Appealing gets out of control and more, 1983

Notes by the Editor

John Woodcock

In 1982, as in 1981, politics cast a shadow across the cricket fields of the world. For this and other reasons it was a disturbing year. Towards the end of 1981 two of the game's outstanding cricketers, Dennis Lillee of Australia and Javed Miandad, who was captaining Pakistan, had been involved in an ugly scuffle in a Test match in Perth; early in 1982 fourteen English cricketers were banned for three years from playing Test cricket for touring South Africa together.

To umpire in a Test match, not least in England, was to run the risk of becoming profoundly disaffected. The English season closed with most of the seventeen first-class counties in financial difficulties, and no sooner had England's series against Australia, in the winter of 1982-83, begun than shameful scenes, again in Perth, caused concern.

Although the Australian Cricket Board, under urging from Lord's, had given proper priority to the Test matches, over the one-day triangular tournament which is now a regular feature of the Australian season, they had sanctioned from their marketing agents a distasteful film aimed at promoting England's tour. This caricatured, in a gratuitously offensive and quite erroneous way, the English view of Australia's chances.

In the event it was a number of Englishmen, bearing Union Jacks and under the influence of drink, who invaded the field during the first Test match in Perth and grappled with the Australian fielders.

In England last summer, during the matches against Pakistan, there were times when Trent Bridge and Edgbaston sounded like football grounds. The same has begun to happen on Sundays at John Player League matches and at Lord's in the one-day finals.

For some years now, on high days and holidays, the Hill at Sydney and the southern stand at Melbourne have been places where no-one wanting an agreeable day at the cricket would choose to go. The unruliness which has removed so much of the pleasure from watching football is even less compatible with cricket.

If, in Perth, young expatriate Englishmen started the trouble, as they clearly did, the players themselves, particularly Lillee, have much to answer for, owing to their inflammatory gestures on the field of play. In Mr Packer's World Series Cricket these were necessary because of the absence of any authentic atmosphere. Test cricket is competitive enough without them.

When, in Perth, a blow was aimed at Alderman, the Australian bowler, by one of England's so-called supporters, and some of the Australian side retaliated by setting on him, it was another sad manifestation of the violence that is the bane of modern sport.

That said, the year under review was not without its redeeming aspects. Public interest in the game remains undiminished. If this is not reflected in attendance figures, except in India, it is undoubtedly true. As a pointer, Wisden 1982 appeared in the best-selling lists (the top ten) for fourteen successive weeks. No fewer than 20,538,533 telephone calls, a staggering total, were made to the British Telecom Recorded Cricket Service by people wanting to know the latest cricket scores.

After losing what must have been a gruesomely boring series in India, England, back home, avenged this defeat and then beat Pakistan. There was some magnificent cricket from, in turn, the game's three best all-rounders - Ian Botham of England, Kapil Dev of India and Imran Khan of Pakistan. Great, too, was one's delight at seeing Abdul Qadir, a genuine leg-break and googly bowler, being given the chance to practise, successfully, a dying art.

A New England Captain

Expressing a modern misconception, Bob Willis, the England captain, wrote: "As for the way everyone's been going into raptures over leg-spin bowling, it doesn't win Test matches." Within a few weeks of his having said this, Qadir had tied Australia's batsmen into all manner of knots, and been, without the slightest doubt, the cause of an Australian defeat. To imply that leg-spin is archaic is to disparage one of the great traditions of the game.

Except for this, and his intransigence in allowing The Oval Test match against India to peter out, Willis made a capital start to his late and unexpected accession to the England captaincy.

Pakistan provided strong opposition. They, too, were under a new captain. Blending the many talents and emotions of a Pakistan team has proved, for the years of their existence, to be one of the most difficult jobs in cricket. Himself an indomitable player, Imran led them, with more than a hint of autocracy, to their first Test victory at Lord's.

Only the mercurial ways of his batsmen, and England's determination, personified in Willis's own unstinting efforts, prevented Pakistan from winning the series as well.


Umpires in Need of Support

Imran, so handsomely athletic, has many followers. Even they, though, must have thought it a pity that he was so specifically critical of the umpiring in the Test matches between England and Pakistan. The frustration of having lost to England, whom he considered to be a weaker side than his own, led him into this; but if the public debate which he provoked persuades the game's governing bodies to be more forthright in their support of umpires, good will come of it.

Not that there can be any certainty that it will. The International Cricket Conference have an undistinguished record when it comes to taking a strong line. Once again they allowed their annual meeting to pass in 1982 without insisting that in every country a minimum number of overs should be bowled, weather permitting, in a day's play in a Test match. After a series in India, in which England, to their undying shame, took as long to bowl their overs as India, and although, by the time of the ICC meeting at Lord's, the same two sides were finding a mandatory 96 overs in a day's play comfortably manageable, reasons were still found for evading the issue.

For the way in which they put off until tomorrow what they should do today, and allow themselves to become so politically compromised, the ICC are in danger of forfeiting all credibility as a ruling authority.

That umpires find themselves at the centre of some controversy or other more often than they used to is not, I am sure, because they are any less efficient. Their job is simply more exacting than it was. Partly because of all the money that is at stake, partly for reasons of nationalism, partly because there are fewer easy Test victories than there were, partly because the ball moves about more than it did, partly because of the frenzied way in which players appeal, and by no means least because of television, the man in the white coat is now under constant pressure. Trial by television is not something to which only football referees are subjected.

Just how contagious animosity on the cricket field is, was to be seen at Hove in the last of the four-day Tests between the best young players of England and West Indies. Having given both sides a dressing-down for their behaviour, the umpires, both of them on the first-class list, said that they had no wish to stand in such a game again.


Appealing Gets Out of Control

In England last summer the Pakistanis got themselves a bad name as headstrong appealers. England's batsmen, unable to tell Qadir's googly from his leg-break, were regularly hit on the pads. From as far afield as wide mid-on or deep third man would come a piercing cry for leg-before. The fielders close to the bat would turn on the umpire as though to dare him to deny them their appeal.

Anyone watching on television would be enlightened by that merciless invention, the slow-motion replay, not once but many times over. By nightfall, millions of viewers, many of them not remotely interested in cricket, would be taking sides in a way that never used to happen.

Much needs to be done to take the heat out of this aspect of the game. As could be seen from the pictures of the incident which finally caused Imran to give vent to his feelings - the dismissal of Sikander Bakht in Pakistan's second innings at Headingley - the England players could be just as indiscriminate in their appealing as the Pakistanis.

In the weeks that followed, some suggested that only the bowler and wicket-keeper should have the right to appeal, some that there should be no appealing at all, some that instant replays should be more discreetly used, others that the umpires themselves should have access to a television monitor, or that there should be an independent panel who did, and who could be called upon for its opinion.

On a different tack, Mr A.G. Pawson, at 94 one of the oldest surviving first-class cricketers, was at a loss to know why, in the case of a leg-before decision, the bowler's umpire seems never to refer to his colleague at square-leg to determine, perhaps more precisely, the height of the bounce of the ball.

What tended to be forgotten, but never must be, was that, right or wrong, the umpire's decision is final and has always to be accepted as such. That is as paramount now as it was 100 years ago. Nor should the principle that batsmen be given the benefit of an umpire's doubt be undermined.

In the course of an English season, in first-class cricket let alone at lower levels, one does see batsmen given out when it is hard to believe that in the umpire's mind there cannot have been some element of uncertainty. This, I believe, is more common than it was. I am thinking, as an example, of catches at the wicket down the leg side, when at the bowler's end there is no visible deflection and where the sound that is heard could equally well be buckle as bat.


Pakistan a Stronger Side than India

The days are gone when Pakistan were easily beaten. So long as Qadir retains his form, the chances of their losing in Pakistan will be slender. If and when it looks like happening I am not sure the crowds there will allow it, they are so quick to riot. Despite the heroics of Kapil Dev in England last summer, India were a good deal more vulnerable than Pakistan.

To be chosen to play for England against India, ahead of one's nearest rivals, was the surest way of winning a place in the side for Australia. Allan Lamb's fortunes say it all: having averaged 50 against India, he made 6, 5, 33, 0, 0 and 4 against Pakistan.

When it came to picking the party to tour Australia, the selectors seemed altogether uncertain as to what to make of the evidence before them. In the end they left the many supporters of Trevor Jesty and Mike Gatting as irate as Frank Woolley's were when Maurice Leyland was preferred to him in 1928-29 ("the worst crime since the Crucifixion" wrote G.J.V. Weigall) or Fred Trueman's in 1954-55 when he, too, was left behind.


The Question of Eligibility

The choice of Lamb, a first-generation South African of English parentage, focused attention on the matter of eligibility for England and whether or not the rules need revising. At present a cricketer is qualified if:
(a) He was born in the British Isles.
(b) His father or mother was born in the British Isles and he himself has lived there for four consecutive years without in that time having played in a Test match for the country of his birth.
(c) He has lived in the British Isles for ten consecutive years and has not in that time played in a Test match for the country of his birth.
(d) He has lived in the British Isles since the day before his fourteenth birthday and has not played in a Test match for the country of his birth.

Among others, this brings into the net Brian Davison, the prolific Zimbabwean who has played since 1970 for Leicestershire. Were Davison English, as distinct from being qualified to play for England, he would surely be in the England side.

It might be simpler and more satisfactory if the rules were rewritten so that to play for England it became necessary to take up British citizenship, in the same way that Kepler Wessels, another South African, has become a naturalised Australian.


The South African Dilemma

It was ironic, some thought absurd, that Lamb should be acceptable for England but not the fifteen Englishmen, captained by Graham Gooch, who toured South Africa, Lamb's home country, in the spring of 1982 and were disqualified from Test cricket for three years for having done so.

Having had their submission for re-entry into the Test fold persistently rejected, despite meeting in every detail the original conditions for this to happen, South Africa have run out of patience and decided that only with the aid of a cheque book can they give the game there the stimulus of international competition which it needs. They are, accordingly, offering cricketers the chance to become mercenaries.

By the end of 1982 a team of Sri Lankans (the equivalent, perhaps, of Sri Lanka's second eleven) had been slipped into South Africa, there, at the expense of their cricket careers at home, to earn more money in few weeks than they could normally do in a lifetime.

There are, inevitably, unattractive aspects to this. For one thing, any such operation is likely to be conspiratorially planned, if only to keep the protestors at bay. Although the Englishmen who went to South Africa (twelve of them had won Test caps, all except Amiss within the previous eighteen months) were not in breach of the Gleneagles Agreement as it is interpreted by the British Government (they would have been, of course, had they been an official team), they must have known that there would be repercussions.

Five of the party had only recently returned from the England tour of India, which Mrs Gandhi had threatened to prohibit because of the connections of two of them (Boycott and Cook) with cricket in South Africa. It was hardly surprising, when Gooch, Boycott, Emburey, Lever and Underwood turned up in Johannesburg in March, that the Indians felt let down.

In the autumn of 1981 the test and County Cricket Board had warned, by letter, all county cricketers that if they went as members of a team to South Africa (the distinction between going collectively and to coach was clearly drawn) they might have to pay for it.


The Prime Minister's View

In the event, the reaction to their unheralded arrival in South Africa was little short of hysterical. Although they had widespread public support, the English players became, overnight, pawns in a fiercely political game. Predictably, the cricket boards of both India and Pakistan, guided by their governments, threatened to call off their forthcoming visits to England should they be expected to play against the English rebels. One English county, Northamptonshire, so feared the financial consequences of such a cancellation that they called for a life ban, no less, on the offending players.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, refused to condemn them. Speaking in Parliament, Mrs Thatcher said "we do not have the power to prevent any sportsmen or women from visiting South Africa or anywhere else. If we did we would no longer be a free country."

Trapped in the maelstrom, the TCCB, by imposing a three-year ban - to preserve international multi-racial cricket- bowed to political pressures to the consternation not only of the players concerned but also of the average cricket follower.

In politics, which this was, even a week is a long time. Three years is an eternity, as it is in a cricketer's career. In time the players appealed for some remission of their sentence. But again politics took over. When the West Indians were asked how they would view it if the players' suspensions were to be reduced from three years to two, they withheld their approval. This although, less than a month before, the ICC had agreed unanimously that on no account should one country be allowed to influence the team selection of another.

If that was not hypocritical, what is? I am sure that at all times the TCCB proceeded, as they thought, in good faith. They did all they could, once they had got wind of the tour, to dissuade the players from embarking on it. For all that, to act as they ultimately did, without doing anything for the cause of cricket in South Africa, smacked more of expediency than strength.

A one-year suspension, with a future tightening of players' contracts, would have been ample. And knowing the West Indians as I do, and the importance they attach to playing cricket against England, quite apart from the joy they get from beating them, I believe that, come 1984, their politicians, like everyone else, would have accepted some reduction of the ban.


Structure of the English Game

If it was not the South African issue that was exercising the TCCB, it was the structure and viability of first-class cricket in England. For one reason and another, primarily the decline in revenue between Australia's tour of England in 1981 and the visits of India and Pakistan in 1982, several counties are having difficulty balancing their books.

Although, as the result of a decision taken in 1981, each county will play 24 Championship matches in 1983, there is still a move for these to be replaced by sixteen four-day games, played in mid-week with the weekends being set aside for the one-day competitions.

This, it is said, would reduce a county's running costs, free their Test players for a higher proportion of Championship matches, and provide a better preparation for Test cricket. Against that, it would reduce the amount of cricket available to county members, who form the backbone of every county club; and if Parkinson's Law were to apply (Work expands to meet the time available for its completion ...), as it well might, the cricket would be unlikely to gain in attraction.

Unless a financial necessity, it would seem to be advocating change for change's sake. It is not irrelevant that in Australia, where Sheffield Shield matches are played over four days, there are many who feel they would be better played over three.


Changes at Lord's

Meanwhile there has been something of a struggle for power at Lord's, the significance of which may become more apparent with time. It came to a head in the autumn of 1982, when Mr G.O.B. Allen, for the last half-century the game's most influential and dedicated administrator, resigned as one of MCC's representatives on the Cricket Council, the governing body of English cricket.

He did so in protest at the way, through a realignment of voting rights, the TCCB had been assured of what he feels amounts to control of the Council. A few weeks earlier Mr Allen had celebrated his 80th birthday at a candlelit dinner, given in his honour, in the Long Room at Lord's. The only other dinner of its kind, at any rate in living memory, was to Sir Pelham Warner in 1953.

Commenting on his resignation, Mr Allen said that he believed the Cricket Council, being the governing body of the game in England, should be fully representative of all levels of cricket. While accepting that the TCCB now provides most of the money for official coaching schemes, as well as for the more recreational branches of English cricket, Mr Allen expressed strong opposition to a national game being virtually controlled by a body that is mainly concerned with its professional side. An analogy might be if the Football Association were to come under the ordinance of the Football League.

Founded in 1968, the Cricket Council previously comprised, in equal measure, representatives of the TCCB, the National Cricket Association (embracing clubs and schools) and MCC, each with five votes. The Minor Counties Cricket Association had one vote, Scotland and Ireland a seat on the Council but no vote.

MCC owed the strength of its representation to having been, for the best part of 200 years, the Council's predecessor as the ruling body of English cricket, as well as being the lawmakers of the game and a club with a unique standing in the cricket world.

Mr Allen is afraid that the Council's new constitution, which follows the recommendation of a Working Party and gives the TCCB eight votes, the NCA five and MCC only three (the Minor Counties have lost theirs), will make it no more than a rubber stamp for the TCCB.

How will the TCCB exercise its potential control? That is crucial. Since its inception, also in 1968 (before that it had acted, as the Advisory County Cricket Committee, in a recommendatory capacity to MCC), it has become a major commercial concern, vigorously administered.

In recent years the corridors of power at Lord's have not always echoed with compatibility. It is, in many ways, a good thing that the tennis and squash courts there are to be redeveloped to house the TCCB and the NCA. The TCCB, especially, has outgrown the Pavilion in which, with the NCA, it has been the guest of MCC.

If, besides running its own show, namely English Test and county cricket, the TCCB is now to have, should it wish, the final word in matters affecting the 25,000 clubs and 150,000 players who form the heart and soul of cricket in these islands, Mr Allen may have been right to sound a warning. He and MCC stand for cricket with a capital C; the TCCB, as it has to be, is more commercialistic.

In Australia, where the marketing people have been given a large say in who does what, and where and how, the character of the game has been quite drastically changed. With sponsorship taking an ever firmer hold, it is not impossible to imagine something similar happening in England. I hardly think it will - but it could. Beware the small, executive sub-committee of businessmen, to whom the charm of cricket is little more than a technicality: that was the burden of Mr Allen's message.


Brearley's Influence

After being pursued almost to the finishing line by Leicestershire, Middlesex won the 1982 Schweppes County Championship. That they did so in the year of Michael Brearley's retirement was entirely fitting. Few cricketers, if any, can have achieved so much by reading the game so astutely as Brearley, and by finding out how to get the best out of each player.

With a combination of intelligence, coercion, wisdom and care he has had a profound influence on the modern game. Although a good enough batsman to have scored 45 first-class hundreds, it was less as a player than as a presence that he made his considerable impact.

At the age of 50, another prominent student of the psychology of cricket, Ray Illingworth, returned to captain the Yorkshire side, driven to doing so by feeling the need to get out into the middle to coax and coach his players. The relatively new role of cricket manager, which Illingworth holds in Yorkshire, is thought by some counties to be an extravagance and by others to be of the first importance.

Brearley considers that his most tangible contribution to the game was to pave the way for the introduction of the helmet. That he should think so is not only interesting but typically pragmatic. Whether or not the helmet has made cricket a better game is open to question. That it has made the batsman's existence a safer one is not.

What I am afraid has happened is that the amount of wanton short-pitched bowling has increased, not despite the helmet but because of it. The sight of a tailender heavily protected does nothing to deter the bowler from unleashing bouncers at him, as he never would have done a few years ago.

Willis found this in one of last summer's Test matches. While batting against Imran at Edgbaston, he was obliged to take such frequent evasive action that he ricked his neck badly enough to miss the next Test, at Lord's. Sir Garfield Sobers, when in England in September to play in a match for old soldiers at The Oval, observed that had Ken Barrington been able to shelter behind a helmet, no-one would ever have got him out.


Midland Hospitality

For a second time the ICC Trophy, confined to associate members of the Conference (the winners qualify for the World Cup of the following year), was played in the Midlands. Although dogged by bad weather it was a splendidly cosmopolitan tournament, which attracted sixteen entries and much generous hospitality.

Since winning it in 1979, Sri Lanka have become a full-fledged Test-playing country and given the full England side a nasty fright in Colombo. It may not be very long before Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka's successors as winners of the Trophy, are themselves promoted to Test status. They have a good side and in Andrew Pycroft an outstanding batsman.


Dominance of Overseas Players

In English county cricket overseas players were again pre-eminent, occupying seven of the first ten places in the batting averages and nine of the first eleven in the bowling figures. With Jesty and Gatting both being left behind, and several of the other most successful Englishmen under suspension, the England team that went to Australia consisted mostly of players who had been buried well down the averages. Under their new chairman, P.B.H. May, the selectors had a difficult job. Most vitally, perhaps, they had been deprived by the TCCB ban of all their best opening batsmen.


Spinners' Revival

Despite pitches being covered for a second year running, spin bowlers, especially of the left-arm orthodox variety, were more prominent than for some time, an indication, perhaps, that the TCCB's call for matches to be begun on drier, firmer pitches, which would eventually take turn, did not go unanswered. Middlesex and Leicestershire, the two leading sides in the Championship, both owed much to their spin bowlers - or, to put it another way, to being able to field a balanced attack.


Lessons from the Averages

Not since 1934 had as many as fourteen batsmen averaged over 50 in an English season, and seldom before have bowlers had to pay such a high price for their wickets. There used to be three times as many bowlers with an average of under 20. The fact that there are now no drying wickets, because of full covering, may partly account for this, as well as the almost total absence of wrist-spinners to make short work of numbers nine, ten and eleven. There are also fewer rabbits about, to whom batting is an insoluble mystery.


Financial Worries

As the season of 1982 ended, a patchy one so far as the weather was concerned, the financial problems of many counties were reflected in the number of players who were not re-engaged. In hard times, the much higher wages which first-class cricketers have come to expect must inevitably mean smaller staffs.

The withdrawal, in November, of the Schweppes sponsorship of the County Championship brought further anxiety to those whose job it is to keep the game solvent. Schweppes came into cricket in 1977. They are to leave it at the end of the 1983 season, to concentrate on other marketing objectives. By then they will have put something like £1 million into the game, a splendid contribution.

With the Prudential Assurance Company also withdrawing their invaluable support of the one-day internationals after this year's World Cup, the TCCB became urgently occupied with the search for successors. In that it attracts less television coverage than one-day cricket, the Championship, although the foremost competition and the one which the players value most highly, is not necessarily the most attractive target for potential sponsors.


Random Thoughts

To finish with, a few random thoughts. In a book of facts and figures, none is more remarkable than that which appears in the account of the Test match between India and England in Madras: while India were scoring 455 runs between losing their second wicket on a Wednesday afternoon and their third on a Friday morning, it was estimated that 75,000 Indians first saw the light of day - many of them, no doubt, with a natural eye for games.

As, in England, umpires referred to their light meters, rather than to their own judgement, there were times when I found myself wondering whether they, the meters, might not be a mixed blessing.

Lloyd Budd, now retired after fourteen years on the first-class umpires' list, will be missed not only for his admirably steady standards but for the way he considered the long-suffering spectators by keeping the action going.

And when, say from third man, a fielder, under no particular pressure, returns the ball to the top of the stumps, was he always applauded by the rest of his side? Actors are not, by their fellow-actors, when they get their lines right. But customs are constantly changing.

The game is never quite the same from one season to the next. As has been said before now, it never has been what it was. To those who love it, though, it remains, despite the politicians, an incomparable pastime.


© John Wisden & Co