A wet summer but no sticky dogs and more, 1988

Notes by the Editor

Graeme Wright

There is a temptation, as I begin these Notes, to quote Voltaire, but it will be resisted, if for no better reason than that the quotation no longer applies. Certainly not in English cricket. There would appear to be no admirals. The game's leadership, if 1987 is any indication, comes from the quartermaster's store rather than the quarter-deck.

As the society in which we live becomes more egalitarian, or so it is said, there are those who would argue that this is how it should be. But when those who lead are unable to rise above their former station, indeed do not consider it essential to do so, those they lead cannot be inspired to rise above their own routine levels of performance. English cricket, it seems to me, needs to be lifted beyond the routine performance.

That the game is capable still of freeing the spirit was evidenced during the MCC Bicentenary match at Lord's. Moreover, it offered a personal insight into one of the problems which sport faces today. Following any game made competitive by nationalism or commercialism can blind the spectator to those aspects of sport - enjoyment and entertainment - which are as important as winning.

Sport was not meant to be a war substitute, and cricket must not find itself being forced into that role. Winning is not everything. This should be one of sport's primary lessons to society. Satisfaction can come from giving of one's best and even, in those few exquisite moments, from surpassing personal expectations. Participants and spectators both need to be reminded of that from time to time, and at Lord's in August I was grateful for the reminder.

A truly sporting occasion

Although the rewards were generous, personal pride was the spur that drew from the players their best. Good manners prevailed, batsmen walked, bouncers were used sparingly and so were effective in surprising both the batsman and the spectator. In terms of technique, the game was a delight; from batsmen and bowlers there was variety. And throughout there was friendliness.

Yet, honesty compels the admission, at first I was not enchanted. Something seemed to be missing. It was the edge, some would call it needle, which after years of watching top-class sport I had come to accept as part of the occasion. Without it, that first day of the MCC Bicentenary match was like the first day without a cigarette after years of smoking. The next day, having realised why the fault was mine, I rejoiced in the occasion of cricket sportingly and well played.

That morning I had sat on my station, with the sun on my back, reading a favourite book. I walked with the crowds to Lord's, all of us looking forward to a great day's cricket. We had not come to see anyone win or lose. We had come to see fine cricketers give of their best and it was a wonderful feeling.

An unhappy episode

Sadly, the year was not always so blessed, not even for the Marylebone Cricket Club in its bicentenary year. Concerned at what they felt was an encroachment by the Test and County Cricket Board on their rights at Lord's, the club's premises, a group of members voted at the Annual General Meeting in May not to accept the club's Report and Accounts. There were also calls for the resignation of the President, M.C. Cowdrey.

The dissatisfaction of those members had been prompted by the resignation of the Treasurer, D.G. Clark, the previous December, and the early retirement in January of the Secretary, J.A. Bailey. At a Special General Meeting at the end of July the Committee received, by a large majority, the support of the club's members, but they had been reminded of the importance of proper consultation and communication in today's world.

In its way, this unhappy episode encapsulated a year in which censure and recrimination excited more attention than the cricket being played - or, as so often seemed the case, not being played.

Malevolence and mischief

The first two of the summer's Test matches between England and Pakistan were badly affected by the weather. At Old Trafford there were constant interruption; at Lord's, there was no play on the second, fourth and fifth days. For players, managers and press, there was time to fill, and as an old saw has it, Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Certainly some mischief emanated from the enforced intervals of those two matches and the ramifications were to be bitter and widespread.

England and Pakistan had arrived at the Test series still tasting success from their winter series, Pakistan having drawn with West Indies at home and beaten India in India, England having retained the Ashes and won two international one-day tournaments in Australia. In terms of international prestige in the world of cricket, much was at stake in this series. With Imran Khan unable to bowl at Old Trafford, Pakistan were seriously handicapped, and as England set about building on the advantage secured by Robinson's century, Pakistan began to play for time. The weather was always going to be their ally, and the longer England batted, the better were Pakistan's chances of a draw. At one stage on the second day, they managed to bowl no more than eleven overs in an hour, and this without one bowler boasting a long run-up. Players came and substitutes went, and the rhythm of play was broken. Imran himself was off the field at the time, having required an X-ray of an injured thumb, and it was Javed Miandad who conducted the stalling operation. That it was deliberate time-wasting cannot be questioned. Unfortunately, all countries do it, and that England have been no exception is something England's newly appointed Team Manager, M. J. Stewart, should have considered when, at the evening's press conference, he criticised Pakistan's tactics. Commenting on the poor over-rate, and the need for a tightening-up on the use of substitutes, he said, I feel there has to be a stricter control over what constitutes a genuine injury.

Some of the following morning's newspapers made a great play of Mr. Stewart's comments. Later that day, a rain-interrupted Saturday, Imran and the Pakistan manager, Haseeb Ahsan, replied to the criticisms levelled at them. We get slagged off and called cheats and I object to that, said Imran. Maybe if I'd been in the field I'd have stepped things up. But both umpires said it was fine. Haseeb said, The series has started off on the wrong foot. We've been labelled as cheats. I respect Stewart but he shouldn't have said what he did. If there's any problem we can sit down and talk it out. The umpires said there was no problem and yet talk of dirty tricks and all that nonsense has appeared in the press.

The battle lines had been drawn up: a fuse had been lit and it was to smoulder unchecked for another six months until, at Faisalabad in December, the charge exploded. Could not something have been done to defuse the situation before that? Or were the administrators at the TCCB aware even that there was a situation to defuse?

TCCB's support for umpire Constant

At Lord's, along with the rain, came a leak from the Pakistan management which was as subtle as any from a government department to Parliamentary correspondents. Its effect was to make public the TCCB's decision not to accede to Pakistan's request to remove two umpires, D. J. Constant and K. E. Palmer, from the Test match panel. Mr Constant had officiated in the Headingley Test match of the 1982 series between England and Pakistan, after which Imran had been critical of the umpiring, claiming that errors had cost his side the match and so the series. Pakistan's request in 1987 was not the first time that a visiting side had requested Mr Constant's omission from the Test match list. In 1982 the Indians, who came to England ahead of the Pakistanis, requested that he be replaced. This might have been a retaliatory move following complaints by England about umpiring standards in India during the previous winter: the 1981-82 tour on which the captain, K. W. R. Fletcher, expressed his dissent at an umpire's decision by hitting the stumps with his bat, an act which contributed to his being replaced as England's captain after the tour. It was also thought that the Indians had been unhappy with Mr Constant's umpiring during the final Test of the 1979 series. Whatever the reasons behind the Indians' request in 1982, the TCCB complied with it, although paying the umpire his match fee.

Last year, however, not only was the Pakistan request turned down on the grounds of prejudice, but A. C. Smith, the new Chief Executive of the TCCB, read a statement from the first-class umpires in support of their colleagues on the Test match panel. It was to be a year of supporting statements. All this time Mr Constant was the umpire officiating in the Test match at Lord's, and later both he and K. E. Palmer stood at The Oval in the final Test. At both venues, the Pakistan manager was publicly critical of Mr Constant and his umpiring, at one time describing him as a disgraceful person. With or without justification, and I am not aware that there really was any, this was conduct unbecoming of a tour manager; but following some of Haseeb's other statements while in England, it surprised no-one. At Trent Bridge, during the touring team's match against Nottinghamshire, he attempted to interfere when the umpires officially warned a Pakistani bowler, Mohsin Kamal, for excessive use of the bouncer.

In view of Haseeb's conduct in England, it required the most optimistic of men to expect that England would not encounter some kind of retaliation when they stayed on in Pakistan after the World Cup. Without wishing to be pessimistic, or unduly cynical, little in the history of man's behaviour towards his fellow man, or nation's towards nation, could lead one to expect anything else, especially as Pakistan is a young, aggressive state fired by a fierce nationalism and a strict fundamentalist religion. Moreover, touring teams have repeatedly been critical of umpiring standards there, to the extent that the Pakistanis themselves had initiated a move towards neutral umpires for Test cricket.

At the end of the series in England, P. M. Lush, the England Tour Manager, said that he did not fear any reprisals. If we want to have an umpire changed, he said, there are procedures and I am sure that if we present the evidence on which our complaints is based, we will be given a fair hearing. It well be done without attracting publicity. His faith and his intentions were to be short-lived. By the end of the First Test in Pakistan, England's players and managers had become convinced that both the umpires and the conditions favoured the home side.

A dangerous state of mind

Yet even during the series in England last year, there were some players who felt that England were at a disadvantage because the umpires were giving Pakistan the benefit of the doubt following Haseeb's criticism of Mr Constant at Lord's. This is a dangerous state of mind for any team to be in, although for touring teams it is by no means unique. Before their game employed neutral referees for internationals, rugby union teams touring abroad invariably felt they were playing sixteen men. But even when cynicism about local referees might have been justified, there remained a code that the referee, however bad, had to be right. Even bad law is better than no law at all, for bad law in time can be changed. No law is anarchy. The way towards change, however, is not by dissent on the field of play. Nor is it by deliberate tit for tat; an eye for an eye.

An ugly aspect

Two touring teams in the closing months of last year felt that the odds were stacked against them: England in Pakistan and West Indies in India. In each country, the visiting captain expressed his anger, on the field of play, in the ugliest manner. There were complaints that pitches had been made to suit the local strength, which is spin bowling. Neither tour is covered by this edition of the Almanack but falls within the scope of the 1989 Wisden. None the less, what happened in Pakistan in November and December 1987 cannot stand in isolation from events in England in the preceding months, which is why a summary of the background has been provided in some detail. Other issues, too, require comment, for they are relevant to cricket and to the times in which we live.

An acceptable standard of behaviour

Britain has good reason to be proud of a tradition of civilised behaviour. But in recent years the tradition and indeed the civilisation have been endangered by the unacceptable increase in violent attitudes. I am not referring to criminal violence such as physical assault; rather the ill-tempered outbursts one encounters from otherwise law-abiding citizens. This behaviour is manifest on our roads, on public transport, in restaurants and at sports grounds. Consideration towards those about us is in decline; tolerance has given way to a short-fused temper.

There are some, among whom are our politicians, for whom such attitudes of verbal aggression are a device, a professional posturing. But politicians have a duty to society. When they are heard on the radio and television bickering, shrilly dissenting and by no means behaving in a civil manner, who can throw up his hands when the average citizen emulates those who are regarded as the country's leaders? It was not without significance that Mike Gatting, when called upon by the TCCB to apologise for his behaviour towards the Pakistani umpire, Shakoor Rana, was reported to have said, Does Maggie [Mrs Thatcher, the Prime Minister] back down when she's given no choice? The implication was that he could see no difference between his own outburst against an umpire he felt was behaving unjustly and that of the Prime Minister against her opponents.

No place for dissent

The refusal of Chris Broad, England's opening batsman, to leave the wicket when given out in the First Test in Pakistan cannot be condoned. He received a reprimand but was subject to no other disciplinary measure. On a rainy day at Nottingham, he would do well to read Sections One and Two of the Professional Golfers' Association code of ethics and thank his lucky stars he is a professional cricketer and not a golfer. Cited in mitigation were the frustrations of the England players which had been allowed to build up during the tour as a result of some bad umpiring. Sympathy was the prevailing sentiment. In the next Test match, at Faisalabad, Gatting lost his temper and indulged in an unedifying confrontation with Shakoor Rana. The nation was then held spellbound by the spectacle of two grown men standing on their dignity without a square inch of moral ground to support them. At the time of writing, no action had been taken against Gatting.

Whether or not it should have been, time will provide an answer. A glance at what has happened in two other sports, however, suggests it should have been. Rugby union and tennis have suffered at lower levels from the example of ill discipline at the highest level. When the British Lions rugby team toured South Africa in 1974, and won a series there for the first time, part and parcel of their game plan was the now infamous 99 call. In the event of provocation or aggression against a Lion forward, his fellow forwards would immediately pitch into the opposition. The purpose was two-fold. It showed the opposing side that the Lions could not be intimidated, and it made it impossible for the referee to send off any one player for retaliation. The consequences of this policy are still being felt today in club rugby, especially in Wales where a lack of discipline leads to outbursts of violence throughout the season. In tennis, the boorish behaviour of some leading players has permeated through to junior ranks so that coaches in England now complain that their young charges could win Wimbledon on the strength of their tantrums, but lack the tennis skills to match them.

I doubt if there is a cricketer anywhere who has not been upset by an umpire's decision, especially when - as can happen in club and village matches - that umpire has affiliations with the other side. But without the unchallenged acceptance of the principle that the umpire's word is final, what chance does the game have? Professional sportsmen set the standards of behaviour for those who play the game at all levels, just as those in authority have a responsibility to ensure that they do. A cricket master, reporting on his school's season for Wisden, informed us that he had lost three senior players for disciplinary reasons. All I can say after nineteen years with the XI, he wrote, is that a schoolmaster must uphold behaviour standards, even at the cost of losing his best players.

The responsibility of captaincy

Like it or not, the England captain has a responsibility to England cricket. On the day that the national team left Heathrow for New Zealand, the Cricket Council announced its marketing strategy to introduce Kwik Cricket into primary schools, club colts sections and community groups. There is a significant sponsorship of £550,000 from the Milk Marketing Board. The launch was planned, in advance of the happenings in Pakistan, so that it would coincide with the England team's departure, partly to obtain maximum publicity, partly to show the Cricket Council's concern that cricket should be available to all. In the event, it was perhaps an unfortunate coincidence.

For Gatting, after the flush of success in Australia, 1987 was not the happiest of years. One would like to add the rider that as a batsman, his cricket was exemplary, for he stood alone as England's foremost batsman. Yet his dismissal resulting from a reverse sweep in the final of the World Cup is still fixed in the memory. At Edgbaston, there was an incident when the umpires stood in the middle, waiting to restart the Test match there after an interruption for bad light, only for the England team to remain closeted in their dressing-room, oblivious of the umpires' reappearance. Of the four Test series played fully under his captaincy to the end of 1987, three had been lost. And it might even be argued that, had he not been so concerned with standing up for his rights at Faisalabad, that series might have been drawn and not lost. England, by dint of some good cricket, had fought their way into a favourable position. At times, it was almost as if the prince had placed the crown on Falstaff's head and walked away.

A need for firm leadership

Never has cricket been more in need of firm leadership. The events in Pakistan showed that the management, in which I include the captain, instead of retaining a position from which they could provide leadership, allowed themselves to be drawn into the coterie of the players to the extent that sympathy for them was allowed to outweigh the most important issues.

Leadership is not simply issuing commands. As in business, it is a matter of understanding employees, conditions, resources and competition. History is something to be drawn upon; not put behind and forgotten. One wonders if in the offices of the TCCB there is a desk with a drawer filled with past managers' and captains' reports which have never been read again. This past tour was not the first to Pakistan by a cricket team, and nor will it be the last. Gatting had toured there twice before with England teams. He knew what the conditions were like and, as captain, should have helped his side rise above them. He could not; nor, it appears, could the Tour Manager or the Cricket Manager. Even the Chairman of the Cricket Council and TCCB, Raman Subba Row, was so moved by the players' pity for themselves that, without the sanction of the Board, he gave the players a bonus of £1,000 each. My first thought was to wonder how a soldier serving in Northern Ireland felt about that.

Gatting's outburst, of course, drew public support from those who suppose that Britain should stand up to the indignities perpetrated upon it by other countries, especially those of the third world. They ignore that what gives a nation its civilisation is its ability to accept these provocations without feeling a need to retaliate. It is an ability to judge when an issue is so morally wrong that action must be taken which makes a country great. A spat with an umpire in a cricket match is not one of those occasions.

The question of umpiring

It seems that, if nothing else, one outcome of the trouble in Pakistan will be a change in the way Test matches, and one-day internationals, are umpired. Of late, Pakistan and their captain, Imran Khan, have called for neutral umpires. In these Notes last year, an international panel was suggested. England would prefer the latter, given the experience of their first-class umpires, whose great advantage is that most have been first-class cricketers themselves. This is rarely the case in other countries. With one or two exceptions, they allow the game to move along, rather than trying to make their presence felt. If, however, the ICC decides in favour of neutral umpires, so that England no longer play international matches with English umpires officiating, English players will have no-one to blame but their countrymen. That was another initiative surrendered at Faisalabad.

Whichever alternative is employed, it will be expensive, and it will be cricketers who suffer. Assuming that Test cricketers will not contribute to the cost of independent umpires by a reduction in their match fees, the money will have to come from funds which would otherwise have been dispersed throughout the game. The same, incidentally, applies to Mr. Subba Row's bonus of £15,000 to the England players.

Given that three, perhaps four, umpires would have to be allocated to each series, the opportunity to use one as a third umpire would present itself. He - or she, now that New Zealand has a female first-class umpire - would have reference to television playback facilities to give an opinion on appeals for certain dismissals. But which ones? Several times last year, it became apparent from television replays that Broad was unfortunate to be dismissed for catches at the wicket. Looking at his technique when playing fast bowlers, I can sympathise with the umpire standing 22 yards in front of him. It was often the replay from behind the wicket that made it apparent he had not touched the ball. Bat-pad catches, too, can assume a different aspect on a second or third viewing. I appreciate the arguments in favour of an umpire with a monitor, but I would be a most reluctant supporter. The flow of a match would be greatly interrupted, and it would be only a matter of time before batsmen and bowlers considered it an injustice unless every appeal was referred for appraisal. In all sporting games there have been and there always will be injustices. Life is full of them, and one of the virtues of sport is that it can set an example to society in how to accept setbacks with some dignity. Umpires, on the other hand, should remember that, while being both judge and jury, they are not above the Laws.

The World Cup

Although there was concern in some countries that the tournament would not eventuate, India and Pakistan staged cricket's fourth World Cup in a manner beyond expectation. In both countries, it caught the imagination of the population and there were large turn-outs for the matches, sometimes regardless of the countries playing. While India and Pakistan are to be congratulated on their successful organising of the World Cup, so too are Australia and England for reaching the final ahead of West Indies, the initial favourites, and the host countries. Australia's victory, on the eve of the country's bicentenary, was both deserved and welcome; it was not in the game's interest for one of its oldest participants to linger too long in the doldrums.

England's achievement confirmed the impression made since the start of the year that they are a strong competitor in limited-overs cricket. Their professionalism stood them in good stead in a form of cricket in which method is often preferable to basic technique. A sound technique, however, comes into its own in Test cricket, in which more than once England were found wanting. Able to ply their daily trade on pitches that do not punish a poor technique often enough, England's batsmen flounder on a pitch that does anything other than the ordinary. The bowler, whose prime aim in the county game quickly becomes containment, struggle to take wickets on a good pitch and no longer have the same skills to exploit a poor one.

If Test cricket is to remain the indicator, England in the last five years have not been in good shape. Since the end of the 1982 season, they have played thirteen series and lost nine of them; of the 56 Test matches played, they have won eleven and lost 23. During that time they have had three captains, but the chairman of selectors has remained unchanged. His concern for the standards by which the game should be played is admirable and essential, but a policy, if there is a policy, which produces defeat more often than victory, is a matter of concern also.

Too much cricket ...

One of the problems facing the selectors is that there is so little respite in the international calendar. They find themselves bound to a small group of regular players, and as the selection of the teams for England's two winter tours would suggest, the policy is towards a squad system. This can have tactical and psychological weaknesses. Taking into account the conditions which prevailed at Headingley in the past few years, it might, for example, have been advisable to play one or two Yorkshiremen in the Test matches there. But such one-off selections would not find favour under a squad system.

... of the wrong variety

The escalation of international cricket in the last ten years has been immense; but if the professional players are to be better paid, they have to perform for their rewards. The spectre of another Packer-style circus and rebel tours to South Africa still haunts the game's administrators. To alleviate what has correctly been described as a treadmill, one answer would be a reduction in the number of one-day internationals - but that is unlikely. Across the world the public prefers them to Test matches; and as economists tell us, the consumer dictates the market. Most children will eat hamburgers and chips in preference to a healthy well-balanced meal when given a choice.

Early in 1987, the Sri Lankan opening batsman, Sidath Wettimuny, who in his country's first Test in England, at Lord's in 1984, scored 190, announced his retirement from cricket at the age of 30. Not considered for the one-day internationals, he felt that with the number now being played by touring sides he was not getting sufficient match practice for Test cricket. He had, he said, stopped enjoying the game. Towards the end of the year, India dropped one of the Test matches scheduled against West Indies in favour of two extra one-day matches. If, as has been seen in India and Pakistan, attendances at Test matches fall away, will sponsorship be found to keep them going? England, having given birth to the one-day competition, could find itself the last bastion of the Test match. Let us hope that there are still cricketers able to play in them.

A struggle for the schools

While cricket continues to be popular among the young, the future of the game in Britain's schools has come under threat in the 1980s. For reasons either economic or political, sometimes both, cricket is no longer part of the sporting curriculum in many state schools. Fortunately, this gap has been filled by local clubs, often under the aegis of the county clubs, and coaching is available on a regional basis through the National Cricket Association. From 1988, however, the new GCSE examinations and the earlier sitting of A levels will result in a shortening of the summer term. I have seen one estimate that fewer than two months will be available for schools cricket. The changes being made to the education calendar could also have an effect on the MCC Schools Festival at Oxford, a most successful venture which for four days brings together four teams of the top schoolboy cricketers from the state and independent schools. As things will stand from this year, some schools will have broken up almost two weeks before the Festival is held in July. Already many of the independent schools are ensuring a full season by holding festivals in the first week of the holidays, and the cricket masters, who are therefore losing a week of their own holidays, deserve thanks for their efforts to keep the game healthy in these schools. So too do those many club cricketers who give their time to coach and transport young cricketers.

In the 1961 Wisden, H. S. Altham wrote, However important may be the stimulus provided by the publicity and panache of 'big cricket' what matters, surely, is the healthy survival of the game as a whole as something integral to and reflecting the English way of life, a recreation in the truest and widest sense of the word for body, mind and spirit. That health is, I believe, to be assessed not so much in the attendance at a Test match, still less in the destiny of a rubber, but in the number of cricketers who will go on playing the game because they love it, on club grounds, on village greens, in the public parks, wherever, in fact, there is room to bowl and to hit a ball. That is a heritage which must be preserved.

A question of status

Two matches appear in this edition which have been designated first-class by the Pakistan Board of Control for Cricket: Zimbabwe B v Pakistan B, and Kenya v Pakistan B. There is no disputing Pakistan's right to decide the status of their matches in an Associate Member country. At a glance, in fact, Kenya's scores against a team containing seven Test players suggest they would give Oxford and Cambridge Universities a game. Nevertheless, tours are frequently being made by teams from Full or Foundation Members of the ICC to countries which are Associate Members. The ICC, in its classification of first-class matches, notes that Governing bodies agree that the interest of first-class cricket will be served by ensuring first-class status is not accorded to any match in which one or other of the teams taking part cannot on a strict interpretation of the definition be adjudged first-class. The definition, inter alia, refers to a match between two sides of eleven players officially judged first-class. When a team contains players without any first-class experience, I doubt that such a match complies with the definition.

I suspect it was for this reason that the New Zealand Cricket Council felt it was unable to confer first-class status on five matches played between its first-class provinces and the visiting Fiji side of 1947-48. No member of that side, as far as I am aware, had previously played in a first-class match, although it was strong enough to beat two first-class provinces and lost narrowly to two others. Last year, the ICC overturned the decision of the New Zealand Council and awarded first-class status to the five matches. Such retrospective action, especially taken after so many years, sets an unfortunate precedent. On the other hand, one cannot help but enjoy the pleasure felt by the team's captain, P. A. Snow, at entering the first-class lists at the age of 72.

To resolve the irresoluble

In 1988, more vexed matters than first-class status will concern the ICC. Umpires, short-pitched bowling and, perhaps, the preparation of pitches for Test matches may well be on the agenda. In addition, England will be re-shuffling some of their proposed future tours following the TCCB's decision to avoid back-to-back tours; not always easy when twin tours are being planned. But the issue with the farthest-reaching consequences is that of players having sporting contact with South Africa. Since last June, a working party has been considering a resolution that such players should cease to be eligible for international cricket; the full text may be found in Meetings in 1987. It has been hinted that, rather than a blanket ban on these cricketers, members should respect the conditions of entry operated by a host country. Thus, if the government of country A is not prepared to accept players who have had sporting contact with South Africa, the cricketing authority of country B will not select them.

There is an irony here. In 1928, 1949 and 1960, Maori rugby players were not included in the All Black teams which toured South Africa. An argument given for the non-selection of Maori players was that, as guests, New Zealand should honour the conventions of their hosts.

In effect, England's cricketers will be most affected by any restriction on contact with South Africa, for it is one of the few countries where they can pursue their trade during the winter. Under English law, they have every right to go there. As recorded in the 1983 Wisden, the Prime Minister, speaking to the House of Commons, reaffirmed this right. The TCCB would be advised to seek the best counsel available if it is to be privy to any restriction of an Englishman's freedom. In his recently published book, Sport and the Law, Edward Grayson refers to the 1972 judgement in Cooke v The Football Association, in which the judge ruled FIFA's regulations to be in restraint of trade and told the Football Association to withdraw from the world governing body if FIFA would not alter its rules to accord with the principles of English law relating to restrain of trade.

The movement of cricketers

Already the TCCB has had to tread warily in respect of the legal rights of cricketers when trying to prevent an unofficial transfer market developing in cricket. It has done so by introducing Extraordinary Registration for any cricketer whose wish to move to another county is contested by his current county. The number of Extraordinary Registrations a county may have is restricted to one in any year and no more than two in five years. At the heart of the matter is the intention of preventing counties from buying a successful team at the expense of the other counties. The loyalty of players towards the county which nurtured them was much discussed, but it is common practice for an employee to move on to a new employer once he has gained training and experience. In reality, the answer lies with the counties themselves rather than with the players. If they honour the principle to which they subscribe as constituents of the TCCB, there is not a problem. Instead, during the last season, one still heard of approaches being made to contracted players.

Overseas players still dominate

One of the reasons why counties are now seeking players from other counties to improve their playing strength is the restriction on overseas players to one per match. Two are permitted if they were contracted before the 1979 season, but the passing years have reduced this category. In the coming season Nottinghamshire, the county champions and holders of the NatWest Bank Trophy, will be without Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee. Both made a major contribution to that county's success in the 1980s, and while the employment of overseas players ahead of English cricketers has its critics, those who watch and enjoy cricket cannot be anything but grateful that they have had the opportunity to watch Hadlee practise his craft throughout an English season. In eight full summers of county cricket, including 1986 when he played for New Zealand in the Test matches only, he was top of the first-class bowling averages five times and in second place twice. In 1984 he became the first player to do the double since the reduction in the number of Championship matches in 1969, and last season he was just three wickets from repeating the feat. His innings at Lord's to win last year's NatWest Bank Trophy final, when the match seemed lost, will rank high in the folklore of the great players of Trent Bridge. And as I write these Notes, he has equalled Ian Botham's record number of wickets in Test cricket.

An overseas player, Graeme Hick, was the season's leading run-scorer, while another, Martin Crowe, headed the batting averages. English batsmen were not overshadowed, more than twenty scoring 1,000 runs and averaging 40 or more in a wet summer, but only nine English bowlers took more than 50 wickets at an average of less than 25. Hemmings and Simmons were the only spinners to do so.

A wet summer but no sticky dogs

For a season, English cricket experimented with uncovered pitches during the hours of play in the hope that it would encourage spinners and make batsmen improve their techniques in difficult conditions. Neither hope was fulfilled, in part because, by allowing bowlers' run-ups to be covered, the seam bowlers were able to bowl in conditions made helpful by the rain. Secondly, the sun shone too infrequently to produce the kind of surface which might have been exploited by a spin bowler. In June and July, there were 7.05 inches of rain in England and Wales, compared with 6.57 inches in 1985, another poor summer. The figures for May and August, however, were not so bad: 4.72 inches last year compared with 7.16 in 1985. Given the way squares have been laid in modern times, I am not sure if such conditions would have eventuated anyway. Well grassed in beds of loam, today's pitches look capable of withstanding anything the elements could contrive. Not that it is relevant any more; at the Winter Meeting of the TCCB, the covering lobby won the day.

A new look to the season

This season sees the introduction of some four-day matches in the Britannic Assurance County Championship and a new limited-overs competition, the Refuge Assurance Cup. A knockout competition involving the top four teams in the Sunday League, the Cup will be contested at the end of the season. In order to accommodate it, the Sunday League commences a week earlier and finishes two Sundays earlier than it has in recent years. In one round of Championship matches, I notice, the fourth and final day falls on August Bank Holiday Monday. Perhaps it is not surprising that the reaction of counties, trying to sell sponsorship and hospitality facilities, has not always been favourably disposed towards the new-look fixture list. Although a majority of the counties seem to have made a profit last year, for some it was a struggle and at least five declared a loss. Other sports and other interests, such as education, hospitals and the arts, are in the business of raising funds, and if professional cricket is to maintain the lifestyle to which it has become accustomed in the past decade, it must project an image which appeals to the sponsor as well as the spectator. No matter how hard people work behind the scenes, ultimately the future rests with the players; and especially with those who captain them.

© John Wisden & Co