Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Lords Reform

Cricketers who follow the ins and outs of British political discussion will have been confused by continuing references to Reform of the Lords.  it is important that the cricketer understands that it has nothing to do with Lords the cricket ground.  For Lords is Lords, and probably beyond reform. 

7th Baron Hawke
This may be a subject that quickens few pulses among Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership but one valid reason that the House of Lords may well be ripe for reform could be that cricket is no longer of significance to its members.

Wisden reveals that 38 Lords have played First Class Cricket but only 2 have played Test cricket.  But those 2 were redoubtable specimens and had great influence on the development of the game - Lord Hawke (1860-1938) and Lord Harris (1851-1932).

Hawke's life was cricket. He captained Yorkshire for 28 seasons during which they won eight Championships, and was the county's president for 40 years. He was MCC president from 1914 to 1919, its treasurer and a trustee between 1932 and 1938, and a national selector from 1899 to 1909 and again in 1933. it is not clear what his attitude to a-leaping might have been for he was a strict disciplinarian. Hawke may be best remembered for improving the conditions of professional players particularly through the introduction of winter wages. Nevertheless he held strong views on the professsional's place in the game - in 1925 he said 'Pray God, no professional shall ever captain England. I love and admire them all, but we have always had an amateur skipper and when the day comes when we shall have no more amateurs captaining England it will be a thousand pities.'

4th Baron Harris
Harris was England's second ever Test captain. He played for Kent for over forty years captaining them from 1871 to 1889. He had a long association with Lord's as both player and administrator. It was not till 1929, at the age of seventy-eight, that he played there for the last time, for MCC v Indian Gymkhana. He served as President of the MCC in 1895. He was a Trustee of MCC from 1906 to 1916 and Honorary Treasurer from 1916 to 1932. to his credit are teh development of the Imperial Cricket Conference which agreed rules to control Test cricket between the three nations.But notoriously he almost ran England's greatest batsman out of the game. Walter Hammond had been born in Kent but chose to play for Gloucestershire, where he had gone to school. Hammond had not fulfilled the required period of residence to qualify, and once Harris discovered this Hammond was barred from playing for them again until the necessary time had elapsed. All this led Harris to complain about 'Bolshevism' influencing cricket.

Unlike Hawke, Harris had a career outside cricket as a Government Minister and as Governor of the Presidency of Bombay in British India from 1890 to 1895. His appointment was not universally well regarded and seems notable mainly for his enthusiastic pursuit of cricket amongst his fellow Europeans. Later writers credited Harris with introducing and developing the sport in India. But this appears flattery beyond the reality, for the game was well established before his arrival.

Hawke and Harris were hereditary peers.  Many cricketers have been honoured at various levels, although to Fantasy Bob's knowledge only 2 have made it to the House of Lords - Lord Constantine the great W Indian allrounder whose ennoblement followed his post cricket political and legal career - he was a prominent force in the development of racial equality. And Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, captain of the England Women's team from 1966-78, became a working peer in 2010.

And then there was one cricketer who may never have got to the House of Lords, may never have kissed the ermine, but was Lordly in everything he did on the field - the one and only Lord Ted. 

Cricket and the House of Lords is clearly an issue that those calling for Lords Reform must address.

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