Chairman's Corner

In each of our regular New Bulletins the Chairman, Nigel Hancock, writes his observations on Cricket Society matters. You can read the latest edition below. 

September 2020

‘”Tell me, Nigel” beamed Charlie, my erudite sports-mad postman, still in post-prandial delight following Leeds United’s elevation to the top tier, “How can matches in the Bob Willis Trophy be first class if there is a limitation on overs in the first innings?” “Probably because the ECB says so, but I’ll find out for you. Stephen Chalke’s book on the County Championship will tell us about past restrictions. Or I’ll put in a bracket for John Symons to fill.” [Ed. Charlie: in 1966 some County matches the first innings was restricted to 65 overs and the matches remained first class.]

I don’t normally rush to watch streamed County cricket but, like Everest and the maximum Michael Gove’s advised hour’s exercise at the height of the Spring lockdown, it was there and not to be ignored. The 402 “watching now” (via Lancashire Cricket TV on 2 August) at the end of Lancashire’s first innings dwindled to 338 as Leicestershire began their reply. Do home followers prefer to see their team bat rather than bowl? I suspect so. But the departed 64, I mused, were probably mowing their lawns or having early Sunday lunches as the players went about their business in a deserted New Road, Worcester. Hey, that’s just down the road from my new edge of Cotswolds abode and I can’t be there in person to watch the impressive Hassan Azad. He averages over 50 from only 24 first class matches (his 58 reinforcing that), and I maintain that my colleagues should have considered him more strongly when our most promising young cricketer gongs were last up for grabs.

The Bob Willis Trophy is admirably named. “Never meet your heroes”, but it was a great pleasure to meet Bob a few times, notably when he spoke to a Society meeting at the Royal Over-Seas League a few years back – staying on with a few of us to sample the red grape – and at British Sports Books Awards nights at Lord’s. The recently published Bob Willis, A Cricketer and a Gentleman has not yet been member nominated for our Book of the Year 2021 Award but it’s in my pile and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Some cricketers are what they seem, others like Bob were so much more. Cricket, Dylan and Wagner were a heady mix.
One of my Executive Committee colleagues had a thought about the Bob Willis trophy. With no consequences this year he mused, a lot of counties are taking the opportunity to blood players with the future in mind. Some are also resting stars for the Blast. There will be a lot of new faces and a lot of rotation. On a quick count up, he reckoned, there were at least 15 English-qualified first class debutants in action during the first round of matches. There will be more. As we are unlikely to be awarding many prizes for this season, how about the Cricket Society makes a one-off award to the most promising newcomer? We could
steal a march on everyone else and gain a bit of kudos. Thanks Tom, let’s discuss it.

The absence of crowds in this extraordinary period of sport, and wider life, makes me reflect on the academic work I did a few years back. Crowds have an impact on player performance and hence on the outcome of matches. Snippets overheard in recent weeks ring true: “Sometimes you’re the 12th man … as you always see when players get to their milestones, their 50s and 100s, there’s always a bat raised toward the Barmy Army … part of the team … they admit they get an extra five, ten per cent from us. … this summer there’s our very own Barmy Army member in the stands in Mark Wood. Oh, Jimmy Jimmy! … Wow, don’t you just love the crowd. … I like the socially distanced Mexican waves. … Sometimes you have to block the crowd out if you want to perform.”

I hope those of you who have watched our early Zoomed events (starring John Barclay, Vic Marks, and shortly Charlotte Edwards and others) are enjoying them. If there is a cricketing silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, hey ho let’s enjoy it. Strikingly, a poll we conducted during our second Zoomer suggested that nearly a third of the hundred plus who Zoomed in don’t attend real meetings at any of our venues. I was particularly touched by member Philip Fisher’s feedback: “Thank you to all involved for a real tonic. This was my first meeting in 20 years and attended from my sick bed. The next will be far sooner.”

It is encouraging that, as a national organisation, we are reaching more members who cannot or don’t want to attend conventional meetings, and that there seems to be a significant untapped market out there for people who are not yet members but would enjoy being so. Please help us by sounding them out and encouraging them to join us.

We polled members too about their readiness to attend real, socially distanced meetings later in 2020, and separately approached regular London attendees. The results suggested that nationally more than half of respondents were looking forward to resumed meetings in the autumn and that, despite concerns about the safety of public transport, there was a quorum for resumed London meetings. We are engaging with some of our meeting venues to assess risks. In a fast moving political and social environment, the future of course remains uncertain and to an extent beyond our control.

We also took the opportunity at our first Zoom event of asking Zoomers what they thought of some of our products. The results about the Bulletin, Journal and website were as follows. The sample is small but the results gave us a base to build on in considering members’ viewpoints, how to explore them further, and what to do about the results.

                  Excellent    Good          Fair
Bulletin       43 (72%)    15 (25%)   2 (3%)
Journal       41 (68%)    17 (29%)   2 (3%)
Website      21 (35%)    31 (52%)   8 (13%)


Nigel Hancock