KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
Founded in 1787, Marylebone Cricket Club is the most active and famous cricket club in the world and owner of Lord's Cricket Ground - the Home of Cricket.
© Copyright 2014
"Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to have been asked to speak to you this evening.
First, because you, who are my audience, are such distinguished supporters and servants of the game of cricket.
Second because the venue is Lord's - so steeped in history and as I shall explain, which a special place in my own history.
And third, because the lecture is named after a man who so reflected all that's special about it.
Of you, the audience, I would say simply this:
Many of you are involved in cricket administration
and I know what an under-valued role that is. Players - driven as they are - understandably - but the single-minded realisation of their individual and collective talents - will probably always see administrators in an unsympathetic light.
But what you do - what I also now do - has to be done it will never achieve public acclaim - we will probably always have to be satisfied with knowing that the young and shining stars walk out upon a stage we helped to build. It may be the beginning of a test for them, but it is also the fulfilment of a longer and more complicated organisational journey that we have shared on their behalf.
Their prize is success and fame - ours the knowledge that we have helped cricket live on from one generation to the next.
Of this ground, Lord's, what can one say? Its beauty, its history and traditions, its rightful claim to be the home of the game all these things speak for themselves. I greatly admire the way MCC and its leadership have so well preserved not just the ground physically, but it symbolic role as the guardian of cricket tradition - of excellence, of collective contribution (teamwork) of discipline, and above all of integrity and fair play. And I applaud MCC's leadership of the Spirit of Cricket campaign.
In my professional career of over 20 years, with the West Indies and with Lancashire, I have experienced many magical moments at Lord's the most special being at nine in the evening on June 21st in 1975 when on the balcony, with my team-mates around me, and in front of thousands of jubilant spectators, I held aloft the World Cup. A special moment but not just special to me, or to West Indies crickets that inaugural World Cup was special for the game itself, because I believe it was at that point that all lovers of the game - free spirits and purists alike - accepted that it had changed, that there was now a fresh element that had come to stay, that one day cricket could, and was, adding a significant dimension to cricket without detracting from it.
And speaking of purists, let me for a moment reflect on that special purist - the pure stroke maker, the pure gentleman - who was Colin Cowdrey. You were right to name this Spirit of Cricket lecture after him, for he embodied all that was best in the game. As a young cricketer, and ultimately an opponent on the field, I was a great admirer of Colin - my liking and respect for him unaffected by the fact that he was the opposing captain in my first test series with England and led his team to a one-nil victory - one that owed as much to his inspiration of this team and the many runs he scored. It is noteworthy that three decades he remains England's most prolific batsman against the West Indies, scoring six centuries and over 1700 runs in 21 Tests.
But rather than lamenting the fact that he was our nemesis, I prefer to acknowledge with gratitude the many qualities he brought to the game. Some saw him as a gentle man, and in a way he was - but I remember, too the dedication, determination and mental toughness that under-pinned his batting; and the calm astuteness, the character and discipline he manifested as a leader. He may have been a generous man off the field but I can assure you he gave nothing away on it.
He was an equally significant contributor off the field. As a past chairman of the ICC he initiated the ICC Code of Conduct and the move to independent officials in test and one-day internationals. Without his work, my work as an international referee probably would not exist. He never promoted change for its own sake, but always with the aim of making the game better. And he did.
As a player and captain, I was greatly influenced by two men - Frank Worrell and Colin Cowdrey. Alas, Frank passed from time to eternity far too young; Colin, too, ended his innings too early. But their inspiration remains. And for me, it was more than just cricket - I was particularly honoured to succeed Colin as chairman of the Heavy Rollers - a vibrant organisation that provides disadvantaged kids in this country with the opportunity to enrich their lives by playing cricket a point I will return to later.
Mr President, in the essays of Montaigne it is written that "the value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little." Indeed, much to our chagrin, selfish though perhaps as I mentioned before, Sir Frank Worrell left us prematurely at age 42. But it is our good fortune that this reluctant hero lived his life in deeds and not years.
In his brief sojourn, Sir Frank used his gift of game to transform society in disrepair and left the world a better place. With purposeful astuteness, he parlayed his athletic gifts and joined the cricket field and political arena, and effectively eradicated the scourge of plantation-type snobbery that so characterised cricket and Caribbean life.
Sir Frank fiercely disliked the social conditions into which he was born and raised. And selflessly he embraced the daunting challenge of breaking down those fiendish barriers of colour and class. Through education he sought to ameliorate the human condition, and in the spirit of cricket he elevated the level of sportsmanship on playing fields throughout the world.
From Manchester to Melbourne, from Punjab to Port-of-Spain, Sir Frank enriched the life of millions whom he touched on and off the field. And I am honoured Mr President, to acknowledge that it is his informed leadership, his grace and dignity, and his relentless pursuit of equality and fair play, that inspired my captaincy of the West Indies team and fuelled my goals as a professional.
I aspired to continue the legacy of this legend as defined particularly by the epic 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia, which epitomised the Spirit of Cricket and spawned the Frank Worrell Trophy - the symbol of cricket's supremacy between West Indies and Australia.
The late John Arlott - perhaps cricket's greatest, undoubtedly its most revered commentator and scribe - wrote that "cricket is a game of many facets. If it is not all things to all men, at least it is different things to different men. They may see it as violent or pastoral, profound or shallow, romantic or pragmatic, graceful or harsh, dramatic or soporific, compelling or boring."
Were he alive today, he could in current circumstances have added "pure or political, alluring or discouraging" - for these are challenging times for our game.
It is customary to talk about living in changing times, but when you think about it we are always living in changing times - what matters, as someone said, is that we "adjust to changing times while holding to unchanging principles." It is in protecting those principles that we face so much challenge today.
In discussing it, I will - perhaps not surprisingly - reflect a little of the concerns of my two predecessors as Cowdrey Lecturer - Barry Richards and Suny Gavaskar.
Barry talked of the growing inequalities between cricket-playing nations.
Suny talked of the growing problems of behaviour on the field.
I, too, will touch on these challenges - and others.
First there is the challenge of growth - and the danger of international inequality within the game.
From my vantagepoint, I have rejoiced in the growth of cricket across the globe while becoming increasingly concerned at some of the ramifications of both the proliferation of the game and its inevitable commercialisation.
I feel strongly that as more countries become involved in cricket, and young countries - in cricketing terms - come to the international test arena, there has to be greater fairness not just on the field but in the administrative and financial arrangements too.
Fairness on the field has little meaning of the teams are unfairly matched because of economic and social variances between their countries.
The ICC has performed miracles in broadening the scope of the game throughout the world; it is now vital that this vibrant organisation gives leadership to ensure the viability of the more economically challenged cricketing nations within its membership.
To that end, the ICC should effect and oversee the equitable distribution of funds - TV revenue, sponsorship, and other monies - between developed and under-developed countries. Currently countries such as my own West Indies are seriously disadvantaged and as a result infrastructural development and player development are falling behind. Despite individual exceptions, for sometimes great human character or talent overcomes all obstacles, there is a correlation between national economies and the performance of their sportsmen and women - it is inevitable. Year after year of disproportionate investment in players and facilities must ultimately lead to disproportionate levels of success. This cannot be good for a game that thrives on healthy competition and close contests between countries.
World cricket must decide whether it is to consist of occasional riveting battles between three or four super cricket nations - Australia, England and South Africa, obviously - and one-sided, poorly-attended intervening series between the strong and the weak, or whether it is prepared to do what is necessary to build up the number of competitive Test-playing countries. One way is by spreading the money within the game in order to help develop the facilities and talents of the newer competitors. The other is to create a sensible second tier of international cricket, perhaps build around regional competitions, so that they can slowly, but hopefully steadily move up to senior test status.
We should remember too the players - yes, they get much from the game but they also give the best years of their lives to it. As an international referee responsible for helping to maintain discipline and fair play within the game, I may seem to players from time to time to be an unsympathetic figure, but I have in fact much sympathy with the concerns they sometimes express. These are the stars of our game - the role models - the few upon whom so many in the game depend for its popularity and success.
They should be treated well. They should be communicated with as adults. They should be consulted on matters that affect them. They should be paid fairly to reflect their importance to the game, and the brevity of their careers. They should travel in comfort; there have to be better ways to save money than ask them to travel across the world in economy class. And thoughtful arrangements should be made for players' wives, families, and special guests attending international matches. The more we give to them, the more we can expect from them - and I believe the more we will get.
But, as I say, we have a right to expect something in return. Not only the expression of their playing talent but behaviour that makes them effective role models for the young and aspiring. Frankly, there is too much unnecessary posturing on the field, and I regret to say not enough honesty in acknowledging dismissals - or boundaries - and thus helping the umpires who they too easily criticise if they believe they have suffered from a bad decision.
That leads me to the second big challenge facing cricket - its to do with the laws and their enforcement.
As an international referee I myself represent one of the changes that has taken place in the game. Few know exactly what we do, so let me take a moment to explain, then raise some questions from my experience so far.
The ICC referee is the representative of the ICC at all test matches and one-day internationals.
It is assumed he is concerned about behaviour on the field. In fact, he is responsible for maintaining an overview on many aspects of the staging of the games - player safety, pitch and out-field preparations, facilities for umpires and officials, the standard of practice facilities, the adequacy of sightscreens, and so on.
But it is true that his primary responsibility is to ensure a fair and sportsmanlike game. Above all, he is there to ensure that the ICC code of conduct is upheld, to investigate and adjudicate upon alleged breaches of the rules, and if necessary apply appropriate sanctions to anyone found to be in breach.
He makes judgements on the basis of four levels of defined behaviour - from showing dissent or using offensive language to over racism, gambling, or attempted intimidation of officials.
A key role - and an area of special concern to me - is to contribute to the standard of umpiring.
The referee is not there to umpires and has no right to interfere with the role of the umpires under the laws of cricket. But he is there to help the umpires by maintaining an overview of how the game is being played that they, with their concentration ball by ball, cannot be expected to do.
It is also his role to assess and report on the performance of umpires. It is not only the tv commentators and audience who look closely at every decision; every appeal for a dismissal is recorded and viewed and detailed notes on the quality of the umpiring are kept so that the ICC is always working with umpires to improve performance.
Let me say that I have the utmost sympathy for these gentlemen. How many people have their minute-by-minute performance monitored by cameras and considered and reported upon, not by annual performance reviews, but on a daily basis - and that's after they have already been reviewed and commented upon on television in front of millions. There are times when one wonders why anyone would do it?
What I do believe is this: if technology is going to increasingly be used to reflect on the performance of the umpires - both by television and by officialdom - surely umpires should also have the opportunity to use it, to improve upon or supplement their performance.
How can it be right to ask an umpire to take a split-second decision based on his own eyesight and hearing while everyone else then judges (and, if justified - and sometimes when unjustified - criticises) that decision having made use of technology designed for the purpose?
It is time to use technology to the full extent. Umpires should be able to defer to the precision of Hawkeye, particularly in determining whether a batsman is lbw, whether there has been a bat-pad catch, and whether a batsman is caught behind the wicket where there's dispute over whether the ball has or has not been played.
I know there are problems about the time this will take, especially if a team is inclined to excessive appealing. But it should be possible to design restrictions on appealing, of the use of technology, monitored by the referee.
We should not delay any longer in acting on this. I believe there is overwhelming support for it. And it is in the interests of everyone, not just the umpires, but the players and public too.
Although we have some outstanding umpires on the international panel, the challenge of umpiring in today's conditions is greater than its ever been, and speaking frankly too many mistakes are being made. They're made not just because it's almost beyond human beings to make faultless decision when things happen so fast.
There is a lot at stake in international cricket these days; what matters is that we get it right - and if the technology will help, the technology should be used.
Another challenge arises from the need to maintain standards of behaviour on the field of play.
This varies. There have been recent series that have been a joy to referee, such has been the good-natured spirit in which they've been played.
There have been some that have been less satisfactory.
I know that last year, Suny Gavaskar expressed his concern about sledging and behaviour on the field. Before each match I talk to the captains and make it clear the ICC's view about how the game should be played. Once it begins, I keep the closest eye on this.
What I would say is that there has always been a bit of banter out there, and sometimes the frustration of a bowler whose appeal has been disallowed leads to a momentary lapse, and the players and the game are big enough to live with this.
But I agree with Suny that there is no need for nastiness, it is not necessary, it is not within the spirit of the game, and is best stamped out before "the level of the bar" drops and we find ourselves tolerating as "business as usual" behaviour that is foreign to the best traditions of the game.
In taking a firm line, referees are not being unnecessarily prissy - they are, I believe, reflecting what the game's players and supporters want.
Not are they there to make cricket less competitive. It should be hard-fought out there. There's a lot at stake.
I learned as captain of the West Indies the importance of winning - it is by winning that test teams rally their countries behind them, win sponsorship, and encourage the young to the game.
Some say to me that they find it surprising that I am a referee when I myself led the West Indies in an uncompromising way. But I did not believe then and I do not believe now that paying cricket in the right spirit means not playing it hard. It simply means playing it within the laws of the game and playing it honestly. I believe we always did.
I would like to touch on just one other area where reform is necessary. Over the past 15 years or so, one of the more revolutionary developments has been the day-night game. Undoubtedly, it has colour and commercial appeal. As a referee, however, I have to say that it does present the teams with starkly contrasting conditions, providing one with a considerable advantage - frankly, the difference between day and night. I believe, therefore, that such fixtures should not be scheduled for quarter-finals, semi-finals or finals. Once more, there's a lot at stake - at this level, fairness between teams must be paramount. It cannot be right that the game is settled with the toss.
Mr President, in recent years through the prism of our sport we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. As we contemplate the world today, we wonder whether cricket is not in fact a reflection of life. I referred earlier to John Arlott. He also wrote "no sport runs deeper into life than cricket."
As such, cricket has from time to time found itself on the cutting edge of progress - the very fact that it is being played becoming a reflection of peace between peoples.
Nowhere was this more so than in recent weeks when we saw the very best of cricket as India toured Pakistan for the first time in fourteen years. As the tour got underway, the Pakistan President expressed the hope that it would improve relations between the South Asian neighbours.
It was indeed a memorable moment in recent cricket history, although we should note that it was caused by the improved political relations between the two countries and only possible because the politicians decided to allow it. Still, it added to the improvement in relations between the two countries and we should be proud of that.
The issue of the cancellation of tours is, thank heavens, not one for referees, but it is one that has once more been placed firmly on cricket's agenda. I do not intend to take sides tonight, other, perhaps that to say that those who believe cricket tours can be influential for good - as they are perceived in Pakistan and India - must surely accept that, if they can have that influence, it must follow that there can occasionally be a converse side, too. It is tricky territory.
I do believe, however, that whatever one's view about the imposition of moral judgements into decision-making on tours, cricket should not isolate itself from the needs of the communities that live beyond its boundaries for it can do so much good.
Lord's is a leader in this respect, for who can but admire the outstanding charitable work of the Lord's Taverners?
I strongly recommend that the ICC and the entire international cricket fraternity become more involved in community outreach ventures and make their own contribution to improving the human condition whenever and wherever possible.
As cricket generates new wealth from increased commercialisation and the proliferation of the international game, so it can afford to share with those impoverished souls in our community, many of who live vicariously through their super-heroes in white.
I know you will join me in commending the Indian cricketers for arranging for a 10-year-old Pakistani girl suffering from cancer to received free treatment in India from three leading hospitals in Vellore, Bangalore and Bombay. Such a humanitarian gesture speaks volumes about the wider spirit of cricket and what it can do for the world.
In past days, it was taken for granted that touring sports teams would visit hospitals and schools and disadvantaged communities bringing a brief moment of attention and hope into their lives; cricket as well as our countries, would be better off it we could firmly re-establish that tradition.
Mr President, these are, as I have said, challenging days. But there is much to say that is good. As I've mentioned there's been the return to the cricket fields of the teams of India and Pakistan. In this country, there's been the fresh success of a young England team, and the success of Twenty20, a development that will without doubt find its place on the international stage.
And, around the world, big crowds continue to come, provided they believe they will see genuine competition.
And it's in the creation of genuine competition that the biggest challenge lies.
That will not happen by accident.
It means the strong helping the weak.
If they do, they will strengthen the whole international game.
If they do not, three or four countries will end up endlessly playing themselves - and everyone will lose patience with that.
This is a genuine case of helping the few being in the greater good.
In the meantime, let us at every level of the game embrace MCC's ideal of the spirit of cricket.
Let us exorcise the bad and the ugly.
Let us encourage honesty and integrity.
Cricket cam to assume he connotation of propriety. Hence the phrase "it's just not cricket!"
We can be proud of that.
We must protect it.
And with your continued leadership, we will."