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Colour-blind cricket at the BoJo


ADMIRED the world over, the BoJo Academy epitomises the very best that a school can offer. Providing excellence in education, and in no small measure entertainment, it is an institution that has had, like all temples of learning, to adapt to demanding and changing circumstances. Resignations, in-house rivalry, scandals, financial problems, climate change and modern etiquette – not least the thorny issue of gender identity – have all raised their head over the last year. TCWDF presents a selection from the school archives, chronicling a few hectic terms. This article was first published on July 7, 2023, and is the last in the series.

SUMMER arrives, and with it the familiar sounds of leather on willow and excited shouts from the cricket pitches. Since the Academy’s founding, sport has always been a key feature of daily life, with pupils encouraged to ‘play up and play the game’.

The BoJo cricket First XI have played many thrilling matches over the years, some at home and others further afield. Old boys will recall tense matches where iconic players such as Campbell A, the legendary spinner who was a pupil at Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive, took the wicket of many an unsuspecting batsman with his beguiling ‘hidden hand’ technique. Our own previous Headmaster Mr Johnson, when a pupil, distinguished himself as a fielder, regularly appearing at silly mid-off.

What a tragedy that this illustrious sporting history has recently been tarnished with accusations of racism – something no educational establishment wants to have levelled at it.

Mr Sunak was quick to intervene: wishing to nip any issues in the bud, he ordered an immediate inquiry to be undertaken by Brickwall (specialists in grievance procedure and rooting out unfairness).

The Headmaster recently took delivery of their voluminous report, the contents of which make harrowing and unsettling reading. Declaring himself ‘sad’, he was swift to acknowledge that mistakes have been made and that lessons would most definitely be learned.

In the spirit of openness, Mr Sunak has shared the shocking findings of the investigation. Racism was regrettably only the tip of the iceberg; analysis revealed institutional classism, homophobia, transphobia, rampant sexism and elitism. The report pulled no punches, and it is a wake-up call to schools across the country.

Talking candidly at the PTA meeting last week the Headmaster, employing a cricketing analogy, admitted that he had been ‘asleep at the crease’.

‘I had perhaps not seen what was going on under my nose. The annual Teachers v Pupils match featured a variety of talent. From the staff, players such as Ms Badenoch, Mr Cleverly, Ms Braverman and Mr Sharma gave the altogether incorrect impression that we were fielding a diverse and competent team. I now realise that we were in fact wide of the mark, and have not only let the side down but the Academy itself. I have instigated a complete root-and-branch overhaul of how players are selected.

‘Going forward, any individual wishing to play cricket will have to attend a mandatory “diversity and equality awareness course”. This streamlined and easy-to-understand module will require 100 hours of study prior to passing a two-hour exam which will address all areas of contention. Furthermore, we are examining a radical proposal that to ensure that “colour” plays no part in the game, participants involved in nets practice will be expected to wear a blindfold. While critics have pointed out the difficulties this approach might bring, I am confident that the ball with bells attached will successfully surmount this issue.

‘To combat the scourge of elitism we hope to enrol more pupils from outside the borough on assisted places schemes. We are further encouraged that there is a large talent pool from overseas boys keen to come to the UK and play this much-loved game.

‘Women, be they male or female, will now be allowed in the pavilion before and after matches and will be made more than welcome in the communal showers.

‘Finally, I have addressed the sometimes sexist and confusing lexicon that attaches itself to cricket. No longer will the term “googly” or “googlies” be allowed. “No ball” is another phrase not to be uttered – the reasons are, I would hope, obvious. “Jaffa” is now forbidden as being potentially fruityphobic and “Yorker”will be banned as it smacks of Geographobia. “Maiden” should no longer be used as it could cause unwarranted upset to certain spectators. “Nightwatchman” reinforces gender stereotypes and should hitherto be avoided. “Chinese cut” is clearly an offensive and derogatory racial slur. Finally, “stumps” could trigger those unfortunate to be disabled and I would ask that umpires use the non-contentious phrase “three vertical posts that support the bails and form the wicket”.  

‘With these small yet significant changes I feel sure that the Academy can fully play its part in making this wonderful game accessible to all.’

Thank you, Headmaster, for taking time out from your very busy affairs to deal with this unsavoury dilemma; we are indeed fortunate to have you overseeing the school.

The tennis coaching staff and team are on notice that they are being watched closely.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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