The Cricket Tier

 

India Cricket Captain, Virat Kohli chats exclusively

Kohli was speaking in an open, honest and revealing podcast episode with Mark Nicholas in the first episode of his new podcast Not Just Cricket, which launches today.

Kohli opened up about his depression and described the period as feeling like ’the loneliest guy in the world’, when his mental health suffered massively on the tour of England in 2014. Kohli described the position he was in as 'finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’

Kohli went on to suggest that things need to change in cricket, with a full-time professional available to touring test teams to talk to. Kohli also spoke about the tragic loss of his father at age 18, and the determination this gave him to succeed and that the loss of his father gave him ’the strength to overcome any situation’.

Kohli, speaking exclusively to the Not Just Cricket Podcast said…

Kohli: On suffering with Depression (England - 2014) - 'The Loneliest Guy In The World'

I did. It’s not a great feeling when you wake up knowing that you won’t be able to score any runs, and I think all batsmen have felt that at some stage or the other, where you’re not in control of anything at all. And I just couldn’t understand at all how to get over it. I think that when you look back at a very difficult phase, you realise that you had to go through that phase fully to be able to understand what’s wrong and rectify it and move forward, and just open yourself up for change, accept that there are things that are going wrong. But that was a phase where I literally couldn’t do anything to overturn what I was going through and it was tough.

I felt like I was the loneliest guy in the world. And that’s what happens, you can really push yourself into a downward spiral, where you feel like you’re going further down with each day that passes. But when things turn around, you feel that maybe I was being too harsh on myself, I was putting myself down way more than what was required for me to change. So now I understand with years passing by, that there’s a line that needs to be drawn and beyond that line, if you’re going downwards, it’s absolutely not required.

Kohli: On coming out of Depression

For me, it was a revelation personally, that you could feel that lonely, even though you’re a part of a big group. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have people that I could speak to but not having a professional to speak to who could understand what I was going through completely, I think is a huge factor. And I think I would like to see a change, someone that you can go to at any stage, have a conversation around ‘Listen, this is what I’m feeling, I’m finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’

A lot of people suffered with that feeling for longer periods of time, having seen a lot of people through the sport that we play. In the team environment, day after day on tour, maybe it carries on for month, maybe it carries on for a whole cricket season where people are not able to get out of it. The only alternative left after then is ’the guy didn’t do well, if he doesn’t do well for six more months, okay fine he’s out of the team, get a new guy’. But that doesn’t solve the issue. I think that’s a very serious condition that should be dealt with absolute detail and very carefully, and I strongly feel the need for professional help there to be very honest. Otherwise, you’re just left to figure things out on your own and more-so you’re expected to toughen up and just get over it. Sometimes people are not able to.

Kohli: On his childhood

Well, my childhood was like any other kid in India growing up, watching cricket, no-one really played any professional cricket, it was just more fun and games, playing with my friends in the park. But then, somewhere down the line I figured out that I have a strong passion for something and a passion that needs to be followed.

I was quite young. I used to play with the senior guys in my neighbourhood – tennis ball cricket on Sundays. I was able to copy most of the shots that I saw cricketers play on tv, and there was a friend of mine who used to watch cricket and understand cricket properly – he was a keen follower of the game – and he went ahead and told my father; 'Look, I think you need to enrol him into an academy. He can be very good at this sport, and he can learn it properly’. My father happened to see this academy in a certain part of Delhi and that’s where I first (at the age of 8) started practicing the basics of cricket, and I’ve been working with the same coach ever since!

Obviously the Indian team of the 90s really opened up my imagination as to what could be done in the sport, because it was so much different to anything I had seen before. Anything that anyone had seen at the time. And it just installed a lot of faith, a lot of belief in me that magical things can be done, that if an individual decides of believes that something can be done; it can be achieved.

So that’s where the spark started and from then on, this dream of mine, of wanting to play for the country, really started.

Kohli: On the feeling of unravelling cricket

I felt like I was just having the time of my life. Because you know there’s one thing that you can like something when you’re passionate about something, but when you actually start realising ‘listen, I actually can do this’, and that excitement just unfolds in your whole being and you almost have butterflies in your stomach every time that you play and something magical happens, your body becomes warm with absolute happiness and the pure joy of being able to do something that you always wanted to do.

I remember when I started learning the sport and the first few professional games that I played, and when I was able to play the most basic cricket shots and get boundaries off them, I felt like ‘Wow!’. This was something that I didn’t feel like I could do until about 10-12months ago and now I’m in this moment, living it, doing it, and it’s a reality right now. So every day, just the pure joy of wanting to learn, the excitement of things unfolding one after the other, just kept giving me more belief that this is the path I want to go in, and this is absolutely what I want to do in life and nothing else.

Kohli: On losing his father at 18

Quote from Virat’s mother: “Virat changed a bit that day. He matured. Cricket became very serious in his life and in our lives. It was as if he was chasing his father’s dream”

Yeh, when I look back at that particular time now, it’s probably the most impactful thing that happened to me at the time. You obviously go along in your cricket journey but after a stage, you figure out is this something I really want, and that incident really put things in a proper perspective for me. Because my father did work very hard in my initial days to make sure I would get the best cricket gear, or I continue with my cricket practice, there’s no problems in the enrolment in the academy, taking me to games here and there as well. So there was a lot of effort that went into it, and from there on it made my belief even stronger that, come what may, I’m definitely going to realise my dream to play at the highest level, and to represent my country.

I was always someone that took a lot of pride, and wanted to be the guy that wins the game for my team. And that incident really solidified that part of me even further where I felt like, if the situation is difficult, I believe that I can find the strength to overcome that situation, purely because of what I had faced from a personal point of view, with the loss of my father.

Kohli: On the toughness within him

I don’t think that I picked it up from my parents as such, I think it’s circumstantial as such, because I’m the third child in the house so I always had to show my participation in a way, announce that I want to be part of a group. I used to play with people who were 7/8/10 years elder to me, so to make a mark I had to be competitive, and that’s where I think this part of my personality started building up.

I was always the guy who everyone always understood had a lot of passion, and I loved the sport. A lot of the times, I was made to field all day, and then when it was my turn to bat, everyone went home, and I was the guy picking up the stumps and the bat and the cricket balls and going back home and keeping the stuff safe. And then I would come back on Sunday and hope that this time around it won’t happen.

So it was more to do with fighting your way through these small little things, and then even at age group level playing in Delhi, it’s very competitive. I was not a part of a very big club, not a very renowned club, so I had to fight my way through the system through my performances, through sheer number of runs that I scored to be able to be seen and to be able to be heard, and really announce myself that I’m there for selection.

Kohli: On needing to win, not wanting to win

It is in many ways. I would say the disconnect for many years now that people can’t seem to understand or can’t seem to process a lot of the time is that I’ve never worked towards creating a perception for myself that’s perfect from a world’s point of view. For me, what matters is what I can do as an individual and how much I can provide on the cricket field as an individual. I cannot fabricate things to look good in front of a certain set of people, that’s just not who I am. Because those things to me are not relevant when thee top priority is to try and win every situation, in every moment, in every ball for your team. And it’s not only down to that when I bat, I’m like that in the field as well. I sometimes, not sometimes, most of the time(!) celebrate more than my bowlers. And that’s just how I’m built. I believe that I need to give everything that I have on the field and then I can accept the result afterwards, but I need to sit down and think ‘have I given everything that I had on the field?’, and if the answer is yes, then I will accept that result thereafter and move ahead.

Kohli: On watching his animation in celebration

I think at the end of the day, what we all need to realise is that we all need to be our organic selves, and as long as we are being that are being to true to who we really are, then we are living life. Obviously there are things that you can’t cross the line and things that you feel ‘yeh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that’, there are mistakes along the way all the time, and characters are different – if you look at Pujara, his true self is how you see him on the field. So to expect him to come out of that zone and become really, really passionate in a way that I do it; it won’t happen. Similarly for me to go into his mould completely, would not be possible, so I think we all try and balance things out some way or another, understanding with maturity that the more you play, what are the things that cross the line, what are the things that don’t, but still have the ability to keep being true to yourself. Because if you stop doing that, then you’re really not doing something that comes naturally to you, and I don’t think there’s any satisfaction in that.

Kohli: On what it means to play for India, and his ambition for Indian Cricket

Playing for India is the absolute top priority for me. It’s a chance for me to represent 1.4 billion people. It’s a chance for me to inspire people, with what we do on the field, what I can do on the field as an individual, and that’s my driving force today. If you look back at how this team of ours has gone through a transition and come to where we are in world cricket, there’s a good reason behind that, that we are absolutely passionate to represent our country and represent in a way that it teaches competitiveness to people watching, that it teaches people that you can compete, you can beat anyone anywhere in the world, and when you’re getting on a plane to go and play in foreign conditions, you’re excited and not intimidated. And as long as we can instil that competitiveness and that believe in generations to come, then we have left this place much better than what we came into.

Kohli: On representing India as a dominating force

Firstly, I think that all humans are equal at every level. There’s no reason why you can’t be equal to someone else, or you can’t stand up to someone else in any environment. You know that on the field of play there are many things that happen when people are not watching, and those are the moments that really bring you together as a team and say ‘Okay, the world doesn’t know what’s going on but we do, and this is the direction that we are going to go now, and we are going to stand together as a team’. I think at the end of the day when you’re playing competitive sport, that’s the mindset that you have to be in. If you’re going to go to a place and just accept defeat, I don’t think that’s an option at all, and you’d rather not play at the highest level if the mindset is that.

Kohli: On copying Djokovic’s desire to fulfil his 'golden years’, and not go off the rails

Absolutely true. I think the beginning of it was purely down to realising myself that I’m going to end up wasting the best phase of my career if I don’t get my system right, if I don’t have a proper routine, if I don’t become professional, I’m going to do injustice to my talent and the opportunity that God has given me. And that realisation was so strong that from the next day onwards I changed everything about my routine completely, from diet to working in the gym, to resting properly; everything changed from the next day onwards. And no-one else could have pushed me in that direction, and I strongly believe that anything that you need to change, needs to come from within you. No-one else can push you or force you to change, and you have to have the awareness to understand and make that change at the right time.

And thankfully that change happened to me in 2012 and from there on when I saw the results on the field, I told myself I’m never going back to my old self, because this is exactly who I want to be and this is exactly what I should have done from day one.

Kohli: On Physical Changes reaping Mental Rewards

It did. It made me mentally way stronger, it made me feel more comfortable about my own game, because I felt like I don’t really need to take risks at stages of the innings when it’s not really required. If the team needs quick runs, I can run six doubles an over, and I can do it for many overs in a row, without taking any risks. So I was happy, I was relaxed, I was comfortable with my game. The boundaries and the sixes and all that followed, but I was never in a rush, I never felt like I was in a rush at all. And that was purely down to the physical work that I put in. I think it gave me a more overall dimension to my game, which might not have been the case back in the day, probably compromised by taking too many risks and probably wasn’t consistent at all.

Kohli: Speaking to Sachin to overcome England 2014 woes

I did have a chat to Sachin (Tendulkar) about the mental side off things as well, and the thing he told me was in cricket what he experiences was, if you’re going through a strong negative feeling, if that’s coming into your system regularly, it’s best to let it pass. If you start fighting that feeling, it grows stronger. So that’s the advice that I took on board, and my mindset really opened up from then on.

Kohli: On knowing he is ‘floating’ at the crease

Yes, I’ve experienced those kind of innings quite a few times in my career, but I truly believe that you can get into that frame of mind every innings that you play. What I’ve started to realise now is that sometimes we start to get too far ahead of ourselves and once we are in that floating zone, or in the zone, we start somewhere forgetting how we ended up getting into that zone. And for me, consistency is all about that. Consistency is all about remembering every innings that you play. If I don’t remember the 30/35 balls that I play in T20 cricket and what I did in different phases during that innings, I will not be able to repeat it at all – then for me, it’s just a fluke.

But if I’m learning from every innings that I play, there’s no good reason why I can’t get into that frame of mind or into that zone, if I’m being absolute honest and non-egoist about going through the hard yards again and again. And that’s something that I try to repeat every time that I play. I try to set up in a very similar manner, and invariably I do end up feeling in pockets of every innings that I play that ‘Yeh, this is my zone’. I almost feel like you can hit every ball.

For me to play with the intensity that I play with, comes from the acceptance or the understanding that there’s no limit what you can do. I think somewhere, sometimes we end up thinking about too many norms when it comes to cricket – the law of averages, the averages take care of themselves, impactful performances – how many can you have. It doesn’t make sense when someone has ten impactful performances in a row, but I never feel like there’s a limit to how much I can provide on the field, how much effort I can put in on the field every game that I play.

If my life is designed in a way that I can afford to give 120% in every game that I play, even if I play four games a week, I can do it. If I sit back and accept that it’s not possible to do it four times out of four, then I’ve already surrendered before I can realise my own abilities.

Kohli: On baring the expectation levels of Michael Jordan to the Indian people

Expectation is honestly a burden when you start thinking about it too much. In the past, I have thought of things that are not necessary. Because at the end of the day, the expectations are connected to what I can do on the field, so I need to be in the best frame of mind to be able to do my part on the field, in the best way that I can, and I will do everything that I can to prepare accordingly and not think of the expectations. If the expectations are met afterwards, great. If they’re not, I still continue on my journey and try and do it one more time. And that’s basically what you play for at the end of the day, you want to be in the challenge. I step onto the field every time now thinking, or knowing, that everyone is expecting me to do well. The opposition knows. They want to get me out, I want to stay in because I know I can make a difference, and that’s the fun of it, that’s the challenge. It’s whoever cracks first. And why would you not want to be in such an exciting position? To be in a position to test yourself every time that you play cricket, and that to me is an honour. It’s actually a privilege to be in that position, and you actually feel grateful that you are part of these moments where stakes are so high, and you have an opportunity as an individual to overcome your fears every time that you go out there to play, and then you become a better human being I presume after every game.

Kohli: On Mind v Technique and Preparation when batting

I think for me it is 70% technical. I know that a lot of people say that it is 80% mental and from a pressure point yes it is. When you’re preparing for a game, you’re not really thinking whether my bat is coming straight down or not, you’ve already done 70% of that work by the time you start playing cricket. And from there on 30% is left, and yes I believe I have a good technique and whatever is thrown my way, I’m good enough to tackle it. If you don’t have strong foundations in place, I don’t think you can be mentally as strong, because you still have doubts over your own game firstly, and then you’re really fighting against yourself at all times rather than thinking of ‘what can I do in this situation?’.

And then the rest is taken care of by your mind, because your mind knows that you’re ready and that you’ve put in the work before you step on to the field. But from a mental point of view, I have a lot of conversations with my wife, Anushka and me have such great, detailed conversations about the complexity of the mind and how it can pull you into negativity, what are the things that matter, to put things into perspective. She has been a pillar of strength for me in that regard, because she herself is at the level where she has had to deal with a lot of that negativity, and that mental strength herself. So she understands my situation, I understand her situation. To be able to have a life partner who understands exactly what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re going through, I don’t quite know if I would have had that clarity if she wasn’t in my life.

Kohli: On his legacy

This is one of the conversations that Anushka and myself have regularly. It’s her that actually put things very clearly for me to understand the position that I am in, and what I can provide to society in general, or to people through the position that I am in. I don’t know what my legacy is going to be, if I can keep standing up for something that is right, and keep standing up for things that should be done to improve whatever system I am part of; I would like to be that guy. Helping a lot more people together, both of us want to move forward in that direction. We both couldn’t imagine that we would be blessed with such a healthy life, privileges that we couldn’t have imagined, our goal in life will be to help others to make a difference in society wherever we can, to reach out to people in a very organic way and to improve lives as much as we can. This is exactly the path that we want to take. It’s beyond you after a stage, and you should be able to give and give, and give.

Former England Cricketer on key ingredients to win this World Test Championship

Jeremy Snape is a former England cricketer with an MSc in sport psychology. He has worked with and interviewed some of the biggest names in world sport as well as being a sought after keynote speaker and corporate coach.

His top 3 podcast ‘Inside the Mind of Champions’ www.sportingedge.com/podcasts shares more interviews with top stars and his membership platform offers over 600 x two-minute video interview insights is available free for 30 day’s using the code ‘INSPIRE21’ www.sportingedge.com/membership.

These insights and strategies can be used for personal use and by managers looking to inspire their remote workforce via Zoom and MS teams.

The Coaching Mindset

Shane Warne once said that “The only time a team needs a coach is to drive it to the stadium”. Elite sport coaching is ruthless territory and judgemental. For the majority, the rarefied atmosphere of coaching at the top level either seems inaccessible or frightening.

Following my own 19 year cricketing career and an MSc in sport psychology, I’m now a performance coach working in sport and business and I have had the privilege of watching and working with some of the best coaches in the world. I’ve interviewed many of them and now share their insights through my podcast and Members Club at Sporting Edge.

We all generally prefer safety and routine. This is where the coach makes the difference, being the catalyst for improvement and guiding people to achieve things they never thought were possible. Working alongside England Rugby coach Eddie Jones he said ‘We’re coaches because we support and challenge the players to do the things they don’t want to do.’ Coaches by definition are change agents.

Let’s consider what coaching isn’t. Coaching isn’t mentoring as mentoring calls for the lead person to have reached the heights of performance themselves. Coaching isn’t teaching which relies too heavily on one way transfer of information. Coaching is different. The first fundamental of coaching is in the mindset.

Coaches place the athlete at the centre of the model rather than the coach being the ‘expert’. The hugely experienced GB Athletics coach Malcolm Arnold stated, “The athlete is the expert, they can talk in great depth for 40 minutes about how their emotions, muscles and techniques felt during a 40 second race. My job is to understand that and give them objective feedback.”

The ability to listen intently is a key element of the coaching mindset. It is far better to spend 10 minutes being 100% ‘present’ with someone than two hours being distracted by phones, emails or other issues. Boris Becker explained this for our coaching research ‘I look in my players eyes a lot, sometimes they are open to learning and other times they are defensive and I need to decide when to encourage or disrupt them.’ As Sir Matthew Pinsent also says, “The best coaches listen, simplify and don’t speak too much.”

The second great element is the ability to ask open questions to explore the beliefs and fears which may be holding athletes back. A player may approach you for advice after a net session and say “What do you think?” A good coach may return the exact same question to them first in order to hear their self reflection. Holding up this mirror creates deeper self awareness and can also create faster learning for the player. Greg Shipperd the legendary Aussies coach of the Sydney Sixers told me that ‘questions get the player to explore things from different angles, you can check their views, they tell you so much more than just telling players what to do.’

Science has created a new era of professionalism but it has also come with a side effect. With more information and video, coaches feel the need to show what they know. The best coaches build trusted relationships and empower their athletes to understand their own games. Kumar Sangakkara told me that the coaching set up in Sri Lanka allows individual genius to thrive, ‘Lasith Malinga is a great example, he had a different style which he learnt in beach cricket but that was nurtured rather than making a carbon copy with everyone having the same action.’

Upcoming in The Abu Dhabi T10 Cricket League

Mzaalo, a blockchain-based video and entertainment ecosystem, announced over the weekend that it has partnered with the Pune Devils cricket team, and will lead the team’s tokenization and fan engagement efforts as it establishes a new fanbase. Mzaalo will create Pune Devils’ bespoke digital assets, allowing the team to enhance its brand power and fans to engage with their favorite cricket team in a way that they never have before.

In the upcoming season of the Abu Dhabi T10 Cricket League - which starts on January 28th and ends on February 6th in the iconic Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi - fans will get their first chance to interact with the Pune Devils token ecosystem that Mzaalo has created. Mzaalo is a media and entertainment platform that features +50,000 hours of the best of Bollywood TV and film, and rewards viewers for watching content and engaging through social media.  

Mzaalo will be creating customized token-based rewards and engagement strategies for Pune Devils Team. Users will get the opportunity to interact via posts, video blogs, challenges, contests, live interactions, etc. Most engaged Fans will get an opportunity to e-meet-n-greet their favorite cricketers, along with autographed merchandise giveaways of, jerseys, bats, balls, wickets, and e-wishes.

The Pune Devils have appointed Jonty Rhodes as the head coach and have picked up several international cricket stars, such as Thisara Perera, Tom Cadmore, and Hardus Viljoen), who will headline the starting teams in the upcoming Abu Dhabi T10 League. Viewers can catch the Mzaalo logo on the Devils’ new team jerseys during the first match.

Commenting on the development, Mr. Vikram Tanna, COO, Mzaalo said, “Cricket has always been an emotion for all Indians and we at Mzaalo aim to bring the most interactive and exciting format for all the sports enthusiasts. Through our association with Pune Devils, we will deliver unique experiences to the viewers throughout the season. The collaboration is a step further in bringing the best gaming and entertainment experiences for audiences.”

Study reveals 63% of international cricketers are privately educated

Cricket is becoming increasingly dominated by privileged, privately educated people, reveals a new study from Cricket Bet India.

Research shows that around 63% of international cricketers to play a Test match for the ‘Big Three’ of England, Australia and India in 2020 were brought up through private education before playing for their countries.

Study reveals 63% of international cricketers are privately educated

  • 37.5% of England Test cricketers in 2020 were privately educated
  • Just 6% of the UK population has been privately educated on average
  • Statistics prove that going private schools gives people a better chance of playing professional cricket and rugby
  • However the England football side remains 86.7% state-educated 

A study conducted by Cricket Bet India, Educating Cricket, has studied the backgrounds of each Test cricket from England, Australia, India and South Africa to look at the number of privately-educated players in each side, and compare the figures to other major sports in the UK.

Just 37.5%, or six, of the players to play Test cricket for England in 2020 were educated in state schools (Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood) and five of them were bowlers - four of whom are from the north of the UK.

However there are concerns that the cricket side is becoming out of touch with the majority of the public, with just 6% of the national population educated in private schools - a long way apart from the 62.5% in the England side, suggesting cricket is becoming increasingly elitist. 

Even in the professional men’s game, 46% are educated at private schools which suggests a private education improves the chances of making it as an international, while 43% were state-educated (way down from the national average of 94%) and 11% internationally educated.

England legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott - a state-educated player himself - says more has to be done to encourage all school cricket but concedes that those privately educated have a naturally better chance of succeeding.

“The amount of people playing and coaching at schools has just shrunk,” Boycott told Cricket Bet India. “It is such a shame..

“Cricket will continue to struggle. It has gone quite far down the track. Too far? I’m not sure. Less schools are playing and, as a result, less kids are coming through. Children should be playing cricket at school and loving it. Both the ECB and the counties should be taking cricket to schools – all schools – the game depends on kids playing and developing a love for it.”

He added: “Private schools have done a fantastic job for cricket. Some of the great schools, Eton or Harrow, wow! I’ve been there, I’ve seen the nets, the facilities; I’ve practiced there. 

“The private school players will be getting a better grounding because there are more facilities and also because they’re live-in students. They simply have more time, it’s all organised for them after school."

The England women’s team is much more balanced, with a split of 27.2% privately educated and 72.8% educated in the state system.

The India team has a representation of 81.8% privately-educated players, up from the national average of 47.6%, while Australia is much more balanced at 40% (national average of 34.3%).

South Africa have had issues with representation in international sport and particularly cricket since their readmission in 1991, and just three of their 14 players to play in the Test series against England attended a state school with 78.6% privately educated (compared to a national average of 3%).

The England football team however is again more accessible and has more obvious working class roots in the game, with 86.7% of the XI that played in October’s game against Belgium educated in state schools - exposing a real gulf between the two sports.

The England rugby team is unsurprisingly the most dominated by privately educated stars, with 86.7% of the starting XV against Italy in the Six Nations finale attending private/independent schools and just two players - Jonny Hill and Kyle Sinckler - attending state schools.

Not The Spin - January

Last week The The Action Group wrote an open letter to the new Lancashire Chairman Andy Anson and a copy of that letter can be found below.

The Action Group will be producing our 8th fanzine in April. As ever please get in touch with us on social media via our private Facebook group page - Lancashire Cricket Action Group or you can find us on Twitter at - @lancscccaction.

Hi Andy,

My name is Ian Lomax and I am co-founder of the Lancashire supporters’ group, the Lancashire Action Group. We were formed in 2014 due to the major unrest at the Club caused by a combination of poor playing performances and inadequate supporters’ facilities after the redevelopment of the ground.

We completed our own Members’ survey regarding facilities and after receiving hundreds of replies compiled a dossier with 34 recommendations. With the threat of a Special General Meeting in the air (we had quadruple the number of members’ signatures required to force one) the Club did act on some of our recommendations such as refurbishing the old Red Rose Suite, allowing fans onto the playing area during intervals, reinstating the library and improving disabled facilities.

Several members of our group then joined the newly created Members’ Representative Group (MRG); however, they found the group to be ineffective and felt that they had wasted their time trying to achieve anything of significance. In 2018 we produced the only fanzine in County Cricket – Not the Spin, which has been a huge success and we will be producing our 8th issue in April. It is now edited by Roy Cavanagh MBE and Stuart Brodkin, both of whom have written several books on Lancashire Cricket and we have a number of distinguished writers including Paul Fitzpatrick (ex-Guardian cricket correspondent). It has a readership of many thousands and in addition to the fanzine we have an email newsletter list of just under a thousand, a successful website to buy our merchandise and we continue to grow on social media with our Twitter account now having just under 3,000 followers and our private Facebook group having more than 700 members.

We welcome your commitment to the Membership of the Club and I am sure you are dismayed that the Club has lost around an incredible 9,000 members over the last 20 years. You state that “We’ve got to work with the members to become a stronger Club and we’ve got to build a stronger Membership base as well”. I would welcome an interview with you or article from you to explain to our readership how you intend to repair the fractured relationship between many of the members and supporters and how you could win back the thousands who have left the Club over the last two decades.

We are continuing to campaign for the following:

1. Abolish the Board-appointed Nominations Committee allowing Members to stand democratically for the Board.

2. The return of a stand-alone Museum that was disgracefully demolished during the rebuild of Old Trafford.

3. Allow Traditional members an elevated view from their own pavilion. The draconian decision to ban Members from their own Pavilion balconies was directly responsible for a large reduction in Membership.

4. Two Championship and National League fixtures to be held at outgrounds within the historical Lancashire boundaries.

5. No 1st team games to be played at Sedbergh. We wrote to Daniel Gidney stating that we would force an SGM if the Club hosted another Championship game at the school. We were told that plans to host a Championship game in 2020 were changed.

6. Re-form a democratic members’ committee.

7. Allow Members’ forums to be allowed to discuss Members’ issues and produce minutes. Bizarrely, two years ago it was announced that ‘only cricketing issues’ could be brought up at meetings.

8. Ensure all refunds for abandoned games are finalised within 14 days. A delay of 30 days (breaking the Club’s own terms and conditions) occurred twice in 2019 and is totally unacceptable.

After the release of our first fanzine in April 2018, I was banned from the ground and despite holding two subsequent meetings with Director Jason Hopwood to discuss the fanzine and to improve dialogue with ourselves and the Club there has been no more contact with the Club. I hope that the above invitation will be taken at face value, and on behalf of the Action Group, wish you every success in your post. Thank you, Ian Lomax @ Lancashire Action Group

 

Learie: The Man Who Broke the Colour Bar

Lord Learie Constantine was an all-time great West Indian cricketer and a qualified barrister who took on the racists in Britain when, on June 30, 1944 he won a High Court action after he and his family were ordered out of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square because white US soldiers objected. It led to the passing of the Race Relations Act in 1968 – an Act in which he was heavily involved.

He was the grandson of a slave, the first High Commissioner of Trinidad, the first Afro-Caribbean to become a Peer of the Realm, a BBC governor, a writer and a counsellor of West Indian migrants during WW2 Britain and subsequently, the Windrush affair. Despite opposition he did more than anyone else to achieve equality in Britain and this book tells the important and sometimes overlooked story of his achievements. His fight for fairness, seemingly against the odds, is a story that remains even more relevant today. There is now a campaign calling for a statue, or memorial of this kindly man to remind today’s generation they do have genuine heroes to follow.

Brian Scovell ghostwrote Learie’s commentaries between 1963-69 for the Daily Sketch, driving him around the country while attending Test matches. They formed a lifelong friendship culminating in Brian being invited to speak at the Houses of Parliament when the bust of Lord Learie was unveiled in 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of his being appointed as the first black Peer in 1969.

Brian Scovell is a prolific sports journalist who has worked for the Press Association, Daily Sketch and Daily Mail as well as writing (and ghostwriting) twenty eight highly-regarded sports biographies including The England Managers (The History Press, 2005), Jim Laker (The History Press, 2006) and Bill Nicholson:Football’s Perfectionist (John Blake, 2010), all of which were nominated for the British Sports Book Awards. Brian is obsessed with cricket and football, having covered over 350 Test matches and the same number of football internationals in 92 countries. He is now working freelance and lives in Bromley, Kent.

RELEASE DATE: 28/01/2021
ISBN: 9781913551483 Price: £9.99

England Look to Be the Team to Beat at T20 World Cup

The T20 World Cup in Australia is going to be one of the highlights of what is set to be a busy year in cricket in 2021. As always, the tournament is sure to deliver fireworks as all the world’s leading players will be battling it out at the crease for the coveted trophy.

This format of the game makes it possible for five or six countries to be contention for the trophy, but none are more prepared for the competition than England.

Buoyed by their success in the Cricket World Cup in 2019, England will travel Down Under full of confidence. The majority of the players in their squad were part of that victory at Lord’s last year, where they defeated New Zealand in the final in dramatic circumstances.

Since then, England have had a swagger about them. This was very evident in their recent 3-0 T20 series victory over South Africa. The tourists have often struggled in tours of South Africa, however, they swept aside the hosts in a dominant fashion this time around.

England can be backed at 7/2 in the cricket betting for the tournament next year. You could make a strong argument for making England the favourites for the trophy. That position is held by Australia, largely due to the Aussies being the hosts with the home advantage.

Runs Won’t Be A Problem for Heavy Scoring England

Eoin Morgan’s side go into the T20 World Cup with a very strong batting line-up. Whether they are batting first and setting a target, or chasing, they are able to score at a very strong run-rate.

Jason Roy and Jos Buttler have formed a dangerous opening partnership which helps England make a fast start. Dawid Malan is now the number one ranked batsman in T20 cricket, while Morgan, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran all ensure the Three Lions are strong in the middle of the order.

It is going to be fascinating to see England take on the likes of Australia and India, their biggest rivals for the trophy. Those games could come in the latter stages of the tournament in the semi-final and final. Although there will be a lot of pressure on those matches, the England players are fully accustomed to handling it and delivering in big moments.

England’s Bowling Attack Has Variety

Although it is the batting line-up which often makes the headlines for England, their bowling attack also deserves a lot of credit. Between them, Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid and Curran give Morgan a lot of options.

Archer is the man England can turn to with the ball when they need something to happen. He was excellent during the Super Over of the Cricket World Cup final and has a lot of experience in Two cricket now.

The conditions in Australia should suit Rashid who will fancy picking up plenty of wickets in the tournament. The 32-year-old featured for England at the 2016 T20 World Cup when they finished runners-up to the West Indies.

England should keep getting stronger from now until October. If they do pick up the trophy in Australia, it will be extra proof that they have become the dominant force in limited-overs international cricket.

Cricket Photograph of the Year Competition

The Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year Competition 2020 is now open for entries

• Top three entries in this year’s Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year will feature in 2021 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

• First prize is £1,000, two runners-up each win £400.

• Gareth Copley won the 2019 competition, with an image of Ben Stokes just after he hit the winning runs in the 2019 Ashes Test at Headingley.

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The 2020 Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year competition is now open for entries. Launched in 2010, the contest is open to all photographers, amateur or professional, from anywhere in the world.

It remains free to enter. The only stipulations are that images must have a cricketing theme and have been taken during the 2020 calendar year.

The competition aims to promote and sustain cricket in all of its forms in every corner of the globe, from an international match played in front of thousands, to a game between children on the street.

Gareth Copley won the 2019 competition, with an image of Ben Stokes just after he hit the winning runs in the Ashes Test at Headingley. You can see his photograph, along with the two runners-up, here.

The best images in the 2020 competition will appear as the first three colour photographs in the 2021 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. The winner will receive £1,000, and the two runners-up £400 each.

The independent judging panel will be chaired by Chris Smith, former chief sports photographer of The Sunday Times. Also on the panel are the acclaimed cricket photographer Patrick Eagar; cricket filming and photography manager Clare Adams; and Nigel Davies, the former art director of The Wisden Cricketer.

The editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, Lawrence Booth, said: “The cricket stopped for long periods this year, but our popular and prestigious competition goes on, inviting photographers from all round the world to respond to a challenge unlike any other.

“While 2019 threw up one of the most memorable summers in English cricket history, 2020 was unique for different reasons, and it will be fascinating to see what cricket-loving photographers – professional or amateur – have come up with.

“But even in a year beset by a pandemic – and irrespective of whether there were any spectators – the theme of the competition remains simple: we want to see the best cricket images of 2020. We can’t wait for the photos to start coming in.”

Entries, to a maximum of three per person, must be submitted online at:
www.wisden.com/photographoftheyear

There is no fee for entering. The closing date for entries is 23:59 GMT on Friday January 8, 2021. Winners will be announced in April 2021.

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