It’s just not cricket…or is it? Cricket as a sport has always been seen as one steeped in good manners. In recent years, however, we have all lived through incidents of ball tampering and match fixing in recent cricket matches. Is this a recent phenomenon? Or despite cricket’s gentlemanly reputation, has cunning behaviour been a part of the sport since its beginning?
One of the sport’s earliest organised matches was between Chertsey and the world’s first cricket club, Hambledon. Hambledon had an extremely strong team, including leading bowler, Thomas Brett, and captain, Richard Nyren. They hadn’t bargained on a genius batsman from Chertsey however. Thomas ‘Shock’ White came out to bat…with a bat as wide as the stumps! At that point, a bat as wide as you like was perfectly legal. It hadn’t yet occurred to anyone to play with an outrageously wide bat or to restrict their dimension. Funnily enough, Hambledon quickly put in a formal written protest and by 1774 the Laws of Cricket had been changed. The legal width of a bat was restricted to today’s maximum size of 10.8 cm.
One of the greatest cricketing names in history had a slightly questionable reputation for ‘gentlemanly behaviour’: W G Grace. Grace was known to be a notorious sledger – generally frowned on if not actually illegal in cricket. The great batsman was also said to have at times ignored being bowled out. He simply replaced the bails after a bowler had disturbed his wicket and carried on batting regardless. He was claimed to have told the ‘offending’ bowler, “They’ve come to watch me bat, not you bowl”, which may have been fair comment too. Obviously we all want well behaved, legal cricket teams to support and matches to watch but nothing beats a cricket match nailbiter to watch, especially with a bit of controversy thrown in too!