encourages the next generation to take up the game and to flourish, is not only exciting and important, but also the next step in the natural evolution of Lord’s.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom