With the announcement that Alastair Cook is to be England’s unofficial vice-captain for the upcoming Tests against the West Indies, it seems like we are returning to the era of the gentlemen and the players.
In a different, bygone time, England’s captain, Andrew Strauss, and vice-captain, Cook, would both have been amateurs. These days the word ‘amateur’ means someone who isn’t good enough to be a professional. In the time of gentlemen and players, an amateur was someone from a higher station in life – where one didn’t need to play for money.
Strauss attended Radley College while Cook received his education at Bedford School. For those that don’t know about such places, these are schools that have pictures of people rowing on their websites. The Bedford School homepage even features someone wearing fencing gear. It would be lazy writing to make a state school joke about a different kind of fencing at this point. We’ll be even lazier and leave that to you.
It has long been thought that Cook is captaincy material. England have presumably reached this conclusion after many sage ex-cricketers declared that he has that most valuable commodity: ‘a good cricket brain’. However, there seems an over-readiness to take his suitability on credit, despite little supporting evidence.
Hopefully this isn’t blind acceptance of a perceived ‘innate superiority’; after all, the majority of players in the England set-up come from humbler backgrounds. While modern society is more meritocratic, there is still a positive stereotype that can attach itself to those who might once have been gentlemen cricketers. They are cerebral, level-headed and sensible. They possess all the attributes of leadership.
In Cook’s case, this may well prove to be true. We hope it does. It would be nice to have forward planning play a part in the England captaincy for once. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that one of the greatest Test-cricketing dynasties of all time was built on the philosophy that class and education do not make someone superior.
A line of captains from the West Indies – where England now find themselves – united players from disparate cultures and conveyed the implicit, and sometimes explicit, message that England’s public schoolboys weren’t destined for greatness after all. You need no privilege to conquer the world.
See King Cricket‘s regular blog at www.kingcricket.co.uk. King Cricket is a cult figure in the world of cricket blogs and was TWC’s first Best-of-blogs winner in April 2008.