Good evening Mr President, Guy, ladies and gentlemen.
I’d like to start by thanking Lord MacLaurin and the MCC for the invitation to stand here before you tonight. It’s a huge honour, if not a little daunting.
Even more daunting than when I came to Lord’s as a member of the South African team in 1993, post-isolation, and we met the Queen prior to the start of the Test. Before the match, they briefed us on how to address the Queen, as Your Majesty or Ma’am, but not to talk to her unless she talked to you.
But they didn’t tell us how to address Prince Philip. The Queen arrived, we all lined up. The Queen came down the line and shook hands. I recall her wearing white gloves. Prince Philip, following behind, stopped to talk to Fanie de Villiers who was standing next to me. I heard the Prince say “a pleasure to meet you”, and pointing to Fanie’s blazer pocket he asked “what happened to the Springbok?”
Fanie’s first language, and only language actually, is Afrikaans. I was a bit worried because the replacing of the Springbok emblem with the Protea was quite controversial in some quarters and I knew Fanie was one of those who would have preferred to keep the Springbok. He hesitated a bit and then said “well, your worship, the Springbok has jumped.”
Actually he was not trying to be funny. Spring is an Afrikaans word meaning to jump in English. He wanted to say “die Springbok het gespring”, a clever play on words explaining that the Springbok has moved on. Not quite the same effect when directly translated into English. Fortunately Prince Philip must have understood what he meant and he moved on.
But that was not my first visit to Lord’s. A very long time ago in 1979, in the midst of an apartheid South Africa, as a 19-year-old, I was part of a multi-racial team selected to come to England. I am not even sure who arranged the tour but it was sponsored by Barclays Bank.
The tour started in London, we stayed at the Danubius and on the day we arrived, we were taken to the Lord’s shop to be kitted out, whites, bats, pads and gloves. The coach of our team was a gentleman called Colin Milburn, a name that I’m sure will ring a few bells in this room.
A colourful character – an attacking, entertaining batsman whose career was cut short by a car accident where he lost an eye. He imparted his experience not only in the skills of the game, but also in the art of ‘off-field’ tactics, teaching us the importance of socialising with your opponents and the medicinal values of gin and coke! Wherever the team went we were struck by how popular a figure Colin Milburn was.
The manager of the team, more of a mentor really, was one Colin Cowdrey, who was what I had imagined the English gentleman to be – softly spoken, impeccable manners, always dressed in a jacket and tie.
In one of the matches, he made a guest appearance for the team playing against us. I recall he put his blazer over his whites before sitting down to lunch. And at tea time, I noticed him going into the kitchen to thank the tea ladies. Indeed, wherever we went, I noticed the tea ladies fell over themselves in excitement whenever he appeared. He was a lesson to our team in how to respect the game, your own teammates, the opponents and the umpires.
The two Colins were entirely different personalities but both epitomise the nature of our great game. A game that is inclusive and accommodating of all types. A game that by its very nature exposes the personalities of the players, allows the players to express not only their skills and their passion for the game but also their characters, warts and all. This is what makes cricket so appealing and fascinating to those who are watching. We cannot and should not be looking to sanitise it out.
As fans, we want our players enjoying and expressing themselves, we want to see emotion, passion and pride from players. What we don’t want is robots, lacking in personality, but equally what we don’t want is ugly behaviour.
Lately we’ve seen too much ugly on and off the field of play. As a sport we must be united, not just in our desire to protect the spirit of the game, but every single person in the game needs to commit to living that spirit and ensuring it is relevant in the 21st century, continuing to make cricket a unique sporting proposition.
What exactly is this spirit of cricket? The spirit of cricket isn’t an historical hangover; it is part of the fabric of our sport. No other sport has codified the spirit so blatantly in its Laws, and we disregard it at our peril. The phrase ‘it’s just not cricket’ is not an accident, it’s because cricket’s DNA is based on integrity and people know that cricket represents something more than a game.
But we have seen too much behaviour of late that puts that in jeopardy and it has to stop. Sledging that amounts to no more than personal abuse, fielders giving send-offs to batsmen who have been dismissed, unnecessary physical contact, players threatening not to play in protest against an umpire’s decision and ball tampering; this isn’t the version of our sport that we want to project to the world.
The public reaction, around the world, to the incidents in the recent Australia-South Africa series was an eye opener. The message was loud and clear, cheating is cheating and is not what we signed up to.
As administrators, we have to do our part and we have agreed to take stronger action against behaviour that is unacceptable, to back our match officials more and for boards to behave in a manner themselves that creates a culture of respect between teams. We have taken a step in the right direction.
But the reality is, it will be the players who can safeguard the reputation of the game with their actions on and off the field. It is the nature of the players’ personalities, their strength of character that will ultimately define the spirit of the game and what it means in the 21st Century.
And here it is important for current players to understand that they represent not only themselves but all the players that have gone before them, and those that will follow. The vast majority of players do this day in and day out. Players like Kane Williamson, Hashim Amla, Mithali Raj, Jos Buttler, Katherine Brunt, Moeen Ali, MS Dhoni.
Going back in time to players I played with or against – Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Courtney Walsh, Richie Richardson, David Boon, Rahul Dravid… so many examples. Players who played hard, never gave up, never took a backward step, played with passion and a sense of enjoyment but never disrespected the opponents or the umpires. Players who the fans loved to watch.
Over the last few months I’ve read comments from players requesting guidance on what is allowed in relation to the ball. Asking if they can chew gum, wear sunscreen or drink a sugary drink, and to be brutally honest, I find this a little disingenuous.
The laws are simple and straightforward – do not change the condition of the ball using an artificial substance. If you are wearing sunscreen, sucking a mint or chewing gum with the intent of using the cream or sugary saliva on the ball, you are ball-tampering.
You may not always get caught, we are not going to stop players chewing gum or from wearing sunscreen. There are many players who have chewed gum on the field throughout their careers, and never once thought to use it on the ball, but if you are caught – and we have only caught players when it is pretty obvious what they are doing – then don’t complain. Saying others do it is not a defence – you are cheating.
Sledging is another element of the game that constantly draws attention – where do you draw the line? Banter, even elements of gamesmanship have always been a part of the sport, and in my view play a part in adding to its mystique and unique character.
I think in most cases sledging/chirping is a waste of time, often resorted to by players who are trying to psyche themselves up or boost their own lack of confidence, and very often it’s counter-productive.
We tried to unsettle Steve Waugh by asking him what it was like to be the unpopular twin, with Mark getting all the toys when they were growing up – it had no effect and only made him more determined, seemingly getting runs whenever he batted against us.
Pat Symcox is someone I played with who always loved to have a few words. Matthew Hayden’s career was in two parts. In the first he had a very unhappy tour of South Africa, suffering a string of low scores in the series. In the second innings of the final Test he got a duck. As he passed Pat Symcox on the way back to the dressing room Pat said “Don’t worry Matt, Donald Bradman also made a duck in his last Test innings.”
Matthew Hayden was dropped after that but a season or so later came back for an extraordinary successful second stage of his career, including a record breaking tally of runs against South Africa in a later series. There was a time when teams like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh could be bullied mentally – that is not the case anymore.
But there is a difference between the examples I have given and what amounts to no more than ugly personal abuse in the guise of playing ‘aggressively’. That type of ugly behaviour is not what sport, never mind cricket, is all about and is simply unacceptable, and it is the latter that we are attempting to eradicate. A specific new offence, personal abuse, has been introduced, punishable as a Level 3 Code of Conduct offence, which will result in a ban of up to six Test matches or 12 ODIs/T20Is.
So, apart from this, what has ICC done to address the situation? Three main points.
Firstly, we have introduced new offences and increased the severity of the associated penalties to serve as an effective deterrent.
Secondly, we will take steps to educate the players on what it means to play the game within the spirit – advising them on not only what you can’t do but showing them examples of what type of conduct does exemplify the spirit of the game as we would like to see it.
Finally, the boards have agreed to adopt Principles of Behaviour that will create an environment of respect for the game, the match officials and each others’ teams. This includes the philosophy that the touring team should be treated as honoured guests in the country with the standard of practice facilities and other logistical arrangements exactly the same, if not better, as the home team.
The boards, including their ground staff, the players, their support staff, coaches and team managers, must all act as the guardians of the spirit. Mike Procter, as coach of South Africa, was a brilliant example of this. If you got a bad umpiring decision you could expect less sympathy from Mike than you get when you have a hangover. “Bad luck” was all you got from him. Unqualified acceptance of an umpire’s decision, good or bad, was a given as far as he was concerned.
Too many coaches or team managers of recent times are too quick to side with their players, blame the umpires for being biased against their team, storming off to the match referee’s room to complain.
We are relying on everyone to showcase cricket and inspire a new generation of players and fans. Winning must obviously be the aim of any game, but not at all costs, not when it means compromising the integrity of the game.
We must all work proactively to protect the spirit of the game and make it a relevant part of cricket in the 21st century. In my view, it is imperative to the long-term sustainability of the game. After all, who will want their kids to play cricket if what you see and read about is foul language, bad sportsmanship or corruption.
And of course, we all want more kids playing cricket. Growing the sport, in terms of the number of both participants and fans, is a key pillar of our global strategy for cricket that we will be launching later this year.
The spirit of cricket should not only define how we play the game but how we fulfill cricket’s broader purpose. The first question sponsors ask us is ‘why cricket?’… ‘what’s the purpose of cricket?’ At its most basic, cricket provides enjoyment, an opportunity for people of any age or gender to be entertained and to connect with each other. Cricket has a great capacity to unite people, to inspire and to empower.
We need to ensure that cricket is not elitist but is accessible to and capable of being enjoyed by all.
There is little that depresses me more than receiving a glossy report from a well-meaning cricket board in South America extolling their efforts in growing participation, normally accompanied by a photo of kids clad in whites at a fielding practice in a huge semi-circle with a coach hitting catches to them. If you are lucky, a catch might come your way every 10 minutes or so. How to turn kids to basketball or water polo in one easy lesson!
In the coming months, we will be launching a new app that will give kids and adults the chance to enjoy cricket anytime, anywhere and in a way that suits them. This is a big departure for the ICC, but we cannot expect to do things the same way time after time with different results. We need to put our arms around ALL of cricket and celebrate the fact that anyone can play and enjoy it.
Whether it be a game on a basketball court in New York, in a floodlit car-park at night in Dubai, the backyard with your friends, the street in Papua New Guinea or the beach, they must feel they are part of the cricket family.
It is not only in playing the game that we need to be more inclusive, it is also necessary to provide opportunities for people to watch and follow the game. Many cricket fans will tell you their first memory of cricket was going with their father or grandfather to an international match at the MCG or Eden Gardens. It is at that age that heroes are created. I came back from watching South Africa play Australia at Newlands in 1970 and immediately changed to batting left-handed like Graeme Pollock and bowling off the wrong foot like Mike Procter in my backyard games.
How many young children get to watch their England heroes in a Test at Lord’s? Limited seating capacity, a ready and sizeable adult/corporate market, a need to maximise revenues – in the main, from tickets and alcohol sales all lead to very few opportunities for young boys or girls to attend internationals. I know Guy and his team are aware of the need to do what they can to address this.
We are also considering how we use technology and the digital space to attract younger fans. Shorter form, less conventional content that kids want to share must be a central part of what we’re all doing.
It is the diversity of cricket that is so precious – different formats, different nationalities, different shapes and sizes of people playing. As a sport we can and should be making every effort to diversify even further both in terms of new markets, but perhaps even more importantly in my mind in relation to women and girls.
Cricket has always been known as the gentleman’s game, but that is a label we should attach to the character of the game only, not the gender of those playing the game. It is a game for all. For too long we have ignored the potential of women in cricket and effectively 50% of the population. But that is changing significantly and will continue to do so.
Last summer’s ICC Women’s World Cup, and particularly the final here at Lord’s, showed us the huge opportunity the sport has to attract more women and girls, not only as players and fans but also ensuring the sport is a place where women want to work – as administrators, as commentators, as journalists, we must remove any barriers to entry based on gender.
Last year the decision was taken to televise all 31 matches of the ICC Women’s World Cup. We worked with broadcasters to incentivise them to carry all the matches and their support saw the event reach 180m unique viewers worldwide.
This was a 265 per cent viewership increase in comparison to the same event in 2013. We now need to supply the demand, ensuring there is access to compelling and competitive cricket. By doing that we can build up a market where the women’s game becomes self-sustainable because sponsors and broadcasters know the commercial benefits.
We need to do everything possible to make cricket a choice for young girls around the world. We need to get the basics right – even something as simple as ensuring they have their own changing facilities will make a big difference.
It is such an exciting time for the sport. Cricket is in great health, with more than a billion fans around the world and room for much more growth. We don’t have all the answers to the challenges we face but we are working collectively to solve them.
Nelson Mandela was right when he said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where there was once only despair.” Acting in the spirit of cricket means remembering this in our decision making, ensuring that we use cricket to provide enjoyment to and to unite, inspire and empower communities around the world.
Cricket and its spirit is defined by the personalities of its participants – administrators, umpires, referees and the players themselves. On the field, cricket needs its larger than life characters – its Colin Milburns, Freddie Flintoffs, Shane Warnes, Virat Kohlis and Ben Stokes’, its lovable rogues, but equally it needs its Frank Worrells, Rachael Heyhoe-Flints, MS Dhonis, Rahul Dravids and its Colin Cowdreys to make sure we all stay on the good-guys’ (or girls’) side of that “line”. The future of our game depends on it.
Thank you once again for inviting me and thanks for listening.
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