Counting England cricketers who went to state schools

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Guardian writer Toby Chasseaud provided us with a shocking revelation the other day. In 1987-88, of the 13 players who represented England on a tour of Pakistan, only one had attended a private school.

Did that really happen? Was that really the way things once were?

We don’t want to get all class war about this. It’s not that there’s any real difference between the two types of person. We know both normal, state-educated citizens and overprivileged public school toffs who’ve had everything handed to them on a plate, and we get along perfectly well with both groups. Just because the latter swan about above and disconnected from any sort of meritocracy doesn’t mean there isn’t a tiny shred of decency deep within the blackened souls of at least a handful of them.

It’s not about that. It’s about balance. It’s about having a representative England cricket team, which means having both groups playing alongside the kind of hard-working immigrant who is also a major part of the English (and Welsh) society in which we live. If nothing else, diversity makes for a better team.

People see the England team and they increasingly believe that cricket is a sport that’s only ever been played in public schools. (For the benefit of overseas readers: public = private in England – go figure.) The effect is compounded by the bizarre obsessions of the equally public school cricket media, who are forever referring to so-and-so’s upbringing at such-and-such-a-school as if that means the faintest bloody thing to any of us.

Not so long ago, we played a game with Special Correspondent Dad ‘name an English state school international cricketer’. We came up with Ravi Bopara.

We initially thought that Alex Hales was another (almost solely on the basis that he’s a bit laddish on Twitter), but he’s not. Jimmy Anderson was someone we inexplicably overlooked and we’ve just checked and James Tredwell is another. You can probably come up with others, but there aren’t many.

The simple reason for this is that there isn’t really any state school cricket any more. Nor is there much cricket on telly. What was once a brutal sport for everyone is fast becoming little more than a genteel pastime for the upper classes, like opera.

For those of us who already like cricket but move in circles where it is entirely unacceptable to like opera, this is a very worrying development indeed. It’s striking to think that once upon a time the situation was different and that perhaps, just perhaps, things needn’t be this way.


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  1. Michael Carberry and I think Moeen Ali are 2 others that I can think of.

    Even Chris Jordan went to the pretty-posh-if-a-little-middle-class-these-days Dulwich College.

    1. It is. Some of my friends went there as well (a few years before young Mr Jordan) and none of them vote UKIP to the best of my knowledge, so there may be other environmental factors involved in that brand of twattery.

    2. Speak for yourself. I learned everything there is to know from watching Play Your Cards Right.

  2. curious about “public school”s… Is there another kind of school classified as “private school” in UK?

    1. Yes.

      Public schools are set up as public trusts, essentially they are charities that seem only to cater to the rich.

      Independent schools are private schools (i.e. fee paying) that may or may not be charities but are not public trusts.

  3. Also, pretty sure Root and Buttler were initially state educated then got scholarships.

  4. Do we think there is any link between the privilege and security of a public school upbringing and the way they play the game (which, just to be clear, is like a bunch of privileged, overly-secure public schoolboys)?

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that a public school upbringing necessarily results in this sort of slide-through-life attitude. But I do think that when the team, the management and the ECB are all cut from the same cloth, the whole thing runs the risk of becoming like a sixth-form reunion. It also makes it very difficult for outsiders to fit in.

  5. The moment international cricket was taken off terrestrial TV may well be seen as the point at which the sport in this country was set back a generation.

  6. Chris Woakes went to Barr Beacon Language College, which Wikipedia tells me might be a state school.

    I think the only ones in the current squad who went to the seven schools under the Public Schools Act 1868 (thanks, Wikipedia) are Taylor and Ballance. Most of the others went to “independent schools,” which may be considered “public” or “private” but are not “state.”

    I think. This is all too confusing for a mere American to understand.

    1. Too simplistic, Dan.

      Public Schools are a subset of Independent Schools, not (excuse the pun) an independent set.

      The 1868 Act was merely a starter, there are many, many schools that would be considered “Public Schools”, not least my own alma mater, Alleyn’s School. I was a full scholarship boy, so you cannot berate me for having rich parents, as mine were not. You can berate me for having been a clever dick when I was 10.

  7. I went to the opera once, but I also used to know the prices of everything in Greggs without looking, and I once bought a pair of shoes from Aldi. I take it that those balance out?

    1. Shoes from Aldi rarely balance out, in my experience.

      In other news, I’ve just come back from playing badminton with a torn calf muscle. It hurts a lot. It hurts more than when you hear One Direction sing. I mention this only in a last ditch attempt to get some proper sympathy. Playing partner whinged (we were winning), wife tutted, kids laughed at limping dad as he took ten minutes to climb the stairs. You lovely people are my last hope for human kindness. If you let me down I shall have to destroy the world with a nucular bom.

    2. Bit of a poncy game, badminton, Bert, not what I would expect from you.

      Ironic, really, getting injured playing a poncy game.

      Still, I feel sorry for you. Pity rather than sympathy. But pain is pain.

    3. Indeed. Badminton’s a bit of a soft southern shandy game, no?

      Although a public schoolboy like Ged probably plays Real Tennis or Fives.

    4. I’ve played three sports in my time – badminton, rugby league and rugby union. Of the three, RU is by far the least physical effort, RL is the most pointlessly violent, and badminton is the most intense.

      Anyway, I think you people need an English lesson:

      Sympathy (n)
      1. Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune
      2. Understanding between people; common feeling

      Dada came closest, even if I detected a trace of sarcasm in his comment. I was thinking something more like this:

      “Oh Bert, that’s terrible. You must be in a lot of pain, although you do seem to be bearing up with exceptional bravery and manliness. Badminton, you say. Well that’s a sport only the toughest can play, which would explain your magnificent fortitude in the face of such tragedy. Put your badly injured leg up, and I’ll make you a cup of tea. Would you like me to mop your fevered brow as well?”

    5. English lesson part 2:

      Pity: a cause for regret or disappointment.
      “it’s a pity you didn’t contact us first”
      synonyms: shame, crying shame, cause for regret/disappointment, source of regret, sad thing, unfortunate thing, bad luck, misfortune;

      That form of pity, Bert, more than the sympathy kind.

      Now get off that lazy-boy sofa of yours. Watching cricket in the morning on a working day – you’ve got loads to do – get on with it. Now you’re up, hobble across to the kitchen, no wincing – and make us a nice pot of chai. There’s a useful fella.

    6. No, no, no. Not like that, you hobbling nincompoop. Don’t you know it develops a layer of skin if left outside? We want it hot. Now pinch that skin off the chai. Good. That’s more like it. Now do an Irish jig and amuse us.

    7. I have “played” cricket, just not “played” cricket. These other sports I played (and play) in a proper team, in a league, with coaches and training and selection meetings. Cricket has always been a more casual affair, turning out for Occasionals teams, over 40s, evening trades leagues, and so on.

      I also played hockey once, during which I had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

  8. Test cricket being on ‘proper telly’ would do more for interest, and participation, levels amongst kids than any number of domestic Twenty20 ‘revolutions’. Now that it’s 10 years since there was last proper terrestrial coverage, I do think this might start to bite.

    This viewpoint is only partly influenced by me wanting to spend days in front of the TV watching the Test match again.

  9. To my mind it is the lack of facilities in state schools that is the killer. Forget public schools and terrestrial TV.

    Willesden High School is a good example. State school, but in my day had good facilities and keen teachers. Phil DeFreitas and Chris Lewis emerged from there. Now no facilities. It is hard for the club system in Middlesex to make up for such losses, although we try.

    1. I played every single game my state schools managed to get a team together for at which the opposition also showed up. Both of them.

  10. I have been most impressed this morning by the subdued wicket celebrations. Ravi Bopara & James Tredwell combining just now to take the sixth wicket being a case in point.

    Handshakes, nods and smiles.

    It’s an upmarket game, even for the state school boys. Well played, gentlemen.

  11. Ged, what vintage were you? Did you have the pleasure of Barry Banson knocking all the enthusiasm out of you if you were less than talented? Or are you not as old as me? (private reminiscing of AOBs is probably not what the comments section is for)

    1. Crickey, Singe.

      Barry Banson was that very man. Both fives and cricket.

      I learnt many years later that his “technique” (i.e. telling you that you were uncoachable, useless etc. – often delivered with a slap around the ear) was deployed regardless of talent, so that even the very best players were subjected to exactly the same.

      Until that revelation, some 20 years after the fact, acquired when reminiscing with a very talented AOB cricketer I came across by chance when playing a charity match, I had always imagined that it was about my lack of playing talent, not about his lack of coaching skills.

      To answer your specific question, Singe 1973-1980.

    2. Honestly, you try and make a stance on behalf of the state school kids and the comments get hijacked by people reminiscing about their fives coach.

      Fives? You couldn’t make it up. How did this website come to this?

  12. Ah the slapping had stopped by 1984 when I started. The mental disintegration hadn’t. Not many AOBs are playing at Burbage Road these days since we merged with Honor Oak and (whisper it) Old Alleynians

    1. Indeed.

      But for those uninitiated into the peculiar ways of such schools…

      …fresh from the “you couldn’t make it up department”…

      …”Old Alleynians” are people who went to Dulwich College. People who went to Alleyns are “Alleyn Old Boys” or “AOBs”.

      I told you that you couldn’t make it up.

  13. I don’t have anything useful to contribute to this discussion so, can I be the first to point out that 100% is 9% less than 110% (Re: Cricket Badger)? I realise this isn’t very interesting, but a poor, stupid state school boy I feel an urge to feel superior via this kind of pedantry any chance I can.

    1. As a private (not public) educated boy, I feel the need to turn my nose slightly upwards and point out the lack of an “as” in your pedantry.

      Jolly good sherry, this. (swirls glass)

    2. You had maths lessons at your state school?

      We just had an hour in a room drawing on Chris’s shirt that was called ‘Maths’.

    3. ‘We weren’t allowed whole numbers. We ‘ad to make do with fractions…’

  14. Cricket isn’t played in state schools, but the easiest thing would be to get people to play it outside their houses, in their backyards or in public fields, like they do in Australia. Of course, Australia is a very suburban country, so it’s probably hard to compare it to England.

  15. At one time there were more players in the England team who had not been to any fee-paying schools; the preponderance of those who should be dragged to the guillotines is recent. Surely the reason is that Government funded schools were compelled to sell off their playing fields and so it was difficult for many to continue to include cricket in the curriculum? It’s also worth looking at where they live. You will not see many from the large cities – where playing fields have always been in short supply and where public parks do not always allow hard-ball cricket for safety reasons.

    1. Both of my village high schools still appear to have playing fields and (admittedly, artificial) cricket strips.

      The problem was that although sports was compulsory, which sport you played wasn’t – which meant that football always got voted for and generally the other sport that was picked was basketball. Cricket made it through the vote once in 5 years – and it was just me and the girls playing. The school even arranged after school nets with an ex-pro from Leics once (was meant to be Tim Boon but we ended up with Russell Cobb – Josh’s dad, and almost nobody showed up.

      With cricket not even on TV any more I can’t imagine it’s magically become more popular.

  16. 56 responses on public schools in cricket, 30 when we went out of the World Cup.

    There, in a nutshell, is the fate of English cricket.

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