Michael Jeh June 27, 2008

An apologist for the MCC

For those ignorant critics of the MCC who don’t really understand what it stands for, take a leaf from KP and reverse your stance!

As an MCC member, I was quite indignant when I heard some cricket fans, cheering sarcastically at the great club’s response to the Kevin Pietersen switch-hit incident. Apparently they were surprised that the MCC could possibly have made a decision that was eminently sensible, reflecting a commonsense view of Pietersen’s outrageous talent.

To the ignorant, it seems a populist view that the MCC is made up of ancient people who are completely out of touch with the realities of the modern game. And ignorant they are. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I can’t speak for generations past but I’ve only ever experienced a club that views its role in the game with a mixture of irreverence, humour and a total devotion to the true spirit of the game. The Pietersen ruling was exactly what I expected – a commonsense decision that acknowledged KP’s genius and the fair contest between bat and ball. What’s so surprising about that?

And before you write me off as an apologist for the aristocrat Brit, perish the thought. A Sri Lankan-born Australian from suburban Brisbane is hardly the epitome of the posh Etonian with a double barrelled surname and a country estate in rural Hertfordshire. From my experience, the MCC is made up of a host of people who share one thing in common – a genuine love for the game and a real desire to see it embraced in far-flung corners of the globe.

Sounds far fetched? Sound elitist? Not on a little island called Lakemba in Fiji where a thousand rowing boats descended on a tiny village green to watch the MCC take on the Fijian national team. This was my first overseas tour with the club and it opened my eyes to how far the club would go, at its own expense, to promote the game. Test cricketers discussing the finer points of reverse swing with a burly Fijian fast bowler whose occupation (surely he was pulling our leg?) was apparently a bat hunter, the flying fox variety. The only ‘elitists’ were the giant mosquitoes which completely ignored the locals and feasted solely on the MCC. And feast they did!

Playing for the MCC seems to have a liberating effect on cricketers, even the world’s best players. I played in many games where seasoned international players shared a dressing room with rank no-hopers like myself and never felt the need to act like primadonna’s. In fact, it almost appeared as if playing for the MCC allowed these players to regress to a time when they played cricket for the pure enjoyment of it. You’d go a long way to meet a nicer man than Andy Flower and he never once gave the impression that he was too good for a game against a school First XI on a windswept British hillside on a chilly April afternoon. He was not an exception.

England is full of teams like the Free Foresters, The Arabs, John Paul Getty’s XI and the MCC and it’s easy to be sarcastic without understanding their genuine love for cricket. As an outsider who was always made welcome in this environment, I never witnessed the sort of arrogance that I see in club cricket every weekend. Even players who are prone to such tendencies seem too embarrassed to carry on like pork chops (Australian vernacular for ‘idiots’) when turning out for the MCC. Winning or losing is almost an afterthought.

Of course the MCC was going to endorse Pietersen’s brilliance. It was a moment that was great for cricket. Why wouldn’t they embrace it? For those ignorant critics of the MCC who don’t really understand what it stands for, take a leaf from KP and reverse your stance!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane