Time for some (very) civil disobedience

‘Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine’, said Henry David Thoreau. He said lots more about civil disobedience, but just hold on to that one thought for a second or two.

First, let me declare an interest. I run a cricket team, write cricket articles and the odd book on the sport which I adore, from the last of which I make a tiny living. I am also 60, and can see that my cricketing career is in that dappled sunlight stage between tea and stumps, when the end is in sight, and John Major’s hilarious maidens are heading off to Evensong on their bicycles. Meaning each season has just that little bit more significance than its predecessor.

But, when the Prime Minister announced on Monday that recreational cricket was not free to go ahead, when we were all free to go into pubs to get pissed, shops to get coughed on and churches to pray in, I must admit that something in me broke. It had threatened to do so for some months, but now it just did. It was not so much that this announcement was being made by the same man who let 256,684 potential spreaders get up close and personal at the Cheltenham Festival in the second week of the pandemic, as it was the levity with which he passed off his excuse of the ball being the ‘vector of the disease’, as if it explained everything. He was talking rubbish, and I think he knew it, even as he uttered it.

I have a different explanation to his ‘vector’ one. The sin is not that he doesn’t care about sport, even though it is a pity he doesn’t, but that he has no comprehension of what sport does for the physical and mental welfare of people who are less privileged than him. Furthermore, because he doesn’t care, he has no idea of the sheer fragility of a sport that has lost 20% of its remaining players just between 2016-2018, before the World Cup last year magnificently, but temporarily, halted its long-term decline. And, because all he has ever wanted in life is to be Prime Minister, he has failed to understand the part that recreational sport plays in the sheer survival of so many.

I cannot prove it, but I would make it odds-on that the government has already decided that there will be no recreational cricket at all this year. It doesn’t pay taxes, doesn’t employ more than a handful of people, doesn’t produce many votes and therefore doesn’t count. Throw them all a few platitudes, and some expressions of regret, and then ignore them. Chin up! It’s for the greater good, and all that. Stay alert. Save lives, Protect the NHS. Then by all means have a skinful in Wetherspoons if you’re sad about cricket, but try not to sneeze over anyone when you’re off your face.

And if and when that suspicion is confirmed, they will have taken a giant step to killing off the sport for ever. Because the truth, unfortunately, is not that it and we will just rise elegantly from the ashes next Spring, and shake the dust from our Corinthian bags and bats and drive to the waiting grounds to take our metaphorical guards again. That will happen for the privileged few, of whom I am probably one, who will find a ground whatever the cost, but it won’t happen in most places. The waiting ground simply won’t be there any more. The reality is one where a good, cash-strapped, local cricket club is at once a pillar of mental health for young people, a focal point for the community, something for the old to come and watch and a provider of business for the pub. And they were folding thick and fast before this; does anyone seriously think that more than 60-70% of them will survive this? Talk to anyone involved in keeping a village cricket team going: it was hard enough before, but this is the final straw. 

Cricket, as you know it, will simply not survive a non-season.

Ask not, if you are a non cricketer, whether that matters all that much; just about every physical experience is better than any virtual one, and you can dimly see the day coming when these marginal activities just belong in museums. And that matters.

Every decision the government has to take at the moment involves a risk balance, and we all get that. But to tell us, without even so much as a hint of irony, that 22 incompetent people running around a couple of windy acres for a few hours represents a bigger infection risk than throwing-out time at a city centre pub is one for the birds.

So back to Thoreau. I suspect the long-dead philosopher would say: ‘cut the crap, and just play.’ I’d make a pathetic and half-hearted revolutionary, but you have to start somewhere. So, respecting anyone who would rather not, or who buys the ‘vector’ argument, and oppositions who would rather not, but I fully intend to run a cricket season for my team this year, however much a pale imitation. and to do so from July 12th, irrespective of whether we have permission. We will take all the precautions that the ECB have presented to the government as sensible for preventing the spread of Covid, including giving the teas a miss, if that is what it needs But we will bloody well play cricket if we physically can. 

It is simply not the Prime Minister’s to kill.

Roger Morgan-Grenville

June 2020

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22 thoughts on “Time for some (very) civil disobedience

  1. Good luck on the 12th. Gerald

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here….here! Go for it. I only wish we could be with you, cheering you onto the wicket ….and off, to enjoy a thoroughly deserved cricket tea.

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  3. The only real question Roger is are you accepting tour parties?! 😉

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    1. Definitely. Effective action needs mass participation.

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  4. Go for it. Good luck. And think in terms of crowd funding if you get legal hassle. There must be a lot of support for such action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is, and it seems to be picking up some momentum up there. We just need lots of sharing of the sentiment!

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  5. Here in East London, the local Bengali-speaking community have been playing very lively social cricket matches in the park since the breaking of the Cummings story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it. My personal story is going to be that I am using cricket to test my eyesight on a regular basis!

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  6. Hi mate i am very much interested to bring over my team if you would like a friendly let me know 07932214962 cheers

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    1. Hold that thought, What, and I’ll get back to you if the opportunity arises. Where are you based, and what sort of standard are you?

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    2. I am the same, I would love to bring our team, a small village Sunday side. 07593862805

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      1. Thanks, Robert. Where are you based?

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  7. totally agree with your views and sentiments.You also forgot all the illegal demonstrations and the beaches.
    If cricket clubs folded there would be lots of open spaces that could be sold off for housing by local councils which would give the government and local councils a lot of money. As you say no tax revenue from cricketers.Why is horse racing and football back on. A cynical view.

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  8. Richard Dearden coach St Annes 28th Jun 2020 — 11:12 am

    Thank God, about F—ing time soneone who has stood up for club cricket, and all lovers, players, watchers of the real game, the one all players come through. And stood up for a wonderful beautiful game. I’m for civil disobedience, in fact I’m the Jardine of civil disobedience. Long live Cricket Boris builder of character.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Fantastic writing and superb feelings about the great game.
    So many people share your views.
    Duncan.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 'Fast Hands' Phil (A Natural Born Working-Class Rebel) 1st Jul 2020 — 12:57 pm

    Saying we’d take such action may make us all feel better but I fear taking it will set back our chances of official go-ahead. If anyone does take this action, please consider the possibility that, should someone get hurt, you may have nullified any insurance cover. Sorry. PS It’s a pity you politicized the article; you may have lost some of your audience with the rant about privilege (irrespective of its accuracy or otherwise).

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    1. Phil. Thanks for the reaction. You make one very good point, in my view, and one fair one. The first, the one about insurance, is one I have spent a large part of the last few days trying to sort; the last thing I want to do is create an extra risk for anyone, even though I have had both lawyers and insurers offering to help, in the interests of sport. The privilege one is a matter of opinion. I went to the same school as the PM, and I know just how privileged my launch pad into the adult world was. It didn’t make me a worse person, but it was only after I had washed up dishes in a Swiss hotel for half a year, and wandered round the slums of Belfast as a soldier that the idea began to trickle into my mind that not everyone was like me. The problem with the PM, I believe, is that he has never done the metaphorical dish-washing, and therefore just doesn’t understand the power of sport to lift people. We may yet be saved by an announcement!

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      1. 'Fast Hands' Phil (A Natural Born Working-Class Rebel) 1st Jul 2020 — 4:23 pm

        Thank you for acknowledging the potential insurance issue, Roger. It does seem to be fraught.
        I suspect you’re missing my helpfully-meant point about Boris and privilege. It is not whether your opinion of Boris is right or wrong, it is whether expressing it when you did meant you lost the part of your audience who don’t share it. And so potential recruits to your cause.
        More to the point perhaps is that there are now those of the opinion that after 04 July, the rules (in law) on public gatherings will become ‘guidance’ (unenforceable in law) and the police’s powers will diminish to dispersal of large and irresponsible gatherings of over 30 people..

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      2. I see what you mean, and I hope I didn’t put too many people off that way! I think that one of the issues is that cricket, being a game that requires quite a lot of self-discipline and control, is unlikely to produce many people who want, when it comes down to it, to go out on a limb and break the guidelines. My frustration came from looking at pictures of Bournemouth Beach and Notting Hill. I might return to the subject this weekend, but I’ll take your advice and leave the PM out of it!

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  11. 'Fast Hands' Phil (A Natural Born Working-Class Rebel) 1st Jul 2020 — 11:41 pm

    🙂 I understand, Roger. Raise the passions before a call to action. All good leadership stuff (so long as it unites).
    If those I quote above are right, then after 04 July (this Saturday!) recreational cricket featuring a responsible group of less than 30 people is no longer breaking the rules (law) and the police cannot fine or disperse theme. This may also mean that insurance isn’t affected as the activity would not be illegal.
    It’d be great if your lawyers and insurers could give us some advice on this for your upcoming article this weekend? Could this weekend be the start of your revolution!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 'Fast Hands' Phil (A Natural Born Working-Class Rebel) 3rd Jul 2020 — 5:45 pm

    If I heard right, Boris (and his two Chief Scientists) have just said on air (17:40, Friday 03 July) that guidelines will be issued in the next few days which will allow recreational cricket to be played next weekend.
    They said the issue was ‘going back to the pavilion for tea/a pint’!

    Liked by 1 person

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