Is red-ball cricket fairly thought of as a game for the privileged classes? Lord’s prices for Test matches are certainly one pointer. As to the players, on the county circuit 105 out of (14*11=) 154 at the Oval last summer had been to an independent school, add in those from overseas with similar educations and the 2022 county champions may have been the most privileged in the competition’s history.
Cricket Archive data.
Whether Surrey were also champions because of it is moot; the numbers for Sussex and Worcester were not so different, the numbers for the ‘smaller East Midlands counties’ not so many. The average of English-qualified players across the game was around 55%, although fair to add this was slightly above that for the England teams in the 15 Tests in 2022 (52%).
But the head count of players that have been to an independent school, whether on a bursary or fee-paying, has risen markedly in recent seasons; of those that weren’t around in 2018 but were in 2022 the figure is close to 60%. While it fits in to what might have been expected given the ECB’s priority of £s over FTA after 2005, it’s also a legacy that probably has a distance to run over the next decade. An increasing concentration from a small number of independent schools seems likely, getting on for a quarter of English players came through 20 of them last year.
In ‘democratic’ white-ball cricket this reliance on places attended by 6-7% of those of school age was quite similar, the numbers a bit higher if anything; as broadly it was with the pattern of domestic and England players’ backgrounds. Cricket Archive has not so very much on those in the Women’s 100, although it would be no big surprise if it was in line with the men; for what it’s worth the counts last year were 6/13.
There is an obvious follow-on question here about the backgrounds of recreational players. As to the answer to the long-term decline in the game’s playing base being private equity at the top, cue higher ticket prices; football has travelled a distance up-market from where it was in 1992, but with cricket, starting from here, why follow?