Stephen Fry, a lifelong cricket supporter and MCC Foundation Patron, spoke at the twentieth edition of the MCC Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s on Tuesday 16 November 2021.
MCC Members and special guests were among the audience for the evening, while 8,500 viewers tuned into the live stream of the lecture, broadcast on the Lord’s YouTube and Facebook channels.
Fry reminisced on how his passion for cricket developed and his fascination with the spectacle cricket produces and the many elements it involves, despite not being remotely sporty himself or indeed a fan of sport.
“I suddenly saw something intensely fascinating and beautiful in the drama of the game, the rainbow of possible outcomes, the prowess in mind-readying, bluffing and guessing; the exquisite balance of it all, the luck, the timing, the weather, the interdependence of so many factors.”
Speaking with his usual wit and astuteness, Fry reflected on how the game has evolved, touching on formats and technique, as well as current matters regarding equality, race, access, progressive changes, and mental health.
“Like my homeland, my befuddled, bewildered, benighted and bedeviled homeland itself, cricket is beautiful and brutal, fair and foul, glorious and ghastly, decent and degraded. And also as with my homeland, my love and belief in cricket and its ability to change are strong enough and deep enough for me to believe that all is not yet lost.”
Guy Lavender, MCC Chief Executive & Secretary said: "We are incredibly grateful to Stephen for his time in sharing his impassioned, honest and enlightening speech. It comes at the time when we are all thinking about the issues of racism and discrimination within cricket, as well as society as a whole.
"As poignantly spoken about by Stephen, I hope that these topics will continue to be openly aired and that people will feel the encouragement to speak up. This is an opportunity to bring people together, not divide them. We are also thankful to Clare Connor and Kate Cross for joining us for the fascinating panel discussion, and to Mark Nicholas for hosting."
Fry was joined by MCC President Clare Connor and England Cricketer Kate Cross for a discussion after his speech, with broadcaster Mark Nicholas moderating topics. The discussions included the rise of the women’s game and greater pathways needed to continue this trend and the strains of mental health on the players and how dressing room culture can impact both physical and mental performance. In the final comments, all agreed that greater access for all will ultimately keep the Spirit of Cricket alive.
The MCC Cowdrey Lecture, in memory of Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, has become an annual highlight in the cricketing calendar, provoking debate and discussion of the major issues facing the game today.
The inaugural address was delivered in 2001 by Richie Benaud and past lecturers include Clive Lloyd, Imran Khan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mike Brearley.
You can watch the Lecture in full below.