| DONALD BRADMAN
Cricket has been an organized adult game since the seventeenth century when it first
took the fancy of English gentlemen lying low in their country estates at the time of the
Civil War. It became fashionable after the restoration under the sponsorship of powerful
By the later eighteenth century control of this fashionable and profitable new leisure
activity was in the hands of a number of gentlemens clubs. By the nineteenth century
these had evolved into county organisations which, led by Marylebone Criket Club,
subsequently dominated English cricket. Their influence spread throughout the British
Empire and survived the transition to the Commonwealth.
In England, the emerging public schools, believing that cricket fostered qualities of
manliness and leadership, proclaimed it to be more than a game, in fact an institution.
Poets and parsons praised its ethical qualities. By the turn of the century cricket had
come to assume profound political significance, especially for imperialists. An Indian
prince declared it to be the finest flower of Empire, and in Australia cricket captains
played a leading part in welding together the separate colonies into a nation.
After the First World War, the dream-world began to crumble. At home the golden age
gave way to unromantic but remarkably effective professionalism. The Test matches survived
bodyline and grew in importance.
The Second World War was no more than a temporary interruption of play. After the
War was over, despite the world's having changed for worse again, the spiritual
significance of cricket was reasserted with undiminished enthusiasm. A well-loved
Australian Prime Minister described it as a fine art as well as a
game. A great British Prime Minister, and a socialist told of his childhood indoctrination
with the belief that cricket was a religion and W.G. next to the Almighty.
For a few summers the public, starved of entertainment during the war
years, showed their appreciation of cricket's return by crowding through the
turnstiles. But it was not to last, and soon perceptive critics were solemnly linking the
Welfare State and slow play as cause and effect. The county pattern had lost much of its
meaning, and the games had become largely inaccessible to those who had to work during the
week. So the authorities turned for support to commercial sponsors who introduced a
growing range of mini-cricket matches with gimmicky rules. Televised cricket matches
publicised the wares of cigarette manufacturers who were barred from conventional
advertising. The counties had also imported a growing number of overseas stars who made
the turnstiles click.
Then in 1977 a new patron arose, an Australian magnate who decided to stage his own brand
of super-cricket. In a matter of months, following his failure to secure exclusive
television rights for a test series, Mr. Kerry Packer had set up an organisation which
lured some fifty of the world's best cricketers away from their traditional allegiances to
play for fat salaries and spectacular prizes as a rival attraction to the official Tests
between Australia and India. The WestIndians turned out - initially, at least - to be the
best Super Cricketers.
What began as a concept to attract crowds to the English county
cricket grounds, became a revolution. The Test and County cricket Board introduced the
Gillete Cup (65 overs a side, later curtailed to 60) and the Sunday League (40 overs a
side) for enthusiasts who wanted both drama and excitement packed in a days game. In
the early 60s and 70s, England was the only country where competitive limited overs
cricket was being played. Not surprising that England hosted the inaugural World Cup. The
inaugural World Cup was a financial hit. Crowds flocked to see the matches, 1,20,000 for
the 12 preliminary contests and a further 28,000 packing the final. Limited overs match
has come a long way since then. It is moresophisticated now and given rise to a new thinking on tactics to the
extent that countries now have specialist one-day players.
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