A Jack Take on the Welsh Cricket Debate

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!)Hedges Black

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.Peter Black

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.

Mike HedgesThe 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.J Ed cricket

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? Cliff ap criced May 1

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.

8 thoughts on “A Jack Take on the Welsh Cricket Debate

    1. Jac

      True. That’s what I mean when I talk of ‘the package’. If you’re a Wales hater in one field then the chances are you’ll be a Wales hater on other issues.

  1. treforus

    Sadly, like every other sport, it’s all about money. The Swalec stadium was a massive miscalculation by the then Glamorgan committee led by a Newport businessman named David Morgan who went on to high office with the ECB. The thought was it would be a moneyspinner as a conference centre /venue etc and would make the club richer. Vast amounts of public money was poured into it in the belief that it would be a test venue.It was an epic failure on both counts. Cardiff is not short of conference venues. Durham and Southampton built similar stadiums with the same object .The Cardiff boast by a later Chairman called Russell that the loss of “SA” support would be more than made up by new “CF” and NP” support never happened. They are on life support of Sky money to the counties for the test rights to survive (just). The politicians have to support the status quo otherwise the ground would be unaffordable and someone might ask why so much public money was wasted on its closure.

    1. Jac

      Yes, the Swalec Stadium was another prestige project for Cardiff – justified on the grounds that it was ‘national’ – that had to be baled out with public funding, like the Millennium Centre and a few other projects. Which is why AMs from Swansea should have been arguing along the lines of, ‘St. Helen’s was Glamorgan’s natural home, it’s where the support was, it was in a wonderful location on Swansea Bay and could have been developed at half the price of the Swalec Stadium. What’s more the fans would have been there so it wouldn’t have needed public funding’.

      Wales in general, and Swansea in particular, are losing out to the ‘everything in Cardiff’ syndrome. This debate gave Bean and Black the opportunity to say this, to expose the madness and waste of public funding. Instead they used the debate to parade their petty prejudices. Bean even defended the Swalec Stadium!

  2. Rob Carter

    Most of the arguments against a Welsh Cricket team could also apply to football. The Welsh football team have not qualified for a major tournament in over half a century, and don’t look likely to do so anytime soon. World class footballers like Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, & Ryan Giggs never got to play in a World Cup, the same fate will most likely apply to Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale.

    Should we therefore scrap the FAW and merge with the English FA to form an England & Wales FA and an England & Wales national team? This would guarantee Cardiff City, Swansea City, Wrexham, Newport, Colwyn Bay & Merthyr Tydfil the right to play in the English pyramid. World Classs footballers born in Wales would stand a better chance of playing in a major tournament, and since Welsh internationals draw small crowds and smaller revenue, we could have sellout crowds in the Millenium stadium whenever the E&W FA desire to host games out of Wembley.

    Of course anyone making such a suggestion would be rightly so met with fierce opposition (remember the British Olympic football controversy last year) and rightly so. So one has to argue how does Cricket differ from football? Since cricket is bigger in Wales than it is in Scoltand, Ireland, Canada, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea etc I would expect us to be favourites every time

    It is also wrong to assume that those who want a Welsh team are all nationalists. If we were talking about was breaking away from Team GB than yeah I can understand be we are talking breaking away from England, a country which we are not part of. Most people consider themselves to be Welsh and British, but they do not consider themselves to be English, and we have a right to object to the idea of being represented in sporting events as ‘England’. How would the English would feel if the team was just called ‘Wales’? Just for a bit of tongue in cheek, maybe that should apply to rugby union so that rugby fans east of Offas Dyke can enjoy some Six Nations success.

    1. Most people do not consider themselves Welsh and British, most in Wales consider themselves Welsh only. The same is true for both the Scottish in Scotland and the English in England, the three nations of Britain have all rejected British as a nationality, we are Welsh, Scottish and English but only a minority consider themselves British.

  3. Iwan Cruyff

    Slightly off topic,but,cricket like our National football team is tucked away on satellite tv – ‘out of sight,out of mind’.I recently tried to watch the Belgium v Wales game but all pubs in the town of Sancler(St Clears),Carmarthenshire but Englund on free ITV was on everywhere except on pub…………..phew.

    1. Jac

      Iwan, I know what you mean, a few others have made this point, so here’s my contribution.

      On that night, I must confess that I also found myself switching channels and watching more of the England game than the Wales game. Why? Because Wales had no hope of qualifying, the game was a ‘dead rubber’, whereas had England lost they might not have qualified. I’m not a man who can watch friendlies, I have no interest in the Barbarians and similar set-ups. For me, in any sport, or most other things, there has to be something worth playing for. So I’m not going to sit through 90 minutes of a pointless game out a sense of patriotism.

      In addition, this Wales team is not exactly one of our best, is it? And that night there was no Gareth Bale, no Ashley Williams, no Ben Davies. Truth is, we haven’t really had a good team since the one that went to Sweden for the ’58 World Cup. (And might have won if Big John hadn’t been clogged out of the Brazil game by the Magyars.) Another factor is that I tend to agree with John Charles that you should be Welsh to play for Wales. In recent decades Wales has put out teams containing far too many players with only the most tenuous connection to Wales.

      Regarding the pubs in Sancler, if you go round those same pubs in the spring, when Wales and England are playing rugby at the same time, then you know which game they’ll be showing. Yes, I know, the 6N games are staggered, so there are never two on at the same time, but I’m just making a point.

      So cheer up, the glass is half full.

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