The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

A Collection of Writings

New!!

Anecdotes

Archaeology

Aviation

Battle of Britain

Biography

Books

Computers

Cricket

Films

Ghosts

Hammer

History

Horror

Motor Racing

Murder

Mystery

Pitt of Horror

RAF

Sci Fi

Travel

Vampires

Winston Churchill

World War 2

Ingrid's Obituary


Where Have All The Comptons Gone?

Denis Compton was more than just a Brylcreem Boy, an English Cricketer of note and an Arsenal Footballer. He even had an ailment named after him - The Compton Knee!
Denis Compton

The swashbuckling legendary cricketer whose test career started in 1937 and finished in 1957. He also played football for Arsenal. Denis Compton CBE

That’s it! I’ve had it! The revolution starts here. After a Summer of watching England’s chances as a viable cricketing nation go down the plug hole in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions, I’ve had to sit for three days and suffer the torment of seeing the Ryder Cup presented on hamburger baps to the victorious Americans. And were we glorious in defeat? Did we give three rousing cheers and pat the exuberant Yanks on the back. Nah! We attacked their wives for being well dressed and having enough dosh to wear jewellery. We tried to shift the focus of our inglorious defeat to the victors stampede across the putting line of Olazabal - who had just tossed in the towel by losing a 4 shot lead to Leonard just when we thought it was in the bag. And what has that got to do with cricket - you ask? And I’m going to tell you.

Cricket was never a game of spectator terraces, hoardings and decals. It was a Summer sport engaged in by men of all ages who wanted to stand up front and defend their little piece of temporarily held territory. The bat in their hands became a sword, an Excaliber, that could only be thwarted by the forces of the dark side. Pads and reinforced cod-pieces became shining armour to defend their honour against the vile delivery that threatened to weaken their resolve. Damsels, in distress or on the make, were happy to sit meekly in the shade and applaud or supply solace and sandwiches in whatever amounts seemed appropriate for the circumstances. Wars came and went. Cricket remained a constant in the lives of the British male. There was that nasty business back in the thirties when Jardine decided it was time to take a big stick to the Ozzies but that was treated as an aberration. More worrying was the post-WW2 decision to allow professionals to have Christian names and belly up to the bar with the nabobs.

But everything was all right with the world of willow and leather. Doting dads still cavorted on the sea shore with their sons, teaching them the principle of left foot down the line and a straight bat or the purity of delivering a ball with a straight arm and not being tagged as a chucker. Even girls were introduced to the game, although rarely allowed to bat, in a subordinate capacity. The English teams were a phalanx of heroes. The dashing Denis Compton, the athletic Edrich, a captain to hold in awe Len Hutton, lending dignity to the game and gallantry to the field was Peter May, and David Sheppard brought an air of piety to a ferocious will to win. And what about that man Trevor Bailey? England in a sticky spot - bring on Stone-wall Bailey. It might not be a pretty sight but while he was at the crease there was always a chance that someone would lace up their boots properly and adjust their dress before leaving the locker room and put on a face saving exercise of Bothamic proportions. (O.K so Beefy B wasn’t around then - but he should have been) And what about our bowlers? Bowlers that terrified the enemy just by being there, Larwood, Laker, Statham, The Bedser Twins, Alec and Eric, Typhoon Tyson, thunder-thighs Trueman and the twitchy Underwood. We might not win every time out. We might not be pushing up the revolution rate at the turnstiles. But we were playing ‘cricket’ in its wider sense.

Then came Jerry Packer! In spite of being an Australian he never understood cricket. He wanted to make it commercial! How do you take something that had a mystical influence on a nation and line it up with supermarkets and canned bake beans? Packer’s answer was to ‘package’ the players. Turn them into highly publicised, semi-mobile billboards. To me the crime of the millennium. Just to degrade the game further we got captains having eyeball to eyeball confrontations with referees and admitting to ball tampering as if it was something everyone did and was of no consequence. No consequence! These men are major role models for blossoming sportsman and as soon this sort of ethos is encouraged, standards slip, motivation changes and principles are abandoned. Remember the days when crisp white flannels and long sleeve shirts were de rigour? When the only splash of colour was the club tie knotted around the waist? When smashing a six to the boundary was a thing of beauty and wonderment and a scrambled single was a moment of elation? Now it all comes down to money. The problem is that the bank manager lays out a thicker red carpet for a golfer or a footballer because they operate on a broader canvas and can command the mega-ecus & bucks. So how does the cricketer come out in the scales of commerciality? Pretty poorly. The result is that a strapping, athletic youth, looking for a way to spend his life being idolised for doing something which he loves doing, loves doing anything but the under paid, under internationally idolised game of cricket. He looks at the likes of Beckham and his singing doll trophy wife or the ineluctable Vinnie Jones and his blossoming acting career and thinks, ‘I’ll have some of that’. And who can blame him, born into this commercialised world?

Is there anything that can be done to reverse the drainage of talent away from cricket? There is always something that can be done if there is a will to do it. But is the will to take on a sport as complicated and as demanding as cricket enough to get players together to make a game of it? What happened to all those dads on Frinton beach. Where have the fielding sisters disappeared to? I recently asked my 12 year old nephew how he was doing at cricket. His answer was that he didn’t like it as much as football. Which was fair enough. Both Compton and Botham were no slouches on the soccer pitch. I wish I’d left it there. Further questioning brought the unwanted knowledge that he was talking about his Nintendo games! And on a game show a bright looking lad was asked what he would do with his winnings. Did he say buy a cricket bat or football boots - or even a hockey stick? No! A video game. Another ‘for instance’. About ten years ago I was invited to ‘An Evening with Godfrey Evans’ by, I think, the Essex Boys Club. I was invited along as a bit of light relief as this piece of foreign totty who claimed to understand and be mad about cricket. Godfrey was a bit of a rogue but charming with it. I sat enrapture as he trotted out his cricketing stories. So did the organisers. Where were the kids that the evening had been put on for? They were chatting amongst themselves or sloping off to parts unknown. Not one of them was interested in talking to one of the most colourful characters in the history of cricket. Would the response have been the same if the guest of honour had been Sir Stanley Matthews?

I blame it all on the mothers. They let their kids sit for hours over a video game instead of kicking them up the fundamental and pushing them out into the elements. It probably all began when the schools decided that competition was bad for the poor little dears and banned competitive games. By the time the teachers had discovered that the whole world was competitive and anyone who didn’t learn that in childhood was in for a decidedly dodgy life in adulthood, the damage had been done.

Can the slide into obscurity be reversed or at least put on hold? For years I’ve been waiting for the pendulum effect to kick in. A sign that young Brits were going back to doing what they do best. For five hundred years they caroused around the world secure in the knowledge that they were the best and no Johnny Foreigner was going to stand in their way. Now all we’ve got as representatives of that once invincible army are the Lager Louts that turn the terraces at International matches into the major arena. At least they do what they do with a misguided sense of pride in their country. It’s all they have got left since P.C and the antics of our ruling class have degraded the standard. A marauding Brit in a foreign clime was once a figure of awe. Now he is just a set piece to make eye-catching front pages. So it’s back to a future. Strip the lads of their coloured pyjamas, slip in well-heeled dolly birds, crunch all play-station on sight and give the players names like Compton, Hutton, Hammond, Trueman, Laker, Statham etc. That should do the trick.

So if you want to play in my gang a knock up will be coming to a lamp post near you in the new millennium. It might not be the practice nets at Lords but what it lacks in facilities will be more than compensated for by the enthusiasm.

(Exclusive for The Cricketer) 6/10/99

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt