Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/483

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
461
CRICKET AND THE VICTORIAN ERA.

batting. The development of bowling has been natural and gradual; each great bowler has added his quota. W. G. discovered batting; he turned its many narrow straight channels into one great winding river. Any one who reads his book will understand this. Those who nowadays try to follow in his footsteps may or may not get within measurable distance of him, but it was he who pioneered and made the road. Where a great man has led many can go afterwards, but the honour is his who found and cut the path. The theory of modern batting is in all essentials the result of W. G.'s thinking and working on the game.

As for fielding, it is much the same as ever, neither better nor worse, I expect, though probably the placing of the field is less stereotyped and more scientific than in earlier days.

New rules introduced at various times, such as relate to the follow-on and the declaration-of-innings and suchlike, have affected the way in which matches work out, but have not materially altered the game itself. Cricket as played now is the result of W. G.'s sudden development of batting, and of the final evolution of bowling into the present over-arm style. And this growth of cricket into what it is now has been facilitated and fostered by the rise and establishment of a class devoted entirely to the game. Mark you, cricket is a big thing, and to reach the highest pitch in it of which you are capable, you must give to it your best endeavours and nearly all your time. Whether you ought to do so is another question altogether—although I have tried to show that to do so is not altogether useless.

How did the modern system of county cricket come into vogue? Briefly thus. In the beginning it was local club cricket pure and simple; then out of this grew representative local cricket—that is, district or county cricket, which flourished along with local club cricket. Out of county cricket, which was then only local cricket glorified, sprang exhibition cricket, which lived side by side with, but distinct from, the other. Finally, exhibition and county cricket merged and became one. And that is where we are now. The fact that county cricket is a mixture of two entirely different elements is not generally perceived. Otherwise there would be less nonsense talked about some aspects of it. Down to the year 1846 all cricket was practically club cricket. At first clubs were local. Eleven players of one village or town played eleven of another. In other words, the localities contended against one another in cricket. The interest was local. If the game had been polo or quoits, the raison d'être of the match would have been the same. Single-wicket matches being