In a previous incarnation, and a parallel dimension (Google Blogger), I wrote a piece on Ireland’s national cricket team, and that team’s victory over England in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. I used the Irish victory to ask why Wales does not have a national cricket team. Obviously I’m not the only one asking this question, as we can see from this petition to the Notional Assembly’s Petitions Committee earlier this month, urging the Welsh Government to support the establishment of a national cricket team for Wales.
At present, Wales is, to all intents and purposes, part of England, and linked to England in the England and Wales Cricket Board. Though the abbreviated title is always ECB, and that’s how it appears on the badges worn by international players, even Welsh players. There is also a Wales Cricket Board, which seems to be a subordinate body looking after the amateur game within Wales.
There were a number of interesting submissions made to the Petitions Committee. One that caught my eye was from David Morgan who, despite the name, comes across as one of Brutannia’s staunchest sons, to the extent of believing in that magic land, ‘Englandanwales’. Read more of his submission in the Wales Online piece I’ve linked to. Morgan is nothing if not honest. He spells out clearly why he thinks a Welsh national cricket team would be a bad idea. First, it would spell “the end of Glamorgan as a professional club in England and Wales”. Second, “it would see the end of the Swalec stadium”.
For those who don’t follow cricket, let me give a little background information. When I was a boy and a young man in Swansea I’d regularly go to that most beautifully situated stadium, St. Helen’s, overlooking the bay. In winter to watch the Whites (Swansea RFC) and in summer to see Glamorgan County Cricket Club. I have been there for cricket matches in a crowd of over 15,000. Glamorgan’s highest-ever attendance of over 20,000 was at St. Helen’s. This was the ground where Gary Sobers hit his six sixes in one over. But then certain influences got to work and it was decided that ‘the county’ would in future base itself in Cardiff and only play the occasional game in Swansea. So St. Helen’s, and Swansea, became an early casualty of the ‘everything in Cardiff’ syndrome. To the extent that St. Helen’s has almost been written out of the club’s history.
In 1997 we saw the formation of the England and Wales Cricket Board as “the single national governing body for all cricket in England and Wales”. Note how that short phase mentions two countries but uses the term “national”. And in the sixteen years of the ECB’s existence it’s fair to assume that no one at Cardiff City Cricket Club (CCCC), or any other cricketing body in Wales, saw any need to query that insult. Around the same time CCCC began planning a new stadium in Sophia Gardens. When completed, with its 16,000 seats, it would eventually be known – after a sponsorship deal – as the Swalec Stadium.
Everything seemed to be going well; a new stadium, a new governing body, CCCC even won the English County Championship in 1997 . . . what could go wrong? Well, for a start, the Welsh public started losing interest in cricket (or maybe the crowds stayed in Swansea), resulting in the Swalec Stadium being about one tenth full on a good day . . . with few of the crowd under 60, most of the women knitting and half the men dozing. How to make the stadium pay? Well, there was only one answer – get England to play test matches there. Fill the home of Cardiff City Cricket Club with English fans supporting England on their ‘home’ ground. And so it came to pass . . . first One Day internationals, then a full, five-day Test match in July 2009.
So that’s why Wales does not have a national cricket team. It’s because we are already represented by the English Cricket Board. Also, because to insist on a national team would jeopardise the existence of Cardiff City Cricket Club and its white elephant stadium. Or, to look at it another way; in order for CCCC to balance the books Wales must be subsumed into England. And for the umpteenth time, Wales ends up paying for a prestige project that Cardiff can’t afford and never really needed.
Yet listening to some, including the chairman of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee, Lib Dem AM William Powell, you’d think the only problem is the ‘anachronistic acronym’. I kid you not. Powell seems to think that everything would be just fine if the ECB became the EWCB! Listen, Wil; that suggestion is more insulting than the acronym itself. Because from ‘flannelled fools’ in England we expect no better, but you masquerade as one of our representatives.
Of course, the Swalec Stadium could have a future – if Wales had a national cricket team. If the cricket authorities in Wales started thinking and behaving like Welshmen we could have a national league, with our national team playing test matches against Australia, India, South Africa, West Indies at the Swalec Stadium. And competing, like Ireland, in the World Cup. Losing Cardiff City Cricket Club and no longer being ‘represented’ in the English County Championship would be a price worth paying.
Strange, when you think about it; but here I am advocating that Wales has more sporting links with countries and cultures around the world, while the enemies of Wales at CCCC and the ECB, who see no further than England, and view Wales as a part of England, would call me ‘narrow’ in my vision, and ‘insular’.