The Jubilee Book of Cricket/Chapter 11
CRICKET AND THE VICTORIAN ERA.
In this year of grace 1897 all the British Empire is joining together to congratulate her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria upon the unparalleled duration of her reign. There is no part or condition of her loyal subjects' lives which may not fairly be called upon to prove its right to be regarded as one of the blessings her Majesty may associate with her happy occupation of the throne of England.
The rise and development of athleticism, until it has become a most important aspect of British life, has been one of the marked characteristics of the Victorian era. I do not mean to say that the nation had not athletic tastes and tendencies long before Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. That would be untrue. For from time immemorial the English have been passionately fond of sports and pastimes, and have carried their love for them wherever they have wandered on their many errands of peace and war. But in former days games of all kinds were offshoots and ornaments of daily life rather than distinct and absorbing interests. It is during the last sixty years, and especially during the latter half of this period, that the two great games cricket and football have become such enormous factors in the sum of English life. It may also be said that the average modern Englishman has two separate sides to his nature—one for work and one for games. And though his work may sometimes make it impossible for him to play games, though his interest in games may sometimes prevent him from working, still if an average be struck the two sides will be found fairly well balanced. At any rate, games form a very large part of modern English life. Queen Victoria reigns over a people who find much of the pleasure of life in games—either actively or passively. In reviewing a period with regard to its value in a nation's history, it is a great mistake to leave out of the reckoning the recreations and pleasures of the people, for these have a considerable influence on the national character. And the larger share such things have in daily life and interests, the more important is it to take them into consideration. So in casting our eyes back upon Queen Victoria's reign we must not omit to notice the prevailing spirit of athleticism, which if it existed before has only of late years assumed a definite shape by crystallising, as it were, round the two great English games and round others in a less marked degree.
Foreigners who come to England are always surprised and impressed by the deep and widespread interest in games. A German friend of mine once said to me: "When I first came to England I was naturally on the look-out for such traits and characteristics as were different from those of my own countrymen. Nothing struck me as more peculiar in external English life than the extraordinary interest taken in games, and the exaggerated importance, as it seemed to me then, attached to them by the public. I could understand people liking football and cricket, but I could not understand how they could bring themselves to make these games integral and absorbing portions of their life. The way I first perceived what games mean to Englishmen was this. I was taken by a young Oxford graduate to see a cricket-match at Kennington Oval. To begin with, I was much astounded at the enormous seating area of the ground, and at the huge crowd that was assembled to watch eleven men from Nottingham play at bat and ball against eleven men of Surrey. But what seemed to me hardly credible was the extreme orderliness of the many thousands as they came and went through the turnstiles or stood in their places round the ring. And yet there were only four or five polic.emen on the ground. These, too, had nothing much to do. They seemed chiefly occupied in finding some spot to stand where they could see the match well without obscuring any one's view. I remarked on this to my friend, and told him that abroad it would require at least three hundred policemen to keep such a huge crowd in order. 'Ah!' he replied, 'but all these people come to see cricket, and when they get here pay no attention to anything but the game. So they sit still and don't interfere with one another.' Then I saw how deeply the English are interested in games." My German acquaintance's remarks are instructive. Something that keeps 25,000 people in order without external direction or suppression must be very real. I am afraid large bodies of spectators are not always quite so well behaved as on this occasion. But that they behave as well as they usually do is surprising enough till the reason is recognised.
The mention of foreign criticism of English games reminds me of an article I saw in the 'New Review' last summer. The writer of it tried to show that the games and pastimes upon which the English pride themselves as having contributed largely towards the national greatness do not produce, even physically, finer men than the Continental military training; that they certainly produce far less valuable citizens, and waste also much valuable time. His point was, as far as I remember, that the three years' military training which every Frenchman and German has to undergo produce a physical result at least as good as do our games, and with great economy of time. Further, whereas skill in games is of no practical use, a knowledge of military service and its requirements is useful for an extremely important end, the defence of one's country.
With regard to physical development pure and simple, I am not in a position to dispute these statements. For I have not seen enough men trained under the military system to afford a fair comparison. But those Frenchmen and Germans whom I have seen certainly fall below the physical standard attained by the average Englishman. As far as I can see, the man who is the result of football and cricket is, in the matter of thew and sinew and general bodily ability, about as good a specimen as can be produced by any means whatever. However, for the sake of argument, let us regard the two physical results as equal, or, if need be, that of games as slightly inferior to that of military service. In every other respect, there can be no possible doubt, games are far better training for a man than military service, In the first place, they fit in much more conveniently with the pursuit of an employment, whether trade or profession. Nowadays a young man can get plenty of exercise at football or cricket without in any way spending upon them time which he ought to be devoting to work. Perhaps he may not be able to play enough to become a first-rate performer, or to win any fame as an athlete, but he can play enough to cultivate his physique quite as highly as desirable. Military training, on the other hand, cuts a man's life in two. In order to meet its requirements he has to leave his trade or profession for several years, which must handicap him immensely, and is likely to render him far less efficient in his particular line than he would otherwise be. Military training comes all in a lump; training by games is spread over many years. The former ends suddenly and for ever, the latter goes on as long as a man retains the power of running and a fair use of his limbs. Moreover, it is quite obvious that the general atmosphere of cricket and football fields is for a young man far preferable to that of the barracks. Barrack life is at best rather unsavoury—at least so it seems to me. I can well understand that three years spent in it may do an infinite amount of harm, whereas a playing-field cannot possibly do any one any harm, but only good. But to return to the respective results. Given that the two trainings produce practically the same purely physical result, and you have not made sure one does not produce a far better man than the other. Now I maintain that the training by means of games turns out by far the better man. The oft-repeated saying of the Duke of Wellington that the battle of Waterloo was won on the Eton playing-fields, has a deeper meaning than is usually attached to it. Games do more than strengthen muscles and teach courage and endurance. They give those who play them an unconquerable joie de vivre—a buoyancy that refuses to be overwhelmed. It is this pleasure in life, these eternal good spirits, that, in addition to courage, endurance, and physical powers, are the great benefits England has reaped and is still reaping from her love for games. And herein is one of her most fruitful resources. Mr Andrew Lang, in his unerring manner, has hit the nail exactly on the head. And what he says of cricket applies also in some degree to other games. "Cricket," he writes, "is a liberal education in itself, and demands temper, justice, and perseverance. There is more teaching in the playground than in schoolrooms"—he might have added, than in gymnasiums or drill-yards—"and a lesson better worth learning often. For there can be no good or enjoyable cricket without enthusiasm—without sentiment, one may almost say; a quality that enriches life and refines it; gives it, what life more and more is apt to lose, zest."
No one ever got much enthusiasm or zest out of parallel bars or squad drill. It is just this that makes all the difference. Physical training by means of games has all the advantages over that by means of military service which the voluntary and pleasant has over the compulsory and distasteful. In the former the subject can give full play to his instincts and becomes himself; in the latter he is checked and curbed and pressed into a mould. And the instincts to which games give scope are some of the best in human nature. Cricketers and footballers are far more likely to realise their possibilities for good than are hastily-trained soldiers. As to who make the better citizens, it may be safely concluded that the better men do, unless they are required for a European war—a contingency to which Englishmen are happily not in much danger of being subject.
Well, then, athletics have come to be a very large part of English life—definite forms of athletics. For proof of this statistics suffice. Not that I mean to deal in figures. The huge numbers recorded as having visited cricket, football, and other matches, the variety and circulation of sporting journals and the general prevalence of athletic literature of all sorts, show that games are with us in some bulk. And games are good, for they produce good results and make almost without exception for what is good.
The next point I should like to make is, that cricket is the best of all games, and is so regarded by the majority of Englishmen all over the world—best intrinsically as a game, and also because of its effects upon those who play it or watch it being played.
What says Richard Daft, one of the most skilful and thoughtful of cricketers?—
No game except cricket combines a great amount of science with the advantage of bodily exercise. In fact, the mental and physical qualities required for one who would excel as a cricketer are about equally in demand. When one is at the wickets batting the brain is never at rest—eye and hand must work together. The bowler is your enemy for the time being, to say nothing of the wicket-keeper and fielders; your enemy is doing all he can to overcome you, and you must bring all your mental and physical qualities into play to prevent him.
The games of lawn-tennis, football, baseball, lacrosse, and others, are all of the same class as cricket, but none of them allow of such exact science as our national game.
A single mistake on the part of a batsman may cause his downfall, whereas at every other game more mistakes can often be made without the like disastrous consequences to the player who makes them. Then, of course, we have an advantage over football in having a most enjoyable time of the year for our game. The surroundings of a cricket-match are naturally of a pleasanter character. I am very far from running down our chief winter pastime. Football is, in my opinion, by far and away the finest game ever known, with the one exception of cricket.
Cricket has also this great advantage over many games—by having eleven men on each side. This must always make a game more interesting than where there are only one or two on a side. When we have eleven-a-side contests we know that a match is never lost till it is won, and a seeming defeat is often turned into a victory by the tail-end at the eleventh hour Cricket is the king of games for players, as it is for spectators who understand the game. For those who do not, I can quite understand their considering it slow and uninteresting.
And now that I have gone through the whole of my career down to the present time and look back to the time I was a young man, I am far from regretting that I have been a cricketer; and he who has never indulged in this noblest of all pastimes, be he prince or peasant, has missed one of the greatest enjoyments of life.
Such is Richard Daft's opinion of cricket; and I think it will be echoed by all who have either taken part in the game or had much to do with it. How cricket compares with sports is another question. There are many fine cricketers who like hunting, shooting, or fishing better than cricket. But no one who has played most of the English games with fair success has really any doubt in his mind that cricket stands by itself as the best of them all. The opinions of men who have risen to a high position in other games, but have failed in cricket, must be accepted with some reservation. There are many men who have played football and cricket equally well; but none of those whom I know has the slightest hesitation in plumping for cricket as the better game of the two.
It is always difficult to analyse a game with a view to finding out why it gives pleasure. Richard Daft seems to me to go to the root of the matter with regard to cricket when he says that it requires of its followers a high degree not only of bodily but of mental skill, and exercises both in a very pleasurable way. But there is something in the game of cricket which cannot be expressed in words—a peculiar charm and fascination. It is as impossible to describe this as it is to describe the pleasure derived from seeing fine trees or fine buildings. All one can say is that the charm of the game consists in an aggregate of pleasant feelings which is greater than that given by any other. And I think the reason must be that cricket calls into play more faculties, and gives them freer play and wider scope, than any other game. This is what a cricketer means when he says there is so much in the game. People who have not played or been closely concerned with cricket have not the faintest conception what there is in it. In a somewhat similar way those who have no acquaintance with music fail to understand what there is in a sonata of Beethoven.
It has sometimes been objected that nearly all the pleasure, derived from cricket is due not so much to the intrinsic merits of the game as to accidents of conditions and surroundings. That bright June sunshine and fine green turf are good settings for a game no one can deny. Then there is that grand old elm yonder to lie under while looking on. And there is all the pleasant companionship and salted wit of the pavilion and the railway journey. But I cannot help thinking that it is the spirit of cricket—of the game itself—that glorifies everything connected with it. No doubt when people play the game on a rough jumble of veldt-grass and mine-tailings in the outskirts of Johannesburg, half the pleasure they find is the result of association of ideas. The feel of a bat and its sound against the ball bring back memories of the green turf and cool breezes of England. Still, cricket is a gem fair in itself, apart from the beauty of its setting—a gem quite worthy of a niche in Queen Victoria's crown.
But there is another respect in which cricket is pre-eminent as a game. It seems to have an extraordinarily good influence both upon those who take an active part in it and upon those who are merely spectators. I have tried to suggest some of the ways in which games are beneficial to the nation as a whole. They are a splendid form of recreation and an excellent physical training, and cricket as the best of them may fairly be regarded as conferring the greatest benefits. I hope I shall not be convicted of special pleading, for I am afraid my case is not very scientifically stated. However, no one who knows anything of the game can fail to see what a fine physical training cricket affords. It exercises every muscle of the body, encouraging not only strength and speed but agility and quickness. It also gives grace and ease of movement. Few good cricketers are clumsy or ponderous, at any rate in their prime; and even when years bring a superfluity of flesh, cricketers seem to retain enough of their youthful qualities to make them far more active than those of their coevals who have never taken part in the game. Something of the educational value of cricket has also been hinted at. But that aspect of the game concerns all who take part in it as a recreation, especially boys and men without much leisure. There are two classes of people affected by cricket in a more special way—those who devote their life to the game, and those who form the large body of regular spectators.
Let us consider the former class first. One of the most recent developments of the game is the number of professionals who take it up as a means of gaining their livelihood. And along with them, as far as the influence of cricket is concerned, may be grouped the leisured class who make it their chief occupation.
Now the increase of the number of professional players is a natural result of the evolution of cricket into its present state and dimensions. Later on modern cricket will be reviewed in its relation to the past. Here it is sufficient to admit that the game has in a sense become more than a game. It is a huge institution, highly organised and demanding the entire time of those actively engaged in it, or at any rate so much of their time that they are good for little else. From being a recreation it has become an occupation. A. man nowadays cannot play first-class cricket and do much else. And many people regard this as not quite as it should be. They cry out against the present state of things, because men are taken away from trades and useful occupations in order to play cricket for some fifteen years of their lives, and the very best years into the bargain. They point out, also, that though a professional cricketer may lead a very pleasant and harmless life as long as he is young and fit to play, the profession he adopts ceases with his youth, so that he is left stranded at an age when most men are just beginning to be successful, and are ensuring the position of themselves and their families.These objections to the present state of games look very plausible at first sight, from the point of view of political and social economy. And there is no doubt that there is very considerable justification for them with regard to football. A football professional gets higher wages on the average than a cricket professional, but his career is very much shorter. Few men are able to make wages out of the game for more than ten years altogether. These ten years are sufficient to put them out of touch with other occupations, and give them a taste for doing nothing except playing games. It must be remembered that though the actual time spent in football-matches is not great—in fact, it is so small that first-class football and an ordinary trade are by no means mutually exclusive—the training and preparation of a professional football team is so rigorous that practically there is no chance of its members being able to do anything else. Then football professionals are paid a retaining fee during the close season, so they have no need to work even then. There is no doubt that many of them are stranded in most unenviable positions at the end of their brief and meteoric careers. With cricket professionals the case is somewhat different. Their period of active service is much longer. For after a cricketer has played many years for a county, and at last is too old to be of any use in first-class cricket, he can always obtain a berth either as a school coach or as a club bowler, the duties of which he can fulfil adequately until he is practically an old man. And all this
P. S. MACDONNELL.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
Before considering what there is in the other objection to the existing state of games, let us see what kind of man is produced by a life devoted to cricket. It has always seemed to me that those people are most fortunate whose work and pleasure are combined. I do not mean those who merely take a kind of side interest in their work while their real interests are otherwise directed, but those whose chief pleasure is their work. It is of course out of the question to compare playing cricket with the pursuit of art, science, or literature. But in a far-off way a professional cricketer's life does somewhat resemble that of an artist. The true artist regards his art, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. For him his art is not only his work but his pleasure. Now most cricketers would rather play cricket than do anything else, even though it is the means whereby they live The large majority of professionals play cricket for cricket's sake, rather than because they get so much a-year for appearing in so many matches or bowling for so many hours a-day at nets. For this reason, I think I would rather be a professional cricketer than a man who toils to make a large income out of some business that he hates, in order to be able to spend it upon something he likes. Such men have a divided life, half of which is not life at all in the true sense of the word. A cricketer is a far better exponent of the art of living than many men who are far richer and far more highly esteemed. Perhaps this is the reason why cricketers as a class are so remarkably happy themselves and so extremely pleasant to deal with. There are few worthier fellows in the world than the average professional of the better class. I remember hearing Mr Stoddart say—and I hope he will not mind my repeating it—"Well, I never want to meet three better fellows or more pleasant companions than Tom Richardson, Albert Ward, and Brockwell." This was soon after he returned from his tour in Australia in the winter of 1895-96. It is true he happened to light on three particularly good specimens, but what he said of them is widely applicable among professionals. They are as a class good fellows and pleasant companions. And it would be curious if there was much wrong with the life that produces men who are happy themselves and make others happy too.
At the same time, cricket does not stamp a man with any special peculiarities. On the contrary, as was remarked above, cricketers do not all give the impression of having been turned out of the same mould. There is usually not much difficulty in classing most men one comes across as belonging to this or to that calling. But I think it would puzzle even Sherlock Holmes himself to place an average cricketer correctly if he met him unaccompanied by the tell-tale bag. A cricketer is just a man with a clear eye, bronzed face, and athletic figure. He is usually somewhat lacking in general information, and is sometimes a poor conversationalist upon any but his own subject. He does not read much. On the other hand, he does not talk much about things he does not understand, which is a good trait. He gives the impression of having led a free unconstrained life—he might be, in fact, anything from a trooper in the Rhodesian Horse to a Californian orange-grower. He is simple, frank, and unaffected; a genuine person, with plenty of self-respect, and no desire to seem what he is not: on the whole, not a bad sort of man at all—quite the reverse. So the profession of cricket does not do much harm to those who follow it. My view may be rather too rosy. I may be reading into the cricketer what I would like to see in him, rather than portraying him as he is. I do not think so. Perhaps I may have been singularly fortunate in my acquaintance, but most of the cricketers I know have my sincere regard and respect. As for the amateur who, being a man of leisure, devotes his life to cricket—well, he gets much good out of the game and very little ill, whereas he might very easily be doing something that would have quite the reverse effect upon him. He generally has the good qualities of the professional, only in a higher degree, inasmuch as he starts in most cases with more capacity for development. Time spent upon cricket is quite as profitable as time devoted to hunting or shooting. To play cricket, a man must lead a healthy regular life, which after all is a very excellent thing.
But what about the other objection, which may be called the economical? It is this. Cricket is a splendid recreation, and is, no doubt, good enough in its way. But it is not the kind of thing to which a man ought to devote himself. It is a game. Men ought not to get incomes out of games. They ought to be so employed that their means of livelihood is also a benefit to their fellow-men and to society. They ought to be helping to supply some part of the world's requirements. Cricket is not a waste of time as a recreation and a physical training, but as an occupation it is. Even if the life of a cricketer does no harm to the individual who follows it, what excuse is there for the existence in the community of a class that does nothing for the general welfare? An anecdote occurs to me that illustrates the feeling underlying this objection. In the sixth form at a well-known public school there was a boy who was then a very fine bat, and became afterwards a first-rate cricketer. He showed up a piece of Latin prose which contained among other blunders a flagrantly inexcusable false concord. The head-master said to the perpetrator, "You may some day make a good professional cricketer. You probably will. But you will never make a useful citizen or a Christian English gentleman." Perhaps the head-master did not mean all he said, but his criticism showed in what light he regarded cricket. Now I would be the last to say that a man of ability should give all his time to cricket. That would be absurd. But I do not think that the life of one who devotes himself to cricket is either altogether wasted or quite useless to his fellowmen, for the simple reason that cricket provides a very large number of people with cheap, wholesome, and desirable amusement.
There is a side of modern games upon which we have not yet touched—the spectacular. It may safely be asserted that more people go yearly to cricket and football matches than to any Other entertainment. Both games afford the spectators a wonderful amount of innocent and healthy amusement. The value of this side of games will be touched upon later. At present, the point I am making is that this form of amusement is not possible without a class who devote themselves entirely to the games. Perhaps this does not quite hold good of football, but it certainly does of cricket. Whether spectacular football would be possible without professionals I very much doubt, for without them it would be almost impossible to establish a sufficient number of first-class teams to give exhibitions of the game at all the many towns where such a fervid interest is taken in it. This, I think, is the justification of professionalism in football. The public are very keen on seeing the game, and it is a good thing that they are, but they will not go to see bad or mediocre football. A demand for exhibitions of first-rate football has arisen, and has been met by the inevitable supply. So in spite of the undoubted drawbacks and evils of professional football, which need not be mentioned here, the present form of the game is justified by the amount of amusement and pleasure it affords to a very large section of the community.
Now if this is true of football it is doubly true of cricket. Professionalism is necessary for the continuance of the game in anything like a developed form, not only as a spectacular amusement, but as an everyday recreation. Even club cricket cannot very well be carried on without professionals. Bowlers, ground-men, and coaches are necessary in any but the crudest cricket: without them the standard of skill cannot be high, for adequate conditions for its exercise cannot be realised. Now a high standard of skill is what makes and maintains the popularity of a game. Of course these things react upon each other. Skill arouses interest, interest creates a somewhat fastidious taste, and this taste, in its turn, demands a high standard of skill to satisfy it. The popularity of cricket has more or less kept pace with its development as a game. People went to see players who had made reputations, and as the number of skilled players increased, so did that of the spectators. From watching famous players people have learnt much of the game, so that now they can appreciate skill even in unknown performers. If for some reason skill in cricket suffered a sudden decline, the interest in the game would wane—public interest in it as a spectacular amusement. In this form cricket could not possibly exist without professionals, for unless a considerable number of men devoted their entire time and energies to the game, it would be impossible to fill up the county teams with players possessing the requisite amount of skill. The small number of amateurs in first-class cricket is very noticeable. It is the result of the fact that, though there are innumerable amateur players of a certain standard, there are only a few who have both the necessary leisure and the necessary skill for first-class cricket.
Spectacular cricket must be first-class, because the people will have results. Bad or mediocre play does not convince them: it is not what they want. The development of cricket has taught them what the game is when played skilfully, and they would soon cease to care about going to matches if the play were poor, or if it sank to the average standard that can be attained by men who only played cricket occasionally and as a recreation. There are players who can come into first-class cricket from other pursuits, and make centuries. But players like Mr W. H. Patterson and Mr A. G. Steel are very rare indeed. Even if there were thirty such—and I do not suppose there are more than three—how could sufficient players of the necessary degree of skill be got together to provide first-class matches in all the many cricketloving towns in England? I cannot see how cricket, as a great institution for providing popular amusement, could, as things are now, exist without a class of people who devote themselves entirely to it. In calling cricket a great institution for providing popular amusement, I am not taking into consideration the motives of men in playing or the reasons why county clubs are formed or championships instituted. I am merely regarding the result of cricket as it is played nowadays.And this result is, that hundreds of thousands of people of all classes can go and enjoy themselves by looking on at the game. Their convenience is consulted, accommodation is provided for them, and good cricket such as their hearts delight in is shown them. The clubs, it is true, want their shillings or sixpences. But how does this affect the question, so long as the people see what they desire to see and the sight is good for them? Going to see cricket-matches is neither a bad nor a neutral but a good thing. Of this I am quite sure in my own mind. But I do not quite know how to prove it. Perhaps no one disputes it. Why, then, this outcry against present-day athleticism as an evil? No one would try to argue that cricket is the finest thing in the world. But it is a really good thing, and satisfies better than any other kind of exhibition the desire for athletic sight-seeing which is so marked a trait in the English character. The chances are that a strong popular desire, if not bad, is very good, and
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
How cricket has gradually developed into its present condition is the history of the game during the Victorian Era. Into this it would be impossible for me to go deeply here, even if I had the necessary knowledge of facts. Besides, the historical part of Dr W. G. Grace's splendid book on the game practically leaves nothing unsaid.
There are two sides to cricket. There is cricket as a game consisting of bowling, fielding, and batting; and there is cricket in the shape of clubs and club management. The two aspects of the game naturally are almost inextricably mixed up, and react continuously upon each other.
The evolution of skill in cricket is by no means easy to trace. Whether the players of to-day are better or worse than those of the past is not and cannot be decided, so different are the conditions under which the game is played now from what they used to be. The gradual improvement in wickets alone would make any comparison difficult. But there is no doubt that the number of good players has enormously increased. I should say that there are fifty good bowlers and fifty good bats nowadays where there was one in the days of William Clarke and Alfred Mynn. As to quality, there are no data for comparison. But it is only reasonable to suppose that over-arm bowling gives a bowler wider scope than did either under-arm or round-arm; and that proportionately batsmen have become more versatile, and have learnt the use of more strokes. It is instructive to notice that in the old days straight balls were considered the most difficult and dangerous, while those off the wicket were regarded as godsends to be promptly turned into runs; whereas now, batsmen delight in a straight bowler, and find it safer to hit straight balls than any others: it is the ball off the wicket that gives us most trouble.
The three changes in the style of bowling are landmarks in the history of cricket as a game of skill. The higher the arm is allowed to go, the greater the skill required in the batsman. No doubt the old under-arm bowlers were very accurate and clever, and reached as high a standard in their line as modern bowlers have reached in theirs: if we could call back old William Clarke from the fields of asphodel he would be sure to take a high place in our averages. But there is this to be taken into account: an under-arm bowler could only bowl a certain number of different balls, and when round-arm bowling was legalised there were added to the game all those balls which round-arm bowlers could deliver but under-arm bowlers could not: similarly, when over-arm bowling came in, the sum-total of bowlable balls was again increased. An under-arm bowler can make the ball twist—that is, curl off the ground—but he cannot make it break or bump; a round-arm can make the ball twist from leg and break somewhat from the off and also cause it to swing across the wicket; an over-arm can do all these things and also make the ball bump. All three kinds differ in the flight of the ball in the air and in its manner of coming from the pitch.
Naturally a batsman had to know more strokes as the number of balls to be played increased; so the development of batting must have gone hand in hand with that of bowling. The change from under- to round-arm was begun by Mr John Willes in 1822, and the style became general about 1827. F. W. Lillywhite was the great exponent of the innovation. He and a bowler named Broadbridge were so good that Sussex was able to play All England on level terms. Those must have been good days! But, apart from its gradual adaptation to the requirerhents of changes in bowling style, there is one great landmark that separates the old batting from the new—the appearance of Dr W. G. Grace in the cricket world. In 1865 W. G. came fully before the public that has admired and loved him ever since. He revolutionised batting. He turned it from an accomplishment into a science. All I know of old-time batting is, of course, gathered from books and older players, but the impression left on my mind is this: Before W. G. batsmen were of two kinds,—a batsman played a forward game or he played a back game. Each player, too, seems to have made a specialty of some particular stroke. The criterion of style was, as it were, a certain mixed method of play. It was bad cricket to hit a straight ball; as for pulling a slow long-hop, it was regarded as immoral. What W. G. did was to unite in his mighty self all the good points of all the good players, and to make utility the criterion of style. He founded the modern theory of batting by making forward- and back-play of equal importance, relying neither on the one nor on the other, but on both. Any cricketer who thinks for a moment can see the enormous change W. G. introduced into the game. I hold him to be, not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting. He turned the old one-stringed instrument into a many-chorded lyre. And, in addition, he made his execution equal his invention. All of us now have the instrument, but we lack his execution. It is not that we do not know, but that we cannot perform. Before W. G. batsmen did not know what could be made of 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 common, one local champion would often play another. These, too, were the days of country gentlemen with country seats. Attached to these were clubs or elevens who played matches against others of the same kind or against local clubs. In both cases the basis of the club was local. Though in the case of the country gentleman's eleven the match was the thing. English gentlemen liked (as they like still) matches, whether between horses, prize-fighters, game-cocks, or cricket elevens. Of course the recreative side of the game came in also; in fact, it is, and always has been, what philosophers call the final cause of cricket.
The early form of county cricket soon developed. It was played on an extended local basis. Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Middlesex, and Nottinghamshire had county clubs very early. The great local club of the early days was the famous one of Hambledon in Hampshire. It played against selected elevens and against the counties. It was founded in 1750 and lasted till 1791, when it was dissolved, its members going to the Surrey, Hampshire, Kent, and Middlesex clubs. From county to bigger representative matches was an easy step. The Gentlemen v. Players began in 1806, and the North v. South in 1836. It is interesting, by the way, to note that Eton and Harrow played one another right at the beginning of the century. The M.C.C. was founded in 1789. It originated partly in the desire of certain gentlemen in London to form a club and play cricket, partly in the business enterprise of a man named Lord, who is immortal for ever. From the beginning the M.C.C. was purely and simply a club for cricket purposes. It had no local basis. The fact that it drew its members from London secured this. London as a whole is not exactly suited for local interests. The M.C.C. soon numbered many famous cricketers among its members, and became the great typical cricket club once and for all. It is a club, neither local nor anything else, but simply a cricket club. Its position is unique. As the leading cricket club, it is universally regarded as the supreme authority in all matters that are purely cricket, and all matters that concern cricket clubs as such.
But another kind of club grew up in those days—the Wandering Club. Probably there were many of this kind. The basis of such is social and cricket. The early wandering clubs were no doubt formed by men of means and leisure who had no local club to play for, but who liked the game and one another sufficiently well to band together. I Zingari was the most noted, and remains so. It was instituted in 1845. Innumerable others sprang up on the same lines. W. G. gives a most amusing list of some of their names.
Clubs founded and playing upon the local and the social peripatetic basis continue to thrive and strive all over England. There is nothing new about village, town, and wandering clubs except the ground arrangements and such incidental matters.
It is county cricket that is played upon lines so different from those of the early days. The change came about, I think, as follows:—
In 1846 the famous bowler William Clarke started the idea of exhibition cricket. To quote from W. G.'s book: —
A good many of us can date our first experience of first-class play from witnessing the famous All-England Eleven, and hundreds will tell with glistening eyes of the good old times when they were considered worthy of a place against it.
Clarke seems to have argued thus: "I want to play cricket because I like it. It is my profession, and may fairly be made as lucrative as possible. Others in my position want the same as I do. The public is interested in good cricket, and will pay to see it." The All-England Eleven played all over the country, and was a great success from both a financial and a cricket point of view. Its matches had a twofold interest for people. There was the local interest in the local sides, and also the interest in the cricket exhibited by some of the most celebrated and skilful players in England.
In 1852 there was a split in the All-England Eleven, and certairi members of it seceding, instituted another exhibition club called the United England Eleven. This played on the same lines as its original. Both went on side by side for many years. Finally the United Eleven itself split up. Some of its members formed the South of England Eleven, some returned to the All-England Eleven. Various other elevens were started in imitation of these, but did not become so famous. It is worth while noting that, after breaking up, the elevens in re-forming paid some attention to a local basis. The All-England Eleven was latterly composed almost entirely of northern players, the South of England Eleven of southerners.
The important points about these exhibition elevens are: first, the new position professionals took; secondly, the introduction and development of spectacular cricket.
A professional in former times was entirely the servant of his dub, and in a servant's position. In the exhibition elevens he became a free member of a professional team. He was a member of a club having equal rights with the other members, and also in a way a public character, supported by and responsible to the public. These two aspects of a professional's position are worth remarking, with reference to the position of modern professionals playing for counties. A modern professional who represents his county is partly a servant of the club, partly a servant of the public, and partly a skilled labourer selling his skill in the best market. He may or he may not have a local interest in the club he represents: that is another aspect of his case.
The introduction of spectacular cricket changed the basis of county cricket considerably. For many years the exhibition elevens and the counties played side by side, but gradually the former died out, and the new elements they had introduced into the game were absorbed into county cricket. The process was gradual, but in the end complete. The old county clubs and the new ones that from time to time sprang up added the exhibition side of cricket to the old local basis. The county clubs were no longer merely glorified local clubs, but in addition business concerns. They provided popular amusement and good cricket; in fact, they became what they are now—local in name and partly local in reality, but also run upon exhibition or, as I called it, spectacular lines. The two interests join and make the, system a very strong one. Its value I have tried to prove. Its justification is the pleasure it provides for large numbers of the public. From a purely cricket point of view not much can be said against it. At any rate, it promotes skill in the game and keeps up the standard of excellence.
Such, then, are some of the aspects and tendencies of the game of cricket at the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. No doubt her Majesty takes some interest in cricket as one of the pleasures of her people. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales frequently attends first-class matches, and is always delighted when he sees good play. He told me at Sheffield Park during the first match of the Australian tour that he was very fond of the game a few years ago. There is a photograph hanging in the pavilion at Sheffield Park representing an eleven of the Bullingdon Club. It was taken at Oxford after a match in which the Prince of Wales had been playing. The names of H.H. Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein and H.H. Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein are well known in the cricket-field. The latter nearly secured his blue at Oxford. So it cannot be said that the Queen has no connection with cricket.