The start of a new season at Lord’s and through the North Gate to the bag security check and body search, as ever courteously done. If 2019 is going to be anything like previous seasons, and it probably will be, those doing the searching and wishing a good day will usually be young, not over-paid and given the nature of the work, somewhere else tomorrow. As we reach the end of a decade that began with ‘austerity’ and all in it together, earnings of £12,500 are allowed now for those with jobs, there the next day or not, before paying income tax.
Two members of the Sunday League generation headed to the Mound Stand; born in a favourable decade for buying a house, the blogger’s mate and partner have recently cashed in their chips on their property. A boy from the north done pretty good over the years, lived at number 16 when Andrew and Ruth Strauss were good neighbours; but middle England, Pitshanger not Park Lane. Taking capital gains for what they are, allowances and exemptions totted up before payments of tax on income for him something like three to four times that for those at the gate, but a modest multiple still by comparison with some who will be along later this summer.
Gross inequities to be sure, a lot, although by no means all, coming from the cyclical up of house prices. We have been here before, three times as it happens in the case of the Sunday League generation. The last cycle ended in 2008, like its predecessors, 17 years after it started, time to regret, forget and do it again then; although this time round the wealth transfers to the nation’s (grand) parents have been much greater, helping keep up the numbers of Sky subscribers and making a day at the Test at £150 affordable.
Ten miles west lies Southall with a population made up very largely of those with a South Asian heritage, a local travel company supplies adverts between overs on Sky and if you were to listen to some, one place where cricket’s new audience is going to be found. A decade ago the local authority counted the number of cricket pitches in public spaces there, found 13, 31 in the borough as whole (Ealing), and expected then a need for a further six. Divide by two for the actual numbers last year.
It is not in the least bit difficult to connect the decline on the commons with tax breaks for those prospering . The journalist James Bloodworth in his piece ‘Is capitalism killing cricket?’ goes back to the 1980s to point to the beginnings of the current decline of the game, the long form particularly. Certainly the rise and rise of managerialism has been no friend of cricket in schools and the problems faced by those aiming for a generational renewal of interest now, any format, should put them in a place where they get some space.
The muddle surrounding The 100 has left those who take an interest wondering why they should. Looked at from the outside in 2019 the ECB appears cast as the gambler late at night with losses to recover unwisely taking big risks. Those trying to connect, looking for cool, could do themselves a favour by binning the management speak and then take a lead from Gareth Southgate about being honest and to the point. The game will find its own waistcoat.
If there is to be an uptake that sustains, the international game still seems the more likely place for it. Twice in the last forty years cricket has come up big, individual brilliance rising from the depths and a moment seized after an opposing captain’s mistake. In both 1981 and 2005 cricket, a civilising sound of the English summer, arguably did something for those outside it: Botham’s Ashes in a country with 3mn+ unemployed, and in 2005, when a war in the desert still rankled with many. The open question now is whether the game could actually do it again?