Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Everybody Out

The UK is grinding to a halt today as players of the Public Sector CC have made themselves unavailable for selection in today’s matches. Players are protesting about the selection committee’s insistence that they bowl additional overs before they are allowed to rest at fine leg.

There are many concerns about the impacts of this inaction – and the risk of non-cricketers entering the country at unmanned border posts has been highlighted in the media.

Baseball Strike 1994
But cricket generally does not carry an air of industrial militancy. Whereas sport in the USA is subject to regular strikes and lock outs, things in Europe are altogether more docile. There was an extended dispute in the NFL this year lasting from March 11 to July 25 over the collective bargaining agreement. This lock out actually covered the off season and only one game was affected before it was resolved – strong management action stopped players playing when they weren’t meant to be playing anyway. Unlike the baseball strike in 1994 which was triggered by a proposed salary cap. The dispute lasted 3 months of the season and led to the cancellation of the World Series and the loss of over a billion dollars to the game. Baseball took several years to recover.

So by comparison cricket is a tranquil scene. Nevertheless there have been incidents. The most celebrated was the rebellion in 1896 before the final Ashes test of the summer. The English team was led by WG Grace and included 5 professionals Tom Richardson, George Lohmann, Bobby Abel, Tom Hayward and Billy Gunn, The pros felt under paid and unloved. The Test series had been a rousing commercial success yet their winter wage offer had been reduced. Meanwhile in another part of the class system WG Grace, had had his amateur status confirmed with a testimonial worth £9703 – equivalent to £1m in today’s money – that is a lot of amateurness. It was also rumoured that Grace’s expenses were higher than the pros’ fees for the matches. The pros asked for more and were soundly dismissed by the management reflecting all the most attractive features of the English class system. Only Lohman was unable to withdraw his non-cooperation in time and he did not play in this match – or ever again for England. The committee's decision meant that Lohmann's bowling average was frozen at 10.75, the best in the history of cricket. Even without his contribution, England won the match by 66 runs, bowling out Australia in their second innings for 44.
George Lohman

There have been a number of other labour disputes in the history of cricket.  W Indies players struck in 2009 over a range of grievances in pay and treatment.  Senior players including Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul boycotted the series with Bangladesh which led to a second string team giving Bangladesh their first overseas series victory.  A mediator brought a resolution although the situation is still combustible, as this year’s dispute with Chris Gayle suggests.

But the threat of strike action came closer to home in the summer of 2011 as Alistair Cook suggested players might consider striking if the amount of international cricket they play is not reduced.  He subsequently clarified his comment by saying that when he used the word strike he didn’t mean strike as in the strike sense of the word but in the non-strike sense of the word.  Having clarified that little misunderstanding Cook went on to take over the shop-steward position of the England ODI team. 

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