Many things happened in cricket last week- England’s victory at The Oval, Sachin Tendulkar’s near miss, Eoin Morgan’s happy return to Dublin, Leicestershire’s spirited Twenty20 triumph and so on- but the news that stirred me most was the resignation of Keith Bradshaw as MCC Secretary.
Sadly, his mother, a well known and respected character in Hobart, died on the first day of the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka in May. For many years she had cared both for his sick father and his handicapped brother. The responsibility for their welfare has since fallen upon Bradshaw himself and after one of several recent trips home he reluctantly decided that he could not care for them while giving his full attention to a high profile job on the other side of the world.
From his first Lord’s Test in 2007, when he offered and delivered cups of coffee to members queuing early on the first morning, to his last a few weeks ago when a capacity crowd arrived at the ground to see the final day of an England/India Test that could have been over by lunchtime, he has displayed a natural desire to please.
It was typical, perhaps, of the forward-looking organisation that MCC has become to appoint an Australian as Roger Knight’s successor when the post of secretary and chief executive became vacant in 2006. No one had considered anyone but an Englishman for the role in the past but the judgement was sound.
In his five years at Lord’s, and on his travels on MCC’s behalf, Bradshaw has made a remarkable number of friends and an outstanding contribution towards the high standing and role of the club both domestically and internationally. His open and positive attitude has been infectious to all those around him and it was as much his own courage and sunny nature as the skill of his doctors that enabled him to overcome cancer a few years ago.
Since 2006, the club’s commercial activities have multiplied without any prejudice to the members and with no loss to the ground’s dignity or mystique. He oversaw the first use of floodlights at Lord’s, encouraged the idea that the public should be allowed onto the outfield when circumstances allowed, opened the Long Room for public dinners, and invited famous players of the past to ring the five minute bell at the start of high profile matches, much to their delight. During his time it would be true to say that Lord’s has come to be seen not just as the home of cricket but as a welcoming place to all who love the game.
Having been a fine cricketer himself in his days as a Sheffield Shield all-rounder for Tasmania, Bradshaw was able and willing to take a forceful role both in ICC and ECB circles. In the ICC he argued the cases put by MCC’s World Cricket Committee for the Decision Review System on umpiring decisions and a World Test Championship. Nor did he lose any opportunity to spread the message that the Spirit of Cricket really matters. He resigned from the board of the ECB because he felt that MCC should maintain its independent voice and had a conflict of interests when it came to debating whether Lord’s should stage Tests against all the main touring teams.
When, last year, the other Test grounds united with MCC in opposition to the ECB’s idea of holding a Dutch auction (blind bids) to determine who should stage future international matches, Bradshaw was the man the other chief executives appointed as their chairman. The allocation of matches for 2013 to 2016 is to be announced on September 22 and will satisfy the majority of the grounds who have spent millions on their development.
The job of funding further development of MCC’s own ground, necessary in due course if Lord’s is to remain pre-eminent, will be a priority no doubt for the next chief executive, to be chosen from a list of candidates drawn up by an independent recruitment firm. Keith Bradshaw’s will be a hard act to follow.
Everything moves on rapidly in the game these days. England’s one-day series is upon us, as usual, almost before we have had time to reflect on the remarkable Test series that preceded it. Other than as a triumph for England and a disaster for an inadequately prepared India, it may be remembered most for a number of quirky dismissals: the run-out of Ian Bell at Trent Bridge that was fortunately overturned, the run-out of Sachin Tendulkar at Edgbaston that unfortunately wasn’t, the bowling of Andrew Strauss by Amit Mishra in the same game by what turned out to have been a no-ball and the caught behind decision against Rahul Dravid when the batsman, despite suspecting he might not have touched the ball, decided against the umpire’s review which would have reprieved him.
The umpire was certainly not to blame for giving Dravid out when everyone on the field seemed to think that he had got a thin outside edge. (Actually his bat had grazed his boot). Tendulkar, Dravid’s partner when he was given out, was also convinced that he had got an edge and advised him not to review the decision.
In Strauss’s case, I think there is something to be said for making it one of the the third umpire’s duties to keep an eye out for no balls and himself reviewing any ‘out’ decision if he thinks the bowler’s foot might have been over the line.
Bell’s recall, of course, was very unusual. Strictly he was out, but India’s generous reappraisal was very much in the spirit of the game. Why? Because Bell was under the misapprehension that the ball had gone for four, was not attempting a run and knew that the tea interval would start after the last ball of the over.
Each case had a common denominator, namely that television is the most powerful of all influences on the modern professional game. It is worth remembering that until the advent of sophisticated camera close-ups, no one would have been much wiser about any of these oddities. Umpiring errors have always been inevitable in cricket, but the injustices get fewer in the international game as TV coverage becomes more and more omniscient.
Christopher Martin-Jenkins, a former editor of The Cricketer and a former cricket correspondent of The Times, is currently president of MCC