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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Woke before wicket

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I SOMEHOW slogged my way through it, but one doesn’t need to read the entire Report of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, or even its executive summary, to grasp its governing credo. The ‘Equity’ of the title immediately betrays its New-Marxist worldview.

The ‘methodology’ deployed follows an all-too-familiar pattern. On your never-ending and highly lucrative quest for ‘social justice’, you look around you and – shock, horror – observe certain disparities in outcome between groups divided along lines of race, gender and class. (You adore dividing people.)

Rather than consider whether these different outcomes (as opposed to opportunities) have any import, you infer some diabolical scheme of bigotry. You work backwards from this starting point, drawing on victims’ ‘lived experience’, and – hey presto – uncover supporting ‘evidence’ of racism, misogyny and elitism.  

The formula may be simplistic, but in guilt-ridden Britain it works. The left’s Long March, successful enough under its former ‘equality’ banner, now fans out in all sorts of new ‘equity’-imposing directions. Organised sport is an especially profitable one, with cricket the prize capture. For many, nothing symbolises ‘Englishness’ like the national game; in cultural terms, an attack on cricket wounds us all.    

It’s no surprise, then, that the report is careful to include a chapter on cricket’s history. In typical left-wing fashion, this is seen through only one prism: the age-old prejudice displayed by reactionary white English males, many of them volunteers, who apparently wake up each morning and ask, ‘How can I ensure the continued oppression of minorities?’  

Consequently, the facts presented are mean-spirited and myopic: the first black player didn’t play for England until  . . , women weren’t admitted to the MCC before . . . etc. Naturally, we learn that cricket was ‘inextricably linked with the racial ideology of imperialism’. No room for national pride; nothing on the lifelong friendships cricket has forged between people of all races, for example between Geoff Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar, or Lord Botham and Sir Vivian Richards.   

Nor, in a 300-page report, could space be found to acknowledge the hundreds of overseas, non-white players who have graced the English county game for decades. I grew up cheering on the large Sussex contingent including Imran Khan and Javed Miandad.  

The Cape Coloured Basil D’Oliveira is cursorily mentioned as having played for England between 1966 and 1972. Conveniently overlooked, however, is the momentous D’Oliveira affair, when apartheid South Africa asked England to withdraw him from the 1968-69 MCC tour party. Upon England’s refusal, the tour was cancelled, prompting the Proteas’ twenty-year exile from international cricket from 1971.

Such a counter-narrative doesn’t fit with the first and most chilling of the report’s 44 recommendations, that the English Cricket Board make ‘an unqualified public apology for its own failings and those of the game it governs’. This ‘should acknowledge that racism, sexism, elitism and class-based discrimination have existed, and still exist, in the game’.

Behold the classic, quasi-religious approach of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) grievance industry, loftily proffering the first step towards partial redemption as a grovelling act of repentance. Of course, you can exhibit such arrogance, demand such submission, only if you believe your cause outweighs all others, that you are morally superior to the other side. The reports’ authors do.

By their CVs shall ye know them. The chair of the commission is Cindy Butts, whose biography states that, as Metropolitan Police Authority deputy chair, she ‘led on organisational and culture reforms following the Stephen Lawrence (Macpherson) Inquiry and chaired a range of enquiries into inequalities issues’.

Other commissioners include a former general secretary of the TUC, a professor who specialises in ‘the history of the British Empire, decolonisation, national identity, immigration, race and racism in post-war Britain’, and a former county cricketer who has done voluntary work for the Refugee Council.   

Unsurprisingly, the remaining recommendations boil down to foisting EDI on all aspects of the game’s governance. We can soon look forward to ‘state of equity’ reports, quotas, mandatory EDI training, equal pay for male and female players, board-level EDI posts, stated commitments to anti-racism, and the ending of the annual Eton versus Harrow match at Lords (the most recent line-up featured ten non-white players).  

How refreshing it would be if the ECB suits were robustly to reject the report’s findings. Unfortunately, an organisation which forces Ollie Robinson to say sorry for teenage tweets, accepts unquestioningly the allegations of racism made by Azeem Rafiq, and pollutes its lexicon with gender-neutral terms including ‘batter’, ‘third’ and nighthawk’ is already well along the path to capitulation.

The die was cast during the George Floyd protests of 2021, when the ECB, thanks to its supine former CEO, commissioned this report and appointed Ms Butts. It could have held its nerve, knowing that in the unforgiving, self-perpetuating world of EDI, nothing you can say or do is ever enough.

Cricket was once a refuge from woke shibboleths. Sadly, it is fast becoming another bastion of them. 

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Stuart Major
Stuart Major
Stuart Major is an independent scholar based in Sussex.

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