When I was a boy (yes, a long time ago now) summer meant cricket. We’d play in the park until the park keepers threw us out (remember ‘parkies’?) then it would be any patch of waste ground or even the street. We’d play all day until we were stopped not so much by bad light as total darkness. And it was the same with kids everywhere. Not only that, we’d follow the fortunes of Glamorgan County Cricket Club and, if they were playing in Swansea, we’d try to sneak in to St. Helen’s to watch. Innocents that we were, we even supported the England test team. (Ah!)
But things have changed, I can’t recall the last time I saw kids playing an impromptu game of cricket. Glamorgan is now Cardiff City Cricket Club, and cricket more generally has become a minority sport, kept alive only by ever more garish and desperate attempts to make it ‘interesting’. Necessary, because, with its instant gratifications, modern life has given most people under the age of 50 the attention span of a goldfish; so for these, sitting through a three-day county game or a five-day test, watching men all dressed in white, is akin to being forced to read War and Peace in Russian. So it has to be gaudy colours, shorter and shorter games, more and more sixes, and all the distractionary razzmatazz the organisers can muster to get the goldfish interested. Subtle, it ain’t. Which is not to deny that the game is still big (and thoroughly corrupt) in India and Pakistan, but it’s losing popularity in many former strongholds, such as the West Indies, as those Caribbean islands pass from England’s to America’s sphere of cultural influence.
Some of you will have guessed that I’m dragging you down Memory Lane and various other byways because on Wednesday the Assembly debated whether to support the creation of a national cricket team for Wales, a subject I have dealt with previously. The filmed record of the debate can be found here. There were a number of interesting contributions, not least that from Mohammad Asghar, a man who can recognise a sticky wicket better than most. ‘Oscar’, as he is known to his colleagues in the Conservative Party (and his former colleagues in Plaid Cymru and Labour), was fully supportive of the idea, informing other AMs that he himself had played the game at the highest level before leaving Pakistan. Less surprising was the negativity from other quarters.
Let’s start with Peter Black, the Liberal Democrat and regional member for South West Wales. In his spare time he’s a councillor in Swansea. Black is an Englishman who washed up in my home town – like so many of those on the council today – as a student, in the late 1970s. I first came across the name on visits home in the 1980s, when the Liberals were into ‘pavement politics’ – remember that? What it boiled down to was not a lot different to the pestering behaviour of religious sects and chuggers. Anyway, Black’s take on the subject is summed up in the quote on the right, but it merits a few words from me.
He talks of St. Helen’s in the 1960s, which he’s perfectly entitled to do, but of course at this time, he was just out of nappies and living on the Wirral. Whereas I remember St. Helen’s in the ’60s – I was there, son, winter and summer. Talking of St. Helen’s, maybe Black should remind himself how many games Glamorgan play there nowadays. Not many, is it? Here we have a man, elected by the people of Swansea as a councillor and an AM, defending the interests of a body that has treated Swansea abominably due to the fact that he is a self-serving politico who doesn’t really give a shit about the city. Worse, his attitude towards a Wales cricket team is coloured by his own nationality, a truth he tries to disguise by getting his retaliation in first and condemning the proposal’s backers as nationalists. Of course they are, Come December, I’ll be singing rebel songs with ‘Oscar’ at Cilmeri, him resplendent as usual in his FWA uniform.
The other contribution that caught my jaundiced eye came from another Swansea politician, Mike ‘Mr. Bean’ Hedges. Of whom I have spoken in the recent past. Squeaked he (or possibly Teddy), “There is a Welsh team which plays in the Minor Counties League”. On that logic, if we didn’t already have a national rugby team, but ‘Wales’ played in the English County Championship, Bean would be quite satisfied! He then goes on to defend the benefits accruing to Cardiff City Cricket Club and the city of Cardiff”! But, again, this is a politician supposedly representing Swansea. TELL US, BEAN, WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE CITY YOU REPRESENT SEE FROM THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT? I’ll help. The answer is sod all, and that’s been the case since Glamorgan County Cricket Club morphed into Cardiff City Cricket Club and abandoned St. Helen’s – so why are you defending it? Because . . . Bean-Hedges belongs to the Wales haters of the Labour Party who cannot tolerate anything that differentiates Wales from England, however beneficial to Wales. Jonathan Edwards MP summed it up perfectly in this tweet.
So what have we learnt from this debate? In some respects, it had little to do with cricket. It was the usual suspects on both sides lining up on another issue and exposing ‘the package’. Though those proposing and supporting the creation of a national cricket team belong, by and large, to the ‘positive’ or ‘ambitious’ element of Wales’ population. While those opposing the initiative are drawn from the ‘be happy with your lot’ and ‘Wales can’t do this, that . . .’ element. Though, interestingly, a third element emerged – and not just ‘Oscar’ – of people no one would describe as ‘nationalist’ but who could nevertheless see the benefits to Wales, and her international profile, from having a national cricket team playing in international competitions. On a more parochial level, I was, as you may have guessed, disgusted with the ignorance, or the short memories, of some of those representing Swansea. What has my beloved city done to deserve assholes like this?
Finally, as if to prove what I’m saying about ‘the package’, as an illustration of how one can predict reactions to an issue like this from an individual’s known views on related matters, here’s a little contribution to a WalesOnline debate back in May, something I found when Googling. It’s our old friend ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch’ or, as we now know him, Chris Clifford, being true to form in expressing his hatred and / or contempt for anything distinctively or differently Welsh. Though I like the ‘score’!
P.S. More info here from the Welsh Cricket Team blog.