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Too white, too chic: racism problem in English crickets




This is not my England, but the selfish and elitist England that has been carefully cultivated for decades by the game administrators, Orthodox historians and acolytes in the media. But this disconnection is nothing new. As early as the 1950s, cricket was criticized as an anachronism out of touch with modern Britain and in 1970 the first radical historian of the Games, Major Rowland Bowen, questioned the future status of crickets as a national sport with a broad popular appeal as long as the higher management of the game remains in the hands of people who are deeply imbued with that background and those ideas.

More than 50 years later, nothing has changed. The ECB remains an organization largely dominated by white, public school-educated men who, like online cricket publication Being outside of cricket unveiled in 2017, accounted for 80% of ECB/TCCB presidents, 67.5% of selector and Test captains chairpersons in 65% of games over the past 40 years.

It is clear that the ECB, like other British institutions, is incapable of reforming itself. Indeed, Cricket provides an exemplary case study of how, despite all the momentous events of the past century, those in power in this country have remained socially and culturally consistent. Indeed, a statement widely reported by Conservative governments last year, then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, claimed that our culture and history must be defended against a vociferous minority of activists who are constantly trying to take down Britain, could have been uttered by any number of MCC figureheads, formerly the sports board or recumbent acolytes, such as 20th-century cricket correspondent Neville Cardus.

As cricket is discovering thanks to Rafiq’s courage and resilience, running an institution for the sake of a minority is untenable. This leads to and perhaps even encourages the persistence of an outdated culture, including the implicit acceptance of racism, which makes a sport, such as cricket, an increasingly niche interest.

If the UK government is unlikely to ever force reform on the ECB, it must be up to the games’ supporters to organize to save the game. As with the government, cricket elites are very adept at moving the lounge chairs or kicking sensitive issues into the long grass.

As much as individuals like Rafiq and journalists like George Dobell, who was undaunted in his coverage of the scandal, must continue to speak the truth to power, the game (and its supporters) must learn from its history to be authentic, rather than elitist, history. We need to make sure we don’t just get the game we want, but also move the game away from the structures and cultures that have allowed men like OFarrell to thrive.

Duncan Stone is the author of ‘Different Class: The unold story of English Cricket’




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