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.